As the Mayor of 25 places nationwide, I think I’ve earned the right to question the value of foursquare. As someone who uses social media quite often as a tool to help clients generate word of mouth, I feel it is my responsibility to engage in and understand new media (especially when it was touted as being the next “mainstream hit”). I started using foursquare seven months ago, hoping to be ahead of the curve when it caught on. I’ve been using it pretty diligently, but I’m still not sold on its significance.
Recently, I found that a good friend of mine was on my heels in the week’s foursquare points race (this was the first time anyone had come close to my points total). I let her know that I felt her creeping up behind me, and that I was planning to step up my game to beat her. She replied that she was up to the challenge and even went on to mock the fact that my being Mayor of “Bed, Bath, & Beyond” ought to deprive me of my man card. The exchange went back and forth for a while about our competition on foursquare. Here’s the important part… the entire exchange was conducted via text message, and not through any social feature provided by foursquare.
And, therein lies my biggest problem with the site. It seems to fall under the category of “Social Media,” but there’s almost nothing social about it. There’s no way to actually interact with each other, short of looking up where a friend is at that moment and immediately going to the same venue (Can you say restraining order?). It is all about ME, ME, ME! As I’ve written time and again on this blog, social media should be about relationships and conversation, meaning not only talking, but listening and responding too. It should be about US, US, US!
Now, let me point out a few caveats to my dismay about foursquare. First, I live in Phoenix, a city where it hasn’t caught on and isn’t used as widely (seriously, I only checked in at “Bed, Bath, & Beyond” a couple of times, I swear). In New York and San Francisco, for example, I hear it is much more common. Also, I do see value for those marketing products (particularly retail). Foursquare allows you to engage with potential customers when they are geographically near, and make them an offer right on the spot to either draw them in from a location nearby or to encourage a purchase while they are there. Plus, the possibility of becoming the Mayor of a venue (for having checked in at that location more than anyone else) encourages repeat traffic.
As a marketer, I feel like, after 7 months, I get it. I don’t need to test or explore it any further. If a client asks me about foursquare and how it could be useful to their organization, I can intelligently explain the uses and benefits. As a person who uses social media as a way to connect, however, I’m completely bored with foursquare. So, I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m not sure if I’ll come back, but if I do it will be because of changes that make it more social and unique from experiences I can get from any other site.
Did you see the article on NYTimes.com – How to Market Your Business With Facebook? Most of the clients I’ve consulted are on board with using Facebook as a marketing tool. But, like with all social media tools, they have one big fear… Will it last?
They were around when everyone was saying, “You have to get on MySpace.” Some of them bit, created a MySpace page, built a following, and then left it alone for a while. Now, if they hear MySpace mentioned at all, it’s: “Nobody’s on MySpace anymore!”
Some of you want to jump in to these social media tools, but you’re afraid of wasting your very limited time in something that’s going to go away pretty soon. Ask me if Twitter will be around in 5 years, my answer – maybe. Will MySpace? Not as a social media site.
Will Facebook be around for a long time? My answer? YES!
Of course, it’s my opinion, but here’s my thinking:
Remember switching from records to cassette tapes and then tapes to CDs? What about BetaMax tapes to VHS and VHS to DVD?
We’re always reluctant to changing media devices, because we already built up libraries. We think, “I already have all of these VHS tapes, I don’t want to start over with these newfangled DVDs!” But, we ended up making the change, because the DVDs worked better. If we could have upgraded the functionality of our VHS tapes, we wouldn’t have made the switch.
Same thing goes with Facebook. There are well over 300 million Facebook users. And, most of us have built up our networks of friends, colleagues, people we went to elementary school with, and more. We don’t want to have to find all of those people all over again when “the next big thing” comes out and tries to replace Facebook.
But, unlike VHS tapes or records, Facebook has the ability to upgrade itself constantly (which it does, and we are reluctant every time, until we get used to it). Say what you will about Zuckerberg and crew, but those guys are smart. They aren’t worried about competing with they “next big thing,” they are always working to make sure that Facebook continues to be “the next big thing.”
So, if you’re waiting to use Facebook as a communication tool because you’re not sure it will be around… I say stop waiting and climb on board. I’m confident it will be useful for you for a while (as long as you remember it is not like traditional advertising, but a place to build relationships — but I digress. That’s a conversation for another time).
What do you think? How long will Facebook dominate social media? How do you think we will be using it differently in 5 years? 10 years?
In yet another example of how President Obama is pioneering the use of social media in politics, the White House has announced that the President will be answering questions in a live online town hall meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 2009). You can submit questions here and vote on the ones you would like to hear answered. Like him or not (I like him), you have to admit that he is continuing to use social media as a tool for transparency and participation.
Part of using social media to its fullest extent is not only sharing information, but using it as a tool to listen and respond. To create dialogues, not simply monologue and rants. This is what President Obama does time and again using online tools. Not to bring up an old rivalry, but Arizona Senator John McCain could learn a thing or two from his example. He’s received press and commendation for his use of Twitter, particularly after being mocked for not knowing how to use a computer during the campaign. But, he’s not using Twitter in the best possible way. He’s using it to rant and promote his agenda, but he’s not using it to listen and respond. Twitter is supposed to make users accessible. He ignores replies and doesn’t ever respond. This truly isn’t partisan criticism; I think he would actually benefit from taking my advice. His agenda and overall brand image would be much better served by allowing the type of openness and transparency social media expects and deserves.
The cover article of the current Fast Company highlights Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook and architect of Obama’s use of social media on the campaign trail. In so many ways, Barack Obama is President because of what Hughes did for him during the election. It’s so refreshing to see them continuing to utilize social media now that Obama is in office.