A few years ago I was introduced to geocaching. I had never heard of it but was told all about it by a friend of my sister at a Super Bowl party. This enthusiast and his family enjoy geocaching and plan weekend activities and vacations around it.
Late last year, I began seeing people checking in on Twitter and announcing mayorships by something called Foursquare. I decided to investigate. I loved the social networking aspects and it appealed to the competitive side as I quickly racked up points, badges, and mayorships.
I quickly hit the badge ceiling for a user such as myself. I live in a rural area with few local friends using Foursquare, and I am not a 20-something out until 3:00 am (although I did earn the School Night badge by traveling home after a business trip).
I was excited to learn about the use of Four Square at EMC World 2010 in Boston. Len Devana and his fellow EMC Social media friends had setup a charitable donation tied to Foursquare use. Plans were ruined quickly by a local superuser who began deleting our sites. Also Foursquare was not very cooperative about creating a badge for the conference.
Four Square, much like Facebook, did not start out with people like me in mind but here we are. Now what? Four Square is the most popular but there are other geo-tagging apps out there, most notably Gowalla. Gowalla adds some nice features like the ability to add photos. So far, not many of my friends have embraced it either and I have not seen it used with any businesses for specials. So where does this leave us? Will Four Square be bought by someone else? They have a long list of rumored suitors. Will they obtain financing and go it alone as was reported last week by TechCrunch (found here)? Will Gowalla or someone else step in and take over leaving Four Square in territory occupied by MySpace?
In light of all of this, here is my wish list for Foursquare, Gowalla, or anyone else.
First, I love the idea of making this a game. Keep the point system. Give points for each check-in, with bonuses for first time at locations. Add bonus for checking in at a place where you are the mayor. Add some incentive based bonuses like referring friends, having someone following your tip, or being tagged in a photo on site. Add points for badges earned. Make a few user levels based on points.
It would be nice to provide location/business owners a dashboard with some options for their business like placing ads that would function much like tips and would be targeted to people in the area or searching the area. Also a scoreboard for their business so they can identify star customers and offer treats to them. Obviously this could be a revenue stream for the owner of this app. Give them options for badges.
The infamous badges. I will probably never attend South-by-Southwest so there are a number of badges that will be off limits to me. Anyone who has been a Boy Scout or Girl Scout knows the thrill of earning a badge. I understand part of the thrill of the badge is exclusivity. If there are hundreds of thousands of badges, the thrill of earning them is diminished. If this segment of apps continues to grow, it would be helpful to allow users to identify themselves with groups and/or communities. I would segment badges based on these groups and communities. This would allow for numerous badges without losing the exclusivity. There could then be some corporate badges along with family oriented badges without diminishing the Playa Please badge. In technology, several leading companies have embraced social networking. They would be willing partners in this venture. Give me a badge for EMC World 2010 or Cisco Live. Give me a badge when I become certified.
Linking brings power. I would like the ability to find a restaurant in Four Square and click on a link in Urban Spoon or Open Table to find more info or make a reservation. If I check in at a Major League Ballpark, I would like to link to MLB.com or an app on my device to get info and share with others at the park. What if I could plan activities by searching places, tips, events, and offers in locations? Linking to other sites or apps would harness more info and more functionality.
Finally a sore subject to Facebook users. Data and linking to other sites. If I check in to my local Chick-Fil-A two days a week for lunch, would I care if the owner of this store or Chick-Fil-A corporate knows this? I would think that if they knew this, I may get an occasional coupon or free shake for being a good customer. Obviously the data this activity generates would quickly become valuable. Be open and honest about this from the beginning and offer me a little something in return for my info and participation and I am ok with this.
So there is my wish list for Four Square or anyone else in this space listening. Bring it on, I’ll embrace it.