If you are not aware of Foursquare, it’s a social networking website where you can “check in” at various locations(shops, restaurants, banks, and any other businesses)using your mobile devices. It’s been around since 2009, and according to Wikipedia, it has 10 million users worldwide.
Despide all the concerns for danger (“Why would you want to tell people where you are? They can stalk you!” “People will know you are NOT at home- they can rob you”), I continue to use it as a fun game. It’s fun because the person who frequents the venue the most will be crowned as a “mayor”. I currently hold 15 mayorships at various restaurants, bars and shops, and aiming to “oust” and become a new mayor at other vanues as well. I just find it fun to play this game and interact with my friends using this app. Yes, you can stalk someone if you want to, but I don’t have time for it, and I do not check in at Every. Single. Place. I go and broadcast it on Twitter and Facebook to bore my friends. I have control over what information I choose to share, and it all comes down to your common sense.
Recently, I had really interesting conversations with my friends. I don’t want to reveal who they are, so I will call the first friend Mike. He was telling me how “influencial” I had become – and to call myself that really makes me break into cold sweats – because I am not that kind of person…it’s kind of funny because Victoria is small, and in the Social Media bubble, it gets even smaller. Mike said, “When you check into certain places, people pay attention”. I was like “Really? No they don’t.” But he is right – I do get comments through Foursquare app on my Blackberry, or on Twitter. I found this quite interesting. So I could (even though I would never do this) tweet, “I’m not going to Jonny’s anymore because their food is terrible!” and some people might actually believe that. Then again, I assume these sort of manipulation happen daily at review sites like Yelp.
As a personal rule, I try not to tweet anything negative about a venue, unless they really deserve it. If something didn’t taste as good as I’d hoped for, I don’t feel the need to share it, because I believe that is a matter of personal taste.
Foursquare plays interesting role in the consumers’ behaviour. Even though I am not particularly crazy about a venue, I can check in there, just to become a mayor. And if all these people decide to tweet their checkins? Great promo for the business. In other words, businesses don’t have to be particularly great at what they do (customer service, food or drink), all they need to do, is to create the buzz/provide incentive to become a mayor. This worries me a little.
Mike told me he had stopped checking in at one restaurant, because although he loved the food there, he did not like the way restaurant markets itself on Social Media. So he does not want to give any props to this restaurant any more. This was new to me. However, I think I can understand what he means. For me, I don’t like to warn a venue before I head over there. I don’t want to let them know that I’m stopping by. It’s partly privacy thing, and partly because I don’t want the businesses to be “too prepared” for me. Does that make sense? Also who do I think I am? Am I so important the venue better be prepared?
My other friend, whom I will call James, told me that his Social Media savvy regulars stopped tweeting about his restaurant because that would attract too many people. As a business, this is exactly opposite of what you want. He said that Social Media/Foursquare/Twitter is a double edged sword, and I think he is absolutely right. As a mass, consumers now literally have the power to control the reputation of a business on their fingertips. You can manipulate the reputation of a business you do not like, or become their evangelist. Sounds very Spider-Man to me…”With great power….”
Is this a good thing? What do you think?