Sunday, June 05, 2011

Four Square is Dead; Long Live Yelp

I've enjoyed Four Square for a year now. But the thing I enjoyed the most was it's amazing potential. Unfortunately, that potential seems now to be perpetually unrealized.

Sadly, I would like to predict the swift demise of FourSquare.

First, what is it? Foursquare ( is a really cool on line/mobile app "game" in which you check in at various places. The coffee shop. The airport. Your favorite restaurant.

If you check in at one place more than someone else, you become the Mayor of that place. So, for example, I am the Mayor of:
- Long Term Parking at the Sacramento Airport
- Robin Robins' Big Seminar
- Autotask Community Live

You can also earn "badges" for visiting a variety of places, "swarming" a location with other FourSquare players, etc.

The Potential of this social media game is that store owners, restaurateurs*, etc. could use the game to draw people in. They can create badges for people who check in. They can give coupons to players, and something special to the mayor. They can leverage this game to attract the eight million people playing FourSquare.

Here are the stats (from
    foursquare by the numbers (last updated April, 2011)
    • Users: Over 8 million worldwide, adding around 35,000 new users each day
    • Check-ins per day: Over 2.5 million, with over half a billion check-ins in the last year
    • Businesses: Over 250,000 using the Merchant Platform (more information at
    • Employees: Over 60 between headquarters in New York, NY, and a satellite engineering office in San Francisco, CA
That all sounds good. But FourSquare is dying for several reasons.

The biggest reason is that The people who could benefit most do not participate. These are business owners, shop keepers, etc. I have gone into store after store, restaurant after restaurant. When I say I've checked in on FourSquare they just look at me like I'm insane. When I ask whether they participate, they usually say they don't pay for stuff like that.

In fact, the person I talk to almost never has any influence over such things. The owners need to find out about FourSquare and choose to do something with it. But they don't get it. And they don't know about it.

So, the second biggest reason FourSquare is dying is that they have relied on raving fans and crowd-source marketing. But those raving fans never talk to the people who could choose to get connected on FourSquare.

I'm also the mayor of a saloon in Nashville that's absolutely packed fourteen hours a day. I've only ever checked in their twice and I'm the Mayor. I haven't been there in months, but no one else who goes there plays FourSquare. If they did, I wouldn't be mayor!

Basically, FourSquare got old because the people who should care don't.

Enter Yelp

Yelp - - is a site where anyone can post up reviews about food, parking, service, products, services, or whatever. You can't fill all of your reviews with horrible profanity, but other than that, it's pretty much open for anyone to do anything.

I've known about Yelp for a long time, but I didn't participate. Gradually, I noticed that there were Yelp reviews on many Google search results. Then I noticed a few friends who posted a number of reviews when they travel. And, on the flip side, I noticed a growing number of people who made comments like "They got good reviews on Yelp."

But one simple act made me decide to sign up for Yelp: The owner of a hair salon asked me to post a review on Yelp. She never asked me about Facebook pages or FourSquare. She specifically said that she wanted to build a good reputation on Yelp.

At Last! A business owner who knows how to use social media.

I signed up for Yelp and I entered exactly one review: for Simone Salon and Spa ( Yelp asked me to use my Facebook logon and I said yes.

Within 24 hours I had 113 "friends" on Yelp.

Focus on the Merchant

The interesting thing to note as a merchant is that Yelp puts the emphasis on the merchant rather than the user/client. FourSquare is client focused. But because merchants couldn't get their head around a "game" as a way to make money, they ignored it. Yelp is focused directly on the merchant. And it's focused in a pointed way: If you're good at what you do, then you'll do well on Yelp!

Of course I could be wrong, but I think FourSquare is going to decline. Among my friends who used to use it all the time, I'm the last to give up. I ask people if they've checked in and they open up Facebook mobile and check in at a Facebook Place instead.


Just a wacky side note: "restaurateur" is one of my favorite completely impossible words to spell. No "n" required. Or allowed. Everyone else seems stuck on necessary vs. neccesary. I'll take restaurateur any day.


Keep ahead of the cloud with Intel® Hybrid Cloud platform events and webinars:

June 9, 16, 23 – Karl Palachuk webinars– “Grow services revenue and reach new customers with the Intel AppUp Small Business Service and the Intel Hybrid Cloud program”

June 7 – Intel webinar – Technical deep dive into the Intel Hybrid Cloud platform

June 9 – Astaro webinar – Using Astaro with Intel AppUp Small Business Service

June 10 – SMB Nation conference – TJ Nagy, Intel Hybrid Cloud platform team, presents “Grow services revenue and reach new customers with the Intel AppUp Small Business Service and the Intel Hybrid Cloud program”

June 15 – Cloud Services Roundtable podcast– an informal conversation with Bret Costelow, Intel Hybrid Cloud platform team, telling us about the latest and greatest with the Intel Hybrid Cloud platform

For more details check or

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!