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Posts Tagged ‘Dunbar’s Number’

Throughout the semester, my classmates and I have been bookmarking a lot of Foursquare– related content on our delicious links page.  Introduced at South by Southwest Interactive Conference 2009, Foursquare and other location-based services were widely used by 2010 conference goers looking to find fellow social media nerds at unofficial parties and add transparency to the quality of events via check-ins and short message reviews. Unfortunately, as one of the only social media nerds out there WITHOUT a Smartphone (potential 23rd birthday present Mom & Dad?), I’m not yet a Foursquare user. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to check out Foursquare’s homepage to search your favorite area venues, read their reviews, and see if you recognize their mayors!  

But Foursquare is definitely more than just a competitive night life game. The site will distribute a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners access to a range of statistics and information on customers who check-in at their venues.  Additionally, a new staff page feature will allow venues to communicate with regular customers who check-in via Foursquare. For example, if a staffer hasn’t seen a “regular” visit in awhile, that staffer can tweet them about a new product to entice him or her back. Tristan Walker, director of business development at Foursquare, expects this feature to help local merchants especially. Here is an interview with Tristan in which he discusses cool ways that brands and businesses have used Foursquare. But even businesses that don’t offer face-to-face social experiences, such as bars and restaurants, can use location-based services to drive traffic and reinforce messaging. Even political campaigns and social causes can benefit from Foursquare- check out Marc Ross’s predictions on how volunteers will now gain recognition for their work.

Now that more venues are offering special deals and rewards to users who check-in, Foursquare is cracking down on cheating. Now, like its competitor Gowalla, Foursquare will use GPS data to verify a user’s actual location. While users will still be able to check-in anywhere (and prior to or after their actual arrival), they will only be rewarded for the check-in if they are at the actual location. And some users take their check-ins VERY seriously- check out this story and find out who was first to check in at the North Pole.  

Foursquare has already partnered with Bravo to turn its reality show celebrities into city curators who recommend venues that users can then check-in at to earn Bravo-themed badges. MTV and VH1 recently announced a similar partnership. They will also be the first media brands to launch Foursquare’s new Celebrity Mode tool, which allows users to friend celebrities and celebrity users to send check-ins to either friends and followers or just their inner-circle friends. It seems that Foursquare is following Twitter’s lead in getting celebrities involved, which could help boost the popularity of the site and help pack the house for future official celebrity appearances. Over the past few days, the Financial Times has finalized a deal with Foursquare to offer mayors of select cafes near London School of Economics, Cass School of Business, Harvard, and Columbia codes for a premium FT.com subscription.  And of course, web apps big and small continue to integrate with Foursquare’s rich local data.

It will certainly be interesting to watch Foursquare’s growth past 500,000 users in the upcoming months. Will location-based services spread beyond early-adopting social media nerds based in prominent cities (similar to how Facebook has spread beyond college students?) Will enough of your inner-ring ever use Foursquare, or will growth beyond your inner-ring make this social media tool too overwhelming (as some say has happened with Twitter)? Perhaps if Foursquare fails to adopt filtering and status-toggles that allow us to limit the notifications we receive, we will turn to Rally Up to meet up and follow our true friends. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I hope I get a phone that allows me to join in the fun!

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Last month, CNNMoney.com’s article asserted that Twitter has become more of a newsfeed than an actual social network because “most of its 50 million accounts merely follow other users rather than post their own messages.” This article was in response to a study by RJMetrics Inc showing that most Twitter accounts inactive. The CNNMoney.com article caught my attention because I am one of those “inactive” users of which it speaks (although trying to change- follow me @torichristmas!) In activating my account, my goal was to master Twitter as a social media tool (and improve my knowledge of politics, current events and social media happenings along the way.) I intended to “tweet” regularly about current events and social media news and to prove the relevance of my tweets by gaining followers. I had no real interest in keeping in touch with friends through Twitter; most of my friends are on Facebook, and for me, that’s a more effective platform for such relationships.

Upon setting up my account, I began following news sources, Barack, agencies, social media gurus, and organizations of interest, as well as a few friends and acquaintances. Perhaps I created too large a Twitter network to begin with- this can happen on any social networking site, like Foursquare. In my defense, I used Twitter’s list function to try to create some order on my home stream (examples of my lists are breaking news, personal interests, PR/Ad/Social Media, and High School Friends.) But each time I logged on to Twitter, I felt overwhelmed by all of the recent tweets (why did I seem to be continually behind on the news?) and annoyed by certain accounts’ rapid tweets that were taking over my home and list streams. It didn’t look like I was following 75 accounts; instead, 10-12 dominant accounts crowded my streams and commanded my attention by pushing less regular tweeters to the bottom of the reverse-chronological stream. I thought that the more people I followed, the more I would get out of Twitter. But instead, my stream is cluttered by things that I care about only marginally and updates on people who I hardly know anymore. Maybe Metcalf’s Law doesn’t ring true for Twitter. Is it wrong to not embrace the weak ties I have to most of the tweets on my stream?

In his study, Robert J. Moore, CEO and Founder of RJMetrics, says that if new Twitter users stick with Twitter for an entire week, then they will have a much higher rate of engagement with Twitter over time. Perhaps this insight prompted Twitter to change how it engages with its users and potential users. Last week, the site began testing a new homepage that “bubbles up more of the information flowing through Twitter,” according to the Twitter blog. “Twitter is a network where information is exchanged and consumed at a rapid clip every second of the day. With so much being shared, we know that there’s something of value for everyone,” continued the Twitter blog. To summarize, Twitter has made changes to its homepage to show users who have not thoroughly explored and experimented with its site that Twitter can be useful in ways that are not generally apparent. These changes should help users more easily figure out who and what they can find on Twitter, and how they can personalize and filter their rapidly flowing streams. The site is trying to communicate to non-users and inactive users that Twitter is not just for status updates anymore. Be sure to read this recent blog post on the changes. Something interesting that I got from it is that since July 2009, Twitter has been trying to emphasize its “potential as a real-time search tool and a source of information, rather than a simple social networking tool.” So in reality, contrary to the CNNMoney.com article’s viewpoint, Twitter wants to be viewed as more of a newsfeed than a social network. Hopefully its responsiveness to user confusion (like my own) through interface changes can generate more user engagement in 2010. I think that it’s clarification of its desired image has certainly been a good place to start!

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