One of the hottest new social networks is foursquare, with some even calling it the next Twitter. It already has more than 700,000 users in less than a year of existence so I figured it was time to join and check it out.
foursquare is predominately a mobile social network and the concept is somewhat similar to Twitter – you build a network of friends and tell them where you are or what you are doing. The key difference is that you need to “check-in” to foursquare from your smart phone (it works on Blackberries, iPhones, Androids and Palm Pres) and using the GPS or closet cell phone tower can determine about where you are. You then choose from a list of nearby locations or enter in a new location. For example, when I arrive at my favorite restaurant in Doha (presently Maze on the Pearl) I check in on foursquare to let people know I am there. Easy.
Now it gets fun. Once checked in, I can write a review of wherever I am. In this case, if I love the tuna tartare everyone can know. If the rib eye steak is overcooked, they’ll know that too. And unlike Twitter, this stays permanently connected to that location in the foursquare world. Now my friends and people on foursquare can read my review at any time. When they are checking-in to a location, they will be able to pull up the history and maybe decide on a drink to buy, a sales clerk to ask for help or restaurant to choose in a hotel.
And now for even more fun. As you visit more places you start to earn points or badges for the places you check-in. This adds an interesting gaming element to the network, which has proven very popular on social sites like Facebook. Even better than collecting badges is the chance to become the “mayor” of a location. You are named “mayor” of a location if you are the person who has checked-in the most and a lot of locations are starting to offer special deals to the “mayor” so they keep promoting them. If you are the mayor of your favorite restaurant then you may very well receive a dessert on the house! There are a bunch of places I would love to be mayor of here in Doha.
You can also use foursquare when you travel by checking-in from anywhere in the world. It’s a great way to explore a new, unfamiliar city. Also, think about the number of times a friend has asked you what they should see in a place they are visiting if they know you have gone in the past. I always forget the exact name of restaurants or museums, but if they check out my info on foursquare, they will have a treasure of likes and dislikes!
Sadly, as with many of the posts I write about new trends, this site is really not being used at all in Qatar, and I had issues getting the foursquare application to connect on my blackberry (Qtel – what’s the problem?!). Without many local users, there really isn’t much value in foursquare unless you travel and tap into recommendations of local users there. And until the numbers really start to pick up, it’s unlikely Maze will be offering me a free dessert even if I am mayor.
I am sure there are some concerns here about privacy – why should you let everyone know where you are? Certainly people should be mindful when using foursquare, but this seems like a trend that is going to keep growing – I vote to embrace it! This is a great way to be armed with even more information when making choices – and you are getting the info from your most trusted source – your friends. It encourages you to explore your neighborhood and can help you find new places.
Join me in building a foursquare network Qatar!