What the Foursquare Spin-Off of Swarm Says to Marketers
By Mike Stiles on May 16, 2014
Foursquare has chosen to rid itself of the check-in functions of its app and spin them off into a separate app called Swarm.
As we know, Facebook had already started down this road of unbundling usages of its app into smaller, more focused standalone applications. The thinking being when an app does a lot of things, it’s harder to find what you want to do and harder to use. But Foursquare users basically only did two things; check in to places & meet with friends, and discover new places.
Swarm is now the Foursquare check-in app. Check-in and you can see a graph showing where nearby friends are. If you don’t want anyone to know where you are, you can toggle off neighborhood sharing. There’s now history search, which Foursquare calls one of its most requested features ever. So if you loved a place but can’t remember the name or where it was, you’re in business. And, to help coordinate activities with friends, there’s “Plans” so you can ask who’s up for what.
Meanwhile Foursquare, later this summer, will become Foursquare’s discovery app and the one meant to give Yelp headaches. Perhaps Foursquare's strongest asset is its existing directory of every place everyone ever checked into on the platform, with more being added daily. Users can quickly see digestible tips about what to try or avoid left behind by friends and experts.
CEO Dennis Crowley has been working since 2012 to stop people from thinking of Foursquare as an only for-fun check-in app where you can try to be Mayor of a doughnut shop. The UI was changed and once search came to the forefront, searches doubled in 2 months. Plus 50 million monthly visitors were getting intel from all those reviews.
(And by the way, badges will be dropped in Swarm in favor of emotion-revealing stickers you can unlock, and you only compete against friends for Mayorships, not the whole Foursquare universe.)
So what should you, the marketer, take away from these developments? Awareness of the emergence of passive suggestion. As Crowley puts it, “The best version of Foursquare is the one you don’t have to remember to use.” As long as your ambient location is turned on, Foursquare will know where you are and can notify you of timely, relevant suggestions, no check-in necessary. Foursquare says test users interacted with the passive suggestion version of the app 60% more.
This speaks to the tidal movement toward right person/right place/right time/right way marketing that platforms such as the Oracle Social Cloud are facilitating. If you as a marketer know what the weather is, know what time of day it is, know where a customer is, know what’s nearby, and know what they generally like and do based on past behavior, then you can use their social app of choice to deliver offers or info that will be appropriate, appreciated, and hopefully acted upon.
Not to mention this should be a nice reminder of how critical mobile and context is to any serious marketing strategy.
Will Foursquare’s spinning off of Swarm be a winner? Other location broadcasting business models have struggled, including one of Facebook's that was not unlike Swarm. There must be a willingness on the part of consumers to make their location available more often than not, a trend that can only solidify with marketers’ responsible, rewarding usage of that info.