Foursqaure, Dead? I Don’t Think So

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Foursqaure???  Three of those companies are well known technology giants who have not only introduced us to some of today’s most world changing technologies, but continue to diversify their portfolio of tools in order to hedge their tech investments, ensuring growth.  Surprisingly, while not as well known or as large as the others listed, Foursqaure is also hedging its bets in the technology world through acquisitions and new developments.  Additionally, Foursqaure has taken an approach that satisfies the needs of both businesses and consumers.


As customer preference moves further away from traditional brick and mortar retail and closer to online eCommerce shopping, many restaurant and store owners are desperately seeking any advantage they can harness to drive foot traffic and revenue in store.  Foursquare, traditionally known for allowing consumers to “check-in” to various locations to receive badges and discounts, is looking to introduce tools aimed at improving the operations of business and store owners.  Just this past month, Foursqaure announced plans to develop and release an analytics dashboard aimed at helping businesses to better understand their customers.  At the heart of the dashboard lies data that is collected from Foursquare’s location-based services.  The data is collected from Foursquare’s existing database of locations that powers over 100,000 apps, including Snapchat.  This data can then be used to help store and restaurant owners better understand foot traffic patterns and trends and segment this data by age, gender, new vs. returning customers, etc.  This data is a gold mine for businesses, as it allows them to develop marketing and promotional strategies that specifically target their ideal customer base.  In addition, it further helps businesses target consumers with the right product / marketing effort at the right time in the customer journey to improve close rates and drive revenue.  Foursquare has gone beyond the capabilities of traditional analytics dashboards by providing companies the ability to compare their metrics to their competitors as well as the broader industry standards.  It’s rare that companies are able to access information about their competition, but because Foursqaure owns most location based application data, it gives companies a great opportunity to put a stake in the sand and better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their business.


On the consumer side, Foursqaure owns Swarm.  Swarm is where the check-in ability that used to be part of Foursquare is now housed.  There are some great benefits that have been built into Swarm that allow users to really engage with the app.  Swarm has instilled a concept of competition into their application that allows users to compete with friends to check-in to more places, earn more and newer badges, and check-in to the same places the most times.  Badges are earned when users complete a task through the check-in capability, check-in to an airport 5 times to earn a flying badge for example.  Badges are a great concept to encourage use of the app.  Although the consumer isn’t receiving a tangible reward, psychologically the reward makes them feel like they have accomplished something.  The friendly dose of competition to collect more and different badges than your friends also furthers the use of the application.  Additionally, Swarm helps to drive customer loyalty through the use of their “mayor” tool.  The person who checks-in the most to particular location becomes the mayor.  Their name and profile are visible to everyone who visits that location.  By encouraging consumers to compete for the title of mayor, Swarm helps businesses drive customer loyalty and foot traffic.  Swarm can also be used to track past experiences at restaurants to help consumers remember which dishes and locations were their favorites.  This review system also applies to other customer’s check-ins.  Customers visiting a new restaurant for the first time can see who has checked-in recently and read reviews of the foods they recommend and foods to avoid on the menu.  The major plus to Swarm is that as a customer goes about collecting check-ins, they become available to receive perks in the form of coupons and giveaways at their favorite places.  This aspect furthers the brand relationship and encourages consumers to continue to use the app and visit businesses in the hopes of getting more perks.


Foursqaure and Swarm have been around for a long time, but it has only been recently that the company made a strategic shift back to its roots.  The retooling of Swarm to move away from an attempt to be a social utility tool that users could use to meetup, to an app again focused on competition and the badge reward system was only put in place at the end of 2016.  Early signs of success have been promising as Swarm recently had its 10 billionth check in, but it will be interesting to see if Swarm can continue to innovate fast enough to win over users who had left the platform and spark growth.


  1. lesleyzhou · ·

    Great post Ben, as a person who loves to use Foursquare over Yelp (mostly due to my preference for Foursquare’s UI), I’m excited to see that Foursquare is utilizing its accumulated customer data analytics to help businesses better position themselves in the marketplace with improved marketing tactics and product offerings. If Foursquare continues to pursue this strategy, it will eventually overtake Yelp…I could even see it expanding into hotel/property reviews, which would compete directly with TripAdvisor, which also currently offers its businesses customer analytics dashboards. However, although my GW friend tried to explain to me the satisfaction of checking into various places, which helped her rugby teammates stay updated on her current location, I still personally do not understand the appeal of Swarm. In fact, isn’t it dangerous for the public to see exactly where you’re at any moment of the day?

  2. JoshLArtman · ·

    Neat post, I had no clue that Foursquare’s database is so valuable to other companies! I guess it goes to show that apps and websites really can get users to hand over valuable information, even if it was originally supposed to be just a simple social network or service (similar to Prof. Kane’s story of G00G-411 and its purpose to train Google’s voice recognition)! It’s exciting to see an “underdog” tech company making unexpected changes (retooling Swarm) in an effort to reassert itself! I hope these changes prove fruitful for Foursquare, thanks for sharing this interesting story!

  3. zfarkas17 · ·

    Great post! I remember when I first started using foursquare I was obsessed with checking in because I wanted to be the mayor of all the places I frequented. This ended with my brother and I making our house a location and fighting for control. Its cool to see how foursquare has changed over time and how they are finding a way to make all of that data they collect useful for the business.

  4. Nice post! I had heard of Foursquare before reading this, but to be honest I had no idea what they actually did. I think its easy for people to write of Foursquare after seeing so many tech companies fail in the face of competition, but I think you’re absolutely right in saying that they stand a good chance to succeed if they play their cards right. One other thing I noticed is how Foursquare seems like it has the potential to be a monetized and profitable service, while I just don’t see that same potential as of yet in its subsidiary Swarm. Id be interested to see how the shift back to their strategic roots effects their potential for profitability in the next year or so.

  5. I tweeted recently about how foursquare was advertising to me on twitter to learn more about “Foursquare City Guides.” It seemed like it was trying to be something like TripAdvisor by recommending places to eat and things to do. I did not click on the link because truthfully I don’t see the point in foursquare and what they were advertising to me did not seem useful given my alternatives. I used to use foursquare in high school and would indeed want to earn badges and become the mayor of places. This phenomenon is not lasting in my opinion. Personally, I quickly got bored because it didn’t really provide more benefit than just being a game with friends.

    I think the B2B side of foursquare could be a great opportunity but it only really works if people use it. It will be interesting to see where foursquare goes in the next couple of years. Great post!

  6. terencenixdorf · ·

    Great post. I actually have never used Foursquare and I wasn’t really even all that certain what it did besides allow you to check-in to places. So thank you for sharing and educating me on not only what it does, but how it’s improving itself to become a bigger player in the tech industry. Being someone who loves analytics, I think that their business side approach to their new analytics platform is awesome. They have all of this data from people checking in and they’re clearly using it to their advantage by harnessing all of the information and sharing it with businesses. From a business’ stand point, this platform would be amazing to have access to. The ability to access the information on their consumer’s is great but to actually be able to compare it to competitors and industry standards brings the platform to a whole new height. Really cool stuff.

  7. clinecapen · ·

    Thanks for this post…. I honestly didn’t know what Foursquare or Swarm was although I have heard of both. Really interesting engagement tools and marketing strategies to help drive foot traffic for restaurants and such. I wonder how long before one oh the other big guys on the block copy these tactics.

  8. Nice post. Foursquare was all the rage a little while ago, but it’s certainly fallen off recently. Snapchat is the one complaining now about Facebook stealing their ideas, but FB took alot of Foursquares ideas much earlier, which probably accounts for its struggles.

  9. talkingtroy · ·

    I haven’t heard or seen much about Foursquare for a while and honestly never heard of swarm so your post was interesting and informative. When my friends used Foursquare years ago, I never saw the appeal because as far as I knew it was just a tool to check in. I would definitely consider using it regularly with more functionality like reservations, rewards, reviews, etc. than thinking they only were limited to checking in (which as pointed out facebook took that component). Maybe with some retooling and marketing they can regain footing by leveraging their use of data.

%d bloggers like this: