Cafes, Twitter and Foursquare

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]  ↩︎

12 Comments

  1. I’ve just started using it in Portland and am getting my bar on it this week. I think it’s a potentially good thing to jump on early. Very few businesses are using it here yet and the service allows them to push offers to people’s phones when they check in nearby. With so few businesses using it yet, “nearby” can mean a fairly large radius. Whether it will remain as useful to businesses as more of them sign up I don’t know, but I’ll definitely take advantage of it while I can.

  2. Last week I took a walk around London’s East End cafes and carts and checked-in at each and created places that had not already been listed.
    The week before I did the same, in Brockley and also central London.
    Although only 2 of the spots had recommendations or nearby offers I found them useful.

    The mapping can be a little off (user input error) but the concept is good.

    There was even another FourSquare user at a cafe I visited (they had chosen to display there whereabouts) so I made myself known and had a good chat about coffee and other related interests.

    Through creating a FourSquare location for my business I have received 2 enquiries for people wanting my services, so there are those types of spinoffs too (they had previously not realised I existed)

    FourSquare is definitely more than just a game, it is a useful index of what’s ‘nearby’ in an unfamiliar city.

    I used FourSquare on a night out in Manchester recently to decide my restuarant and bar choice based on tips / location and tweets of people who had been there (the Mayor of the establishment)

    Hopefully FourSquare catches on…

  3. Foursquare is great. I use it every day. Not just to track my friends and be awarded badges or mayorships, but often just to locate a venue i’ve never been to before. It’s great for finding addresses (in NYC). It’s also great to see where friends whose opinions I respect are eating and drinking.

    Along with expanding into new countries and cities, they also just opened up their API to developers. This means there will soon be tons of new apps and websites that use foursquare to do interesting things.

    There’s a new startup, unreleased so far, called Hot Potato that takes it one step further. It lists the most popular venues in town, at that moment. So if Akron Family is playing and everyone in town is there, it shows up. Or, you know, that flash mob outside of 273 Poyser Street.

  4. at first i thought foursquare might be something hatched up by Four Barrel Coffee in SF and Squaremile Coffee in London for world domination. Then I actually read and understood the post – it is an interesting idea. I downloaded the iphone app and was proud to say Sweet Maria’s and Taco Truck La Perla were the only businesses in the vicinity. That’s interesting. I understand the taco truck, but we are basically a warehouse with no “shop” per se, except locals can pick up their orders here. Anyway, I will check it out on this next trip, a stop in Chicago, a stop in Amsterdam, then off to Africa. Do you think many businesses will be listed in Entebbe Uganda? Yirg Alem, Ethiopia? Karatina , Kenya? We’ll see. Thanks for the 4square tip.

  5. Funny you should mention this now James – having observed from a distance for some time, I signed up to Foursquare somewhat reluctantly this week but with the intent of seeing how many coffee related places were already listed in Sydney and the level of activity it’s getting and the type of venues available to ‘check in’.

    It’s only recently opened up in Australia and will be interesting to see if it takes off. Twitter has had limited use here – I see far less than in the USA or UK, but in the last week alone I’ve found a nice range of places I might otherwise have never seen or visited. I also see huge potential for retailers to list their own venues and perhaps use it as another form of online promotion.

  6. Foursquare is definitely on the rise. It’s really picking up steam down here in the south since the expansion to cities like Raleigh, NC. Here is a recent blog featuring the story of a local BBQ restaurant using twitter and foursquare to connect with fans and customers. I think this is just the beginning.

  7. Having been anticipating the release of Foursquare over here in London before it arrived and having had enjoyed it since, its good to see its moved beyond what could have been a media/marketing industry toy. I can’t wait for more users to discover it here though, as I wish there were more mayor based business specials.

  8. Never really heard about it until tonight. One of the people I follow was nearby and it sparked my interest. Really interesting concept.

    gonna sign up and check it out tomorrow.

    thatnks for the info!

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