Foursquare Going Mainstream?

@Tim | Social, Strategy

Is Foursquare at the tipping point?  Certainly within the blogger world they’ve received an insane amount of press over the past year.  Thanks to the publicity,  they’re now rumored to reach around 450,000 users and are gaining mainstream support.  But, will mainstream users get enough value from “check-ins” to outweigh the inherent risks of making themselves susceptible to privacy invasion and over-sharing of personal information?  While the highly advanced social users are more open to sharing almost everything that happens in their daily lives, mainstream social user’s may have a ways to go.  One of the reasons Foursqaure has the best shot in the cluttered location based market is the clear vision of their CEO:

The game mechanics are the secret sauce. They keep people engaged long enough to see the interesting things that happen when they participate frequently. It’s kind of like with Twitter. If you drop someone in Twitter and don’t give them a reason to participate, they get bored of it really quickly. But, if you spend 10 days with Twitter, you fall in love with it. Foursquare is similar. Spend an afternoon with it, you’ll say: “This is awful. I get nothing out of it.” But as you start to get friends on it and as you check-in at different places, you realize complexities emerge. You see how people are using it and the content they’ve added. The game mechanics hold peoples’ hands through the first 10 to 20 days of the service.

People will say we’re the next Twitter. Which I don’t agree with. I think we’re complementary to Twitter. Or, we’re the next Facebook. But we’re more of a feature set to Facebook. Or, we compete with Google Latitude. Well, kind of. But Foursquare’s not just about the maps. It’s about what happens nearby. And then people will say Yelp is a competitor because of the interest in local businesses and the ability to leave mini-reviews behind. I feel we’re right in the middle of all of these folks.

Dennis Crowley interviewed by Mac Slocum on O’Reilly Radar

It’s no secret, Twitter seized the power of celebrity and mainstream media adoption to catapult them past the tipping point.  Expectedly, celebrities will probably shy away from Foursquare due to privacy concerns, however, I was blown away over the weekend when I saw a Foursquare commercial from Bravo.  While obviously its the first commercial, I think they’ll need to refine the messaging quite a bit for the mainstream social user… What do you think?

Perhaps there is a chance for location-based media adoption will reach the tipping point sooner rather than later.  But for “eventcasting,” the privacy issue is the central barrier to widespread user adoption.  It will be interesting to see just how far they can push the limits in 2010, maybe this is the one network that should just be about sharing with your “real” friends.

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