This is the first in a series of five blogs, looking at some of the major players in the location-based app business – FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Yelp and SCVNGR. As well as looking at the pro’s and cons of each for users of the service, I’m taking a look at what opportunities they present for brands and services who might choose to use them. Part 1 of the series takes a look at…
Undoubtedly the most talked-about location-based application – but does it compete well?
I chose to review FourSquare first because of its unarguable status as the most popular player in the market. Most would call this the biggest player in the location-based market, at least before Facebook launched places. It’s certainly getting the most coverage, and has the most users (aside from Facebook) so far. So as a user, the experience you get with FourSquare is bound to feel more ’rounded’ than on other services. Most of the functionality you’d expect from a location-based application is here – check-ins at locations, badges for achievements, tips, offers from brands, reviews etc. It just looks so…. ordinary. I know the look of it shouldn’t be a big issue, but I’ve always struggled to get over how basic the GUI is on FourSquare.
How about the website?
Like the application, the site is very monochrome and feels quite lo-tech. But all the functionality you’d expect is there – the ability to find friends, update your profile, browse spots and all the rest. The website is good, though you don’t necessarily ever NEED to visit it – everything you need to enjoy the experience is available through the app itself.
What sort of coverage do they have in the UK?
This is probably the most well-established LBS (location based service) in the UK at the moment – most people will have spotted at least on or two ‘Mayor’ claims floating around their Facebook or Twitter stream in the past year. In terms of locations covered, it’s also the best – with the obvious exception of Facebook Places, which pre-populated their database before they even launched here.
Fairly recently FourSquare started allowing brands to ‘claim’ locations as their own, which not only allows you to customise your page as you can on Facebook, it also gives you access to stats about check-ins and the like. I think that the stats angle is a definite bonus – finding out who is checking in and what they’re saying without having to trawl through your many different locations will save a lot of brands precious time. However, unlike Facebook which allows you to verify ownership electronically (uploading proof documentation straight to the site), FourSquare currently only allows either phone verificaiton (US only) or postal (!!) verification, which I’ve still not received. They do apparently send you a ‘cling’ too though. That’s a window sticker, for those of us in the UK… Once you’ve claimed your spot, brands can create special offers for Mayors (or other users), allowing you to attract passing-trade when people check-in to other locations nearby. Lots of big-name brands have already done this, often attracting quite a bit of PR attention just for being early adopters in the space.
How easy is it for users to set up?
Very simple – an easy registration process is made even easier using Facebook Connect. Sign-up is very nearly instant. Why should I choose this one? The size of it’s user-base is hard to beat – I have 167 FourSquare friends versus 78 Gowalla (and 1 on SCVNGR!) and it grows pretty quickly. So if you’re looking to use it as a social tool, you’re going to find that hard to beat. It’s also one of the most well established, so you could quite easily use it as a casual ‘player’ without ever having to worry about adding new locations or fixing spots.
How ‘social’ is it?
Very – integration with Facebook and Twitter allows you to find friends, post updates and share badges very easily. Friend activity is easily viewed, with push notifications allowing you to find out every time a friend checks-in somewhere, if that’s the sort of coverage you want.
If you’re the sort of person that likes to show-off about the places you visit, find out what you’re friends are to AND has lots of well-connected friends, FourSquare is probably the app for you.