Foursquare isn’t incredibly useful for me but it does provide the following 3 benefits.
It allows me to discover who is in a place that I’m considering, so I can either visit or avoid it.
I’m a pretty social guy so I usually don’t mind running into people. On occasion, however, there are a few people that I’m just not in the mood to talk to. I have experienced a situation wherein I reviewed a location before entering and decided not to patronize the joint because a particularly annoying human just checked in and I wasn’t in the mood. More frequently, however, I have identified people that I actually wanted to see, sent a text and had a cocktail with them. It’s kinda cool when this happens.
It allows me to discover some activity in a particular place so I have a sense of what it may be like.
Obviously not everyone uses foursquare as some cities have a higher concentration of users than others. I tend to visit these cities (Austin, SF, NYC, LA and Chicago). By looking at the check-ins at nearby establishments I can gain some relative sense of the crowd at various places, and visit them based on whether or not I’m in the mood for a crowd. For example, if I’m going to a bar to watch the Giants play, then I want a crowd. If I’m going to grab a quick lunch or coffee then I don’t want a crowd. I want to grab my grub and go.
It alerts me of nearby places that I may not have considered but want to.
If I’m in a neighborhood that I’m less familiar with, I’ll browse the list of nearby places and often find a place that sounds good that I haven’t been to. This discovery is the attribute that I find most valuable. Give it a shot – maybe it’s a new coffee shop, bar, restaurant or store. It’s a great way to find the clothing store that might have the pair of shoes that you’re looking for (my example is the kicks that I purchased in the Burton store in SoHo.
The one thing that I want it to do.
I don’t care about badges or mayorships or badges – at all.
I want the check-ins to act like an electronic loyalty card. I don’t carry those cards around with me but if I could be compensated for the number of check-ins or total dollar amount spent over a period of time then that would make me happy. I suppose that the merchant would have to be careful about gaming with check-ins so perhaps Blippy or Swipely are better suited to provide this service. I believe that PlacePop is going after this – good on them. As an aside, I think these services should offer check-outs and taxi cab services or UberCab can monitor this so I can find a ride home within 5 minutes.
In it’s present format, I wouldn’t be bothered at all if foursquare went away. I don’t think that it will, but I don’t get so much value that it would bum me out. What do you like or dislike about foursquare and Gowalla?