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If you didn't know, Foursquare is breaking up, but in a constructive way.
It's not you, it's them, but don't worry, the whole thing is amicable. The company is splitting its app in two for the better, sort of like those couples that sleep in separate beds, only converging for sex, and so getting more sleep and clarity in the process.
This follows somewhat of a trend for unbundling or simply creating discrete products or tools, much as apps were first envisaged.
The trend can be seen chiefly at Facebook, with its Messenger and Paper, and perhaps Twitter's Vine. Obviously, Google is the epitome of a multipronged company, with a list of products shorter only than those discarded.
Foursquare has become Swarm and Foursquare. Swarm is a tool for social heatmapping, where all checking-in and socialising will occur, and was launched at the beginning on May 2014. Foursquare will be relaunched as what the company quietly refers to as a 'Yelp killer', a tool for local search and discovery.
Here are a few questions I have asked and in some cases attempted to answer.
1. Could Foursquare be king of loyalty?
Foursquare's website states:
In the new Foursquare (coming this summer), we’ve also built the spiritual successor to badges. Badges were always meant to recognize and reward people who would seek out and find awesome things in the real world, and we found a great new way to do that. Stay tuned for more!
This makes me wonder if Foursquare plans to kill the loyalty space. There's no doubt that in bigger cities in 2011, merchants tried to use Foursquare to gamify patronage. Many gave free stuff to 'mayors'.
The old platform rewarded points for all sorts of check-ins. The new Foursquare won't have check-ins, but surely it's the perfect app (local search) for including coupons or rewards? Push notifications could be very effective as the user already associates the service with locality.
2. Are user interfaces converging?
Look at the screenshot below. To me it looks a lot like Twitter and like messaging apps such as Line. That's probably a good thing for the user and I'd imagine a good thing for Swarm and Foursquare as they seek to find new users.
No longer, as was the case with old Foursquare, do users have orientation and UX as a potential barrier to adoption.
3. How will the new Foursquare beat Google and Yelp?
Foursquare's local search tool is designed to beat Google and Yelp. Part of its approach is to personalise recommendations by where you've been and what you've done in the past (as well as your friends).
Although this sounds persuasive, isn't this what Google has already mastered in mobile search and is trying to take to the next level with Google Now?
In mobile search, Google will give me suggestions nearby and show me reviews on G+, or friends' +1s. With Google Now, access to my calendar and previous behaviour will tailor suggestions, too.
Where Foursquare may win is that the service is more niche in functionality. Therefore, perhaps it can become front of mind for local recommendations, especially if it nails this predictive intelligence.
4. Do we want to know who is nearby?
First off, I'm not being sceptical about the USP of Swarm. I certainly think there are big demographics that do want to know where all their friends are. If this functionality had been around when I was at University, I'm sure students would have jumped on it.
I get the feeling Swarm will be a marmite product - people will firmly opt in or steer clear. There are many people I know who appreciate a certain ambiguity in their whereabouts, though it must be said, Swarm doesn't pinpoint people (unless they check-in), merely highlights those within a range.
Users have the option to turn off 'neighborhood sharing' if they don't want others to know where they are, though this would leave only check-in functionality and, of course, the ability to see what others are up to.
This simple functionality will likely play in Swarm's favour as younger users might start to use it as a 'where and what and how often' bible.
5. Does social heatmapping require widespread adoption of Swarm?
Social networks need to take off sharply or they suffer for the lack of adoption. Twitter is having these pains at the moment. If all your friends are on Facebook, it can be difficult to tempt them over to another network.
Arguably this could be a bigger problem for Swarm. The app is designed to tell you who is nearby, but this functionality won't actually work until some of your friends are using the tool, too.
Yes, all Foursquare users are already signed up to Swarm, but there's still a job to do in user growth hacking. The social side of old Foursquare was fairly poorly used, with a lot of people simply syncing check-ins to Twitter. Swarm has been created precisely to hit this social nail on its head.
Swarm's chiefs have stated that they think key to the experience on Swarm is that friend numbers won't mass as large as they do on Facebook, as we'll only want to meet up with real friends. This at least may lower this adoption barrier and, like WhatsApp, encourage groups of friends to get on board.