Function versus Fun

Considering the rapid growth of both mobile phone use and social media in Australia, a marketing marriage between the two seems inevitable. Mobile marketing has traditionally focused on SMS offers sent to registered consumers who float into an organisation’s GPS zone. They consist largely of time-sensitive promotions – free coffee with lunch for the next two hours, has far more relevance sent to users in the vicinity of the business than those who are not. Meanwhile, social media marketing communicates posts and, more recently, advertisements into the newsfeeds of users who are following a brand on social media, regardless of their location. It makes marketing sense to combine the two, pushing promotions into the social media news feeds of users who have opted-in for promotions and have entered the GPS zone of the business?

Andreas M. Kaplan certainly believes so, he proposes mobile social media marketing as the new revolution and nominates Foursquare as the market leader with “nearly 10 million registered users and a growth rate of 30,000 a day.” But to be honest, the mention of Foursquare felt like someone had said, “Do you remember when your TV remote was attached to the telly with a cord?” I do remember a brief period of friends ‘checking in to Foursquare’ but it was fleeting and it has been years since I have heard anybody mention it in conversation or seen it in my social media feed. Kaplan’s article was published in 2012, surely the ‘market leader’ of the ‘new revolution’ has not been completely forgotten four short years later?

Is it just my social circle who fell out of love with earning their badges? Has Foursquare been replaced by another market leader? Or is it simply not as popular in Australia as it is in the US? So… what ever happened to Foursquare?

Well it is true that Foursquare is far more popular in the US, of their 30 million users worldwide (2013) only half were outside the US, with 56,000 in Australia. Yet even in the US, Foursquare’s Monthly Active User numbers have been in steep decline. Internally this appears to be due to a loss of managerial direction after the initial hype wore off and the reality of needing to grow into a viable business began to sink in. They rolled out the first in-app business ads in 2012, then encouraged some 85,000 plus companies to use their location engine (including Twitter, Google and Yahoo) but did not charge for this service until last year. Then in 2014, they threw commentators into confusion when they split the experience into two separate apps – Foursquare for personal search and recommendations and Swarm for check-ins.


Foursquare’s rudderless organisational direction aside, surely mobile social media marketing does not live and die with them? Surely, with the introduction of wearable mobile devices such as the Apple Watch, the increasing popularity of personal tracking devices such as the FitBit and the stable growth in popularity of social media, not just as a source of entertainment, but increasingly as a source of information will mean that another big player will move into this space and simply reinvent the Foursquare concept and improve on it.

It would appear that Facebook has filled this space by offering Facebook Places, where users check-in to cities / venues, and Local Awareness Ads, where marketers can display advertisements to users who live in or have recently been in the vicinity of their business (and can drill down on age and gender). As 60% of users visit a business’ Facebook page before visiting the business itself, it seems that these services are working for users, despite lacking the gamification and hype that we loved so briefly in Foursquare. To me this indicates that while points, badges and games are fun and the initial uptake can be astronomical, their novelty soon wears off. On the other hand, Kaplan was onto something with his Four I’s – the Facebook applications considers the needs of the consumer by Individualising (targetting) advertising messages, Involving the user by making it easy for them to check-in, Integrating it into the social media platform they use most and Initiating the creation of UGC via reviews or photos.

four i s.png

9 thoughts on “Function versus Fun

  1. Hey Kelly, another good read!
    It’s funny that this week’s article mentioned foursquare, the platform was brought up at work on Thursday when a few people were having a nostalgic chuckle about the things they used to use. I agree that Facebook has filled the space left by Foursquare, but I have noticed recently that the ‘active’ participation among my friends (and myself) has diminished over the last 18 months. I wonder if Facebook is really performing that well within the 4 I’s? Integration is something I feel FB has been slipping on as the site becomes more and more monetized, from personal experience the number of sponsored posts and facebook ads on my feed has taken over user generated content (but that could just be me!). Also, I think mobile content needs to be a lot more visual than content that is desktop orientated, this is where Instagram has it over FB as a mobile platform.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog this week, hugely appreciated! It’s funny you mention less ‘active’ participation among your friends on Facebook, I’ve certainly seen the same among my social circle – back in the early days of Facebook, friends were updating their status (text only back then) once or twice a day, now it’s only every couple of days, unless they are friends who use Facebook to promote their business interests that is. Perhaps this is a push away from Facebook for introducing ads? However, I’ve also noticed a couple of my friends when searching for information on a business, will go straight to Facebook to look them up rather than Google – perhaps the role of Facebook in the lives of their users is moving away from a source of entertainment and towards a source of information, both on businesses and on world events as I know that is where I usually first hear of anything that is happening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kelly, another great thought-provoking article. It is interesting the decline in foursquare usage, although I’m not entirely surprised to be honest. I suspect if you looked at the user trend for this platform it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to other apps which started off having strong usage and then showed a rapid decline. I suspect Pokémon go is heading that way too. Foursquare was ok for a while. We would catch up with friends as a group and all check in and post pics of our meals etc., but it didn’t last that long before it stopped being that much fun. There really isn’t anything that interesting going on to create meaningful “long-term engagement with the app. I agree with your point about the novelty factor and I suspect that’s why Facebook is having a better response with long-term usage than Foursquare as people are using Facebook for a whole range of different things whereas Foursquare does appear to be a one trick pony. I’d be much more inclined to check in on Facebook if I was logged in to anyway.



    1. Hi Keith, thanks for reading & commenting this week, much appreciated 🙂
      Yes, I did look into the user data for Pokemon Go and it would appear that the decline has already begun, so no doubt we will see users jumping ship so as not to be left the only person ‘still playing Pokemon Go!’
      I think that the check-in function works so well for Facebook because they are integrating it into the social media platform that (most) people use most frequently, therefore it is so easy for users to check-in and their check-ins add to the overall presentation of self that they are generating. Facebook seems to be using three applications to add a Foursquare-like dimension to their user experience – the Facebook Places check-in is obviously the checking-in function, comprehensive Business Listings and reviews allow users to find, disseminate and contribute to public information on a business and finally the Facebook Events function allows users to organise gatherings and share information before, during and after an event.


  3. Great post Kelly. I never really got the point of foursquare either and I agree with the other comments that Facebook offers a lot more functionality


    1. Hi Tim,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog this week, I appreciate it 🙂

      It’s interesting, because on paper the concept of Foursquare is a no-brainer – it’s fun, interactive and allows users to communicate their personal image to their peers. It is also hugely appealing for businesses. But the novelty appears to have worn off and Facebook expanding their functionality means that there is no demand for another player to step in and recreate what Foursquare was doing.


  4. Kelly, for me the foursquare app is something new it seem that in US it works a lot, but maybe in my country or in my personal experience I have not ever look at it. Your blog makes me reflect on identifying which applications or social media I used to find places and activities to do in Victoria….. Coming from another country makes you realise about all the features online and applications that help you to find interesting things to do. In my experience, the first month I used a lot of zomato to find restaurants near my location, since I could filter types of cuisine and prices, see menus and hours was very helpful, now that I know more about the certain restaurants my choices rely on friends suggestions ☺ and off course facebook is an engagement media to communicate and share this information.

    Its also interesting that still today I like a lot the timeOut Melbourne blog, it gives a lot of advices of things to do in Melbourne and in overall Victoria. Taking into account Kaplan’s four I’s, this blog is not an app that can individualize my activities but it Initiates conversations with my friends about place to go or activities to do, it Involves me with their different content and recommendations, which I can share with my friends and family through facebook or twitter (Integration).


  5. Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for an insightful read, you reminded me what Foursquare really was, given that I had completely forgotten it even existed outside those apps that pop up with ‘Powered by Foursquare’! It seems they’re moving away from their original model and taking a different direction by taking advantage of users leaving their locations available for tracking and providing a more data-based platform that allow tracking of consumers to influence the distribution of ads and consequently the foot traffic in store – (sorry it’s not hyperlinked but it’s an interesting read!). It seems to be a more tech savvy revival since their flop by focusing on Integrating and Individualize in the four I’s rather than a social platform. So they’ve moved away from fun to functional for sure. As for Facebook, I don’t even know if Facebook is successfully facilitating fun check-ins or status updates as the last one I saw resulted in jokes like ‘look, it’s a status update’ and ‘they still exist’! I wonder what will be next?



  6. Hi Kelly,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog this week because it definitely relates to an area I have interest in and have used a lot. I am a bit of a Facebook junkie myself, and also use to use Foursquare, which then turned into Swarm for check-ins. I also use Facebook to check in of course because of Kaplan’s 4 I’s ; I definitely agree with his theory and love the way you have integrated this theory with your blog.

    I just wanted to make a brief comment on the fact of why Foursquare was turned into a venue search app rather than a check in app. I feel like the creator of this app felt the need to separate Foursquare and Swarm into two different categories, because they both need to serve different purposes and both do serve different purposes. Sometimes, some apps begin to get a bit confusing because of it’s ability to perform several functions, so I feel that maybe the creator wanted to make the app more simple and user-friendly for those that may not be a part of the younger generation, but those who still enjoying using social media.

    I also realised, I never use Swarm to check in, in Australia, but I used it a lot when I was in Europe. This is because everyone around me used it, in Europe I realised people use Swarm to check in, but Facebook for status updates and occasional photos (until Instagram came along). I believe this is due to a cultural difference, as I realised my cousins actually use Swarm to check-in because it shows them who is there at the same time as them. For example, I have 15 year old cousins (boys), who are very interested in girls and use Swarm as a way to stalk which girl is at the same cafe as them, then they send them a friend request and meet girls through there. I found that very funny but also I think that’s where the cultural difference comes in, because in Australia I don’t think that’s how it works. I have friends that haven’t even heard of foursquare let alone swarm, but in Europe (especially where I was; in Turkey), I had friends who stalked whether this guy was at the cafe we were planning to go to, and if he was there they said let’s go to the other one I don’t want to see him. Nevertheless, coming to my question, I just wanted to know what do you think the reason is for Swarm not being as popular here as it is in most European countries? Would you say it is more of a cultural aspect or a social aspect? Or do you think, Facebook is enough for our fellow Australians?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s