Cafes, Twitter and Foursquare

November 24th, 2009

It is fair to say that as an industry we have embraced Twitter. Just about every cafe or barista I know is on there, but don’t worry – this isn’t another moaning rant about Twitter killing blogs.  I should probably preface this by saying that I am no social media expert 1.

I was advised by a very smart friend, in the strongest terms, to get Square Mile onto Twitter asap about 15-16 months ago, being told it was about to go mainstream. It duly did. If you have any interest in social media you’ve probably read about the main issue facing Twitter – it has no obvious revenue model.  At some point it needs to start making money and no one really knows how it plans to hit its projected revenue of $1.54 billion in 2013.

Many companies remain uncomfortable with the medium of microblogging – unsure of what to post, how hard to advertise, and it of course encouraged the myspace/facebook “collectors” who try and win at having the most friends. For regular users I think most people ended up having to cull the list of people they followed due to information overload.  As such I don’t really trust people following more than 300 others. 2 While I think it is a great point of contact and communication I have to admit that FourSquare has piqued my interest recently.

I first heard about foursquare through the twittering of Octane coffee boss Ben Helfen – but at that time it was US only and I paid it very little attention.  What surprises me is that I haven’t read more online about it, especially from US cafes using it.  In summary Four Square is like a location focused twitter.  Originally presented as a game it has blossomed into something else.  When you visit somewhere – a cafe, a restaurant or any business – you “check in” through your location aware phone, leaving a comment or a tip for other users (suggestion of things to do/eat/drink).  If you visit that business the most you become the “Mayor” of that business.

So far, so silly.  However for businesses this is surely a great thing.  You have people competitively visiting you, talking about you.  More than that there is a pretty sensible business model in there too, meaning that foursquare could well be around in a few years.  Coffee shops seemed pretty quick to embrace twitter, and it will be interesting to see if that experience has soured social media for them, or if they’ll embrace foursquare too.  I post about this now because it seems to have spread outside of the US to London, and I am curious to see how cafes here will adapt or utilize it.

I am aware that foursquare could well be another flash in the pan, but for some reason it interests me.  I’d love to hear from people with more experience of it – those in NYC etc?

  1. in fact anyone who claims to be a social media expert should probably be taken outside and beaten with a big stick  ↩︎
  2. For an interesting little study on twitter usage click here. [pdf]  ↩︎

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