I’ve been fiddling with the mobile location-based social networking game Foursquare for a few months now. The concept is simple: as you move around a city you ‘check in’ to locations. You can see where your friends last checked in, and you can add comments as you go. But does it have journalistic uses? I think it does. Here are just 4:
1. Finding contacts
Until recently I refrained from pressing the ‘Tell Twitter’ or ‘Tell Facebook’ buttons when I checked into a location. However, that changed when I realised what happens when you do.
In one example, David Nikel, a political candidate in Birmingham, ‘checked in’ at Birmingham New Street train station 5 minutes after I had. Although I hadn’t ‘shared’ my check in via Twitter, because Nikel did, his automatically generated tweet said that I was there too. This alerted me and led to us meeting.
2. Social capital
Foursquare plugs into your existing social networks but adds an extra layer of information. If you know that John spends a lot of time at Urban Coffee Co you can make a point to go there yourself more often, or at least have it as a potential conversation-opener.
Users can add ‘tips’ to locations – a feature which is currently underused but has potential for leads as well as…
Foursquare has already signed deals with Metro in Canada, Bravo TV and the FT. The potential is obvious: content directly relevant to your location. The big issue for Foursquare is whether it can achieve the scale that most publishers need.
How about you? Are using Foursquare or one of the other location based social networks, such as Brightkite or Gowalla – and how has it been useful?
UPDATE 3: Also from the Facebook group wall: Some are calling for a ‘Twitter strike’ on August 18
UPDATE 2: That gap in the market has already been spotted: TweetSMS.com (also on Twitter) offers to deliver text messages “for a low price”. On the Facebook group Wall Bullying.co.uk(also on Twitter) notes of Twitter’s official statement: “the prices they are getting charged are way over the odds: on the volume they are hitting it could be as low as 0.3 – 0.5p a text.”
So Twitter has cancelled SMS updates for users outside of the US, Canada and India, apparently because it has been unable to arrange decent billing deals with mobile operators outside of those countries.
Hope you can join and add to the numbers (even if you’re not in the UK). Also, if you’re not in the UK, please set up a group for your own country, let me know about it, and we can build a network of these.