It seems that search engine giants, like Google, are not the only ones jumping into the social network arena. Foursquare, a location-based service, seems to be joining in the competition. First lets briefly define what categorizes something as a social networking website. Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison define social networking sites as “web-based services that allow individuals to 1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system 2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and 3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others in the system” http://bit.ly/e5MlA. While this is by no means a complete definition it is a start. There are other features that commonly exist among social networking sites, thereby shaping the identity and definition of the term as well. Enough technical crap though, here are my thoughts and the signs I have seen that Foursquare is moving in this direction.
1) Perhaps the biggest indicator that Foursquare is becoming a social networking site is that it has given its iPhone app a newsfeed http://on.mash.to/njBgV3. The new ‘notification tray’ tracks more than your check-ins. It tracks comments on your check-ins, new comments on items you commented on, completion of your tips by friends and mayor status updates. Sound familiar? Facebook tracks comments on your status updates, sends you emails when others comment on statuses and photos you commented on, and displays game and status updates.
2)Foursquare is also now offering daily deals from sites like Groupon, Living Social, Gilt Groupe and others http://on.mash.to/qfneWM. Very similar to deals like those that are offered on Facebook and shared through Facebook and Twitter.
3)Foursquare is advancing into the realm of TV like Facebook and Twitter hashtags have before it. Take the recent Pepsi campaign for ‘Summer Time is Pepsi Time” http://bit.ly/rkaLgm. This commercial campaign that takes a jab at Coca-Cola also invites viewers to connect and interact by following Pepsi on Foursquare (a message displayed at the bottom of the screen during the commercial). This gets viewers involved in a game of check-ins at all of their summer fun destinations, earning them badges and, when they earn all three, entering them into a sweepstakes.
Based on these new additions, Foursquare is now a competitor. The question is, do Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have reason to fear? Well, take Google for example. At first its transformation into a social network was just a series of rumors. Critics had seen failed attempts from Google before and shrugged off any possibility of it ever becoming successful, much less competing with other social networks. As of July 11th, Google+ had 4.7 million users http://bit.ly/n6q4cC. Considering it launched on June 28th that’s a quick growth spurt that has undoubtedly increased a lot by now. I would not be so quick to shrug off Foursquare like people shrugged off Google. Foursquare may still be primarily a location service, but is increasingly moving towards becoming its own brand of social networking site. Whether others acknowledge that or not, Foursquare is showing it deserves some attention and that it may be a force to be reckoned with amongst the competition.