The foursquare backlash

So a few people are moaning about this thing called Foursquare. If you don’t know what it is then it’s a little location based app for smart phones and you ‘check in’ to places, anywhere in fact and build up points. What some people are objecting to is that you can update twitter or Facebook with your check-in info.

Now before I really start I just want to make clear that this is not a ‘Foursquare is the bomb’ type post. Yes I use it but not hardcore and I’m kind of interested in how businesses are going to be using it, especially locally to where I live. Clear? Good, then I can continue.

So the other day I was checking who wasn’t following me (don’t lie , we all do it) and happened to notice that a couple of guys (same industry as me as well) who I converse with on a semi regular basis were no longer following me. Odd I thought so I asked them why? The reply I got back was rather stark and a shock…”Foursquare user, it’s an instant unfollow!” … say what?

Am I bothered?
Now I’m pretty thick skinned, I accept that I’m not to everyone’s taste and followers drop off. It’s part of the game really, followers come and followers go. Those that go will have their reasons, you can’t please everyone all the time the saying goes. We all have our reasons for following someone on twitter and equally we all have our simple or complex algorithms for unfollowing someone, the point being here is it’s usually a 1 to 1 assessment of the individual.

End of? Well not quite. This is where it sort of gets interesting for me. It’s one of those quirky human behavioural things that I like to ponder over. Why would someone telling you where they are actually be such a heinous crime that it justifies unfollowing them?

The heart of the matter
Now it seems that a few folk are being a bit ott with their check-ins and checking in every step of every day and of course that’s going to get annoying but really it’s no different to someone posting their every move “I’m cleaning my teeth” type posts. Worthy of unfollowing in my book without a doubt.

What I’m objecting to is being tarnished with the same brush for using Foursquare occasionally. What does that say about the stability of the connection and any relationship that may of been built since connecting? If you are interested in someone to follow them why would their current location not be of any interest?

Summing up
I believe it’s just a few taking a rather dim view of Foursquare and applying a misguided blanket cull of all those that dare to use it. But what if it’s not that , what if it’s the start of a behavioural change where we start to see people shaping their pool of connections to a more and more perfect group. Perfection being in the eye of the beholder in this case.

What if we as a society start not to value our relationships but instead place a value or a score on them (klout?), not holistically taking the rough with the smooth but instead base them on a one strike & you’re out basis. How close do we look at our own faults and if we applied the score to ourselves would we follow ourselves and be friends with ourselves?

After all no one’s perfect, least of all me.

I really value your comments, please do leave them below.


I love: Norfolk | Food | Cooking | Community | Speaking | Marketing | My Wife x | Great customer service & engagement | Running a business (or 2) | Humour

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  1. Gary, as you know I’ve been having a bit of a rant about people using 4sq indiscriminately. Now I know to search the link for the telltale 4sq signal I generally just ignore them if they are an otherwise valued contact (like you!) However, I do think twice about following new people if 4sq is prominent in their time line and I have unfollowed a couple of people who seem to have become possessed by a 4sq bot!
    I think the real danger is in auto-updating everyone with everything. People join different networks for different reasons so treating your fans/followers/contacts/friends as a homogeneous mass who all want the same info is a big mistake.

  2. When used in moderation, I find 4sq acceptable, but when presented with a long torrent of location posts (from a single user or multiple users) it becomes quite tedious. A spurt of 4sq torrettes normally results in me clearing the whole twitter feed without looking at other tweets that are buried in there….I have only unfollowed one person due to them only posting 4sq tweets & no other regular chat or content.

    As a note, I use Tweetdeck on the Mac – 4sq links don’t work, which really makes all 4sq tweets absolutely pointless for me.

    • Steve Jobs doesn’t like 4sq so he’s updated Safari to block the links…….maybe : ) Thanks for the comment.

  3. On twitter I generally follow people involved in the web industry, I do this so that I can try and stay up to date with ideas and trends currently going on.

    Foursquare is a difficult one to place, I don’t and wouldn’t use it because I think it crosses a line that I personally don’t want to cross. I wouldn’t mind it so much in my twitter feed if it was stuff like “I am at the Taj Mahal!” or “I am at XXX with @blahblah discussing XXXXXXX” but when it’s people checking in at Tesco for the eighth time in the week. I really do not need to know.

    This is a problem with social media in general, it’s used however people want to use it. While you can filter some of what you want to hear, you can’t get it 100%.

    There are probably people who have unfollowed me for less than foursquare though ;)

    I think at the end of the day, we, as tweeters in a professional capacity need to think about the value of what we’re tweeting and who we’re sending it out to and not feel to sore if someone unfollows, I know I go through my list once a month or so and unfollow anyone who hasn’t added much of worth. It’s not that I don’t like them it’s that information of value gets swamped in the noise.

    • I’m not sure I use twitter in a professional capacity, I’m actually not sure what a professional capacity looks like (could be an interesting post in itself). Taking your Taj Mahal example I recently went to London and done a touristy thing, I really enjoyed being a Norfolker in London and telling followers where I was, rather self indulgent maybe. You got me thinking and perhaps if people commented along with their 4sq post it would make it more interesting for others.

      Thanks for your comment Brad, really appreciate it.

      • I think the comment element is the key point here. Social media is so much more powerful when you add some personality to your messages. In fact its only really worth doing if you have a personality and wants to share some opinions to be honest! I can’t see the point of a simple location check in (very dull) but something which adds a colourful comment about the location is much more engaging. In that context its sometimes not immediately obvious that the person is actually using 4sq but looks more like they are tweeting “normally”.

  4. Trouble with foursquare is that the “I’ve checked into X” adds no value to non-users. If it was “I’ve checked into X, there’s a great cafe here” that would be far better.

    I’ve no issue with tweets that are of no interest to me, I’m assuming that anyone I follow will be 50% relevant at best (I know I routinely alienate 95% of my followers with stuff for the 5%).

    It’s the automated nature of foursquare and similar apps that irks me. Don’t have a strong reason why, but it’s the internet, I don’t have to be rational :)

  5. I think there are many different sides to Foursquare, you have;

    The ‘location based’ business; retail store, pub, food establishment, whatever. These people should be on foursquare as a business to promote themselves and this is all fine and dandy.

    You then have you ‘industry type’; social media ‘guru’ (fool), IT person or whatever. Who use it to show that they are in touch with what’s going on and the latest trends but probably don’t actually use it that often.

    You then have what I call the ***** (many words will fit here). Who constantly tell me they are at home, in Tesco, in a pub, in a coffee shop, even waiting on a certain platform at Paddington.

    The latter are one of the most annoying people known to man, and to be fair are a threat to themselves… You always know their location, so if you want to rob their home / work you can. Not only that, how long before someone notices a trend of muggings on people with smartphones who just logged onto foursquare? You only need to search a busy location on twitter and you get the person, their location, what they look like (usually) and probably even their phone manufacturer!!

    If criminals haven’t already cottoned on to this fact, I only take 22% and I accept PayPal…


  6. Interesting post. I don’t think the issue is Foursquare, I think the issue is people tweeting Foursquare links.

    They aren’t unfollowing you for using it, they’re unfollowing you for spamming it. If you posted friendfeed or facebook links all day I imagine you would get much the same response.

    I use Foursquare, but I absolutely don’t have it hooked up to my Twitter account. What’s the point? My Foursquare updates are only relevant to people using Foursquare, and those people are already on Foursquare – so they don’t need an update on Twitter as well.

  7. Hi Gary.. you raise a very good point.. Like Twitter itself surely it all comes down to the user having a balanced approach… I as you know have been learning all about foursquare, so have been using it regularly now for a while…

    I really do believe that in time, it will provide an excellent way for bricks and mortar businesses to add on a digital loyalty card to other marketing activities that they do…

    I also believe that with all things new, we need to tread with caution.. I certainly do promote my check ins through Twitter, but limit it to just a few now and then, as i want to monitor peoples views on this..

    but surely this is no different to people updating their status from facebook or linkedin with meaningless drivel all day long…

    I am beginning to form the view, that most of my check ins i will only inform friends that are interested on the foursqare website.. as they are the ones that have actively requested to be kept informed of my actionsm etc…

    I am sure a lively debate will ensue…



  8. OK, some people are quite precious on there Twitter streams. Some people can’t handle the volume of drivel that I put out (Ok there is an occasional benefit) but you just have to accept them.

    Now the rest of your followers should understand that you, like many of us, are trying these things out to better understand them so they should accept there is a bit of research in public tweets.

    The worrying thing is that if some of your [perceived] closer contacts are unfollowing you – if they have not understood that Twitter an fourqsuare is part of the whole Gary communications package then they need to understand or you need to show them the whole picture.

    My personal strategy for testing is to run things through a locked Twitter account (@jamielabs) where I test stuff out of view. It is not as much fun that being with the crowd but it helps sometimes.

    Jamie :-)

  9. I’m not worried about other people filling their streams with check ins, becoming the Mayor of Lidl, or the Emperor of Wickes. It’s a source of amusement to me, and a craze which like Geotagged images, will probably die back, at least among the early adopters.

    But I didn’t use BrightKite, I’m not using Foursquare or Gowalla or Google Latitude for the same reason – security. All of these are criminal assisants par excellence. – check this out.

    PS: Gary – please delete the previous comment – it has a typo :)