Foursquare 3 Check-ins: Here's What You Need to Know

March 9, 2011

In the run-up to South by Southwest (SXSW) 2011, it’s definitely hard to keep up with all the news surrounding Foursquare. I had a blog post all set and ready to go for this morning on version 3 of its software and how it would fundamentally change the way users enjoy the mobile application. And then, sure enough, Foursquare announced even more changes to the business platform this morning. Who knows what Foursquare will post after this blog post goes up. . . .

If you’re a Foursquare user on the Android or iPhone platforms, you should have already had an opportunity to download the new version of the app. According to the official blog post on the new version, the new features fit into three categories designed to drive check-ins, new sign-ups, etc.:

  1. Discovery
  2. Encouragement
  3. Loyalty.

1. Discovery
Nobody should be surprised that Foursquare is rolling out a recommendation engine, but many might be impressed by how it’s going to collect data to make its recommendations.

According to Mashable, the new version in Foursquare’s Explore tab will use many factors to make recommendations for you, including “places you’ve checked in, frequency of check-ins, places friends go, places friends go that you haven’t been to, places you’ve been with friends, time of day, and day of the week.”

The secret sauce behind this sounds amazing. According to GigaOm, “Foursquare said it will also tailor suggestions based on the day of the week or time of day.” So you won’t see specials for Happy Hour at 10 in the morning.


2. Encouragement
One of the original features of Foursquare that kept people coming back for more was the Leaderboard. Every week, you constantly battled your friends for who could get the most points by checking into new and familiar places. The Leaderboard would reset every Sunday night to keep the contest fresh. We all got kind of bored by it when more and more friends joined the service. And points don’t really mean anything — badges do.

But Foursquare is launching a new version of the Leaderboard that, according to TechCrunch, will reward you for different types of actions, like “finding new places, going to new cities, being more social.” And you’ll constantly be reminded of your status on the Leaderboard every time you check in.

3. Loyalty
The main feature – besides badge hunting –  that drives users to Foursquare are the deals. But many users have found it frustrating because you have to be the mayor to take advantage of them – and, if you only go to your favorite bar once a week as opposed to three times a week, as the mayor, you will never catch up. (This is why I can never be the mayor of Ketchum — I took too much vacation time in December.)
Now, though, merchants can offer specials beyond mayor deals and deals for those checking in for the first time. They can now offer this:

  • Check-in specials
  • Friend specials (bring friends with you!)
  • Flash specials (for example, according to Mashable, the first 10 people to show up at a bar after 5 p.m. can get a free drink)
  • Swarm specials (when a whole lot of random strangers are there)
  • Newbie special
  • Mayor specials
  • Loyalty specials.

With a revamped leaderboard, according to GigaOm, “users have more ways to compete and get recognized for their efforts” and marketers/retailers/etc. have more ways to create incentives for them to come in and visit us.

Automated Merchant Platform
In addition to those three major changes for users, Foursquare announced an automated merchant platform that will be tested at SXSW this weekend and rolled out soon — it’s already been rolled out to many big brands according to TechCrunch.
Once brands are recognized officially by Foursquare, instead of having to call head of business development Tristan Walker to create a deal, they can use a set of tools to create and announce their own deals, including all of the ones listed above. In addition, for the first time ever, they can run multiple specials at once, whereas in the past, only one special could be run at a time. That means brands like big-box retailers can run different specials at different stores, and offer multiple ones if they’d like as well. Perhaps one day their weekly circulars will go away and just be housed on the Foursquare platform. Finally, to show ROI, Foursquare is now giving merchants stats to see how all their specials are doing at once.
Best of all — this is all free for merchants to use. Of course, that likely won’t last forever. Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch: “We won’t charge for something still being baked. . . . We’ve always said we won’t monetize until we get it just right.”

Clearly, this has great implications for many brands — in particular in the retail space. Previously, it was very difficult to tailor rewards that matched the potential traffic we could drive, but Foursquare now offers six new ways to do that through their emphasis on loyalty.

All in all, these are very exciting new features, and I for one can’t wait to give them all a try.