Foursquare's New Big Data Initiative Is Going To Help It Thrive, Even As The Check-In Withers
Foursquare is still making gains in users and check-ins, with the company reporting in December of last year that it had reached 45 million registered users and surpassed 5 billion check-ins. That's up from January 2013, when Foursquare had 30 million registered users, a 50% gain in just under one year. (Foursquare did not say how many of those registered users are active each month.)
As you can see in the BI Intelligence chart below, Foursquare has been consistently adding users since 2009. But 45 million is still not a huge number when compared to a social network like LinkedIn, which had 259 million registered users at the end of the third quarter. Moreover, even as the number of check-ins is growing, their appeal to a broad number of mobile users is diminishing fast.
So, Foursquare has pivoted recently and is increasingly focused on harvesting location-based data, making the app a big data instrument. This means that while Foursquare may not have the greatest number of users, the information the app can harvest about them will be increasingly valuable.
Here's what Foursquare is doing differently:
Last month, Foursquare removed users' ability to privately check in to locations on the iOS version of its app. The company will likely soon revoke the feature on its Android and desktop versions, making all future check-ins public. This will help Foursquare position itself as a public recommendation service, rather than simply a game-like check-in service.
Publicly revealing locations might deter some users from checking in, but Foursquare has a solution to this problem as well.
Foursquare briefed ad executives recently on a new initiative to track the location of users' phones, without requiring them to check in, according to Digiday. The app is able to do this by taking advantage of the "Background App Refresh" feature on iOS7 devices. On Android devices, Foursquare is pinging smartphones "every few minutes" to determine a user's location. So, Foursquare no longer needs users to publicly check in to know where they are.
In addition to all of the in-app data Foursquare is collecting, BI Intelligence has found that independent app developers regularly turn to Foursquare's Application Programming Interface or API to embed Foursquare's location data in their own apps. For example, location-based social network Path lets its users attach Foursquare locations to their posts. These apps feed even more location data into Foursquare.Foursquare is turning itself into a powerful location data resource. This will help the app fine tune both its recommendations features, and, more importantly from a revenue perspective, provide a much more powerful proposition to marketers and advertisers seeking out consumers in real time, wherever they are.
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