Checking in to Check People out – Innovative Use of Foursquare Data

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Four the last six months, and particularly since the real push on Foursquare at SXSW in March this year, we have seen a real increase in both people using and people innovating with Foursquare. At FreshNetworks we have been using the location-based social media tool with some of our clients – most notably the CatchAChoo London-wide treasure hunt for Jimmy Choo (which ended yesterday with the Jimmy Choo trainer being caught by @tjsaul at l’Atelier de Joël Robuchon).

Image by Lady-bug via Flickr

But in addition to how brands can use location-based tools there is also a lot of innovation in how the data being gathered by tools such as Foursquare can be used. Social media tools gather a lot of data that is valuable to businesses and can be used to provide a service back to users.

One service that shows how Foursquare data can be used, and also raises again the privacy issues all users of such services should recognise, is Assisted Serendipity.

The tool is simple. It uses data from Foursquare – how many users have checked in to a particular location, and the gender of each user – to tell you when any location your interested in has a high ratio of males or females that you might be interested in meeting. Or as they put it:

[Assisted Serendipity] notifies you a soon as the male/female ratio turns in your favor at your favorite local hangouts. Using Foursquare’s check-in data, we monitor the venues you are interested in, and notify you as soon as the ratio “tips”. Meet new people through the power of location-based social networking.

So the  basic message is that you can use Foursquare people to find people you might want to meet and to identify the locations where the balance ‘is in your favour’. An interesting concept and an innovative use of social media data to help with offline dating (of a fashion). Of course the use of this tool depends wholly on increasing the volume of people who are checking into a location on Foursquare. Thinking of a busy bar on a Saturday night, unless a high proportion of those people are using Foursquare and have checked in it is unlikely that any assessment of the “male/female ratio” in that bar is going to be useful and help you make the decisions that the tool sets out to help with. But with more people using Foursquare its utility can only increase.

Perhaps more interesting are the lessons we can learn from Assisted Serendipity:

  1. For brands – social media is a great engagement tool, but it is also a great data-collection tool. You shouldn’t underestimate what we can learn from what people tell us and how we behave, but also how we can use this data to provide a real service back to them. Foursquare allows people to check-in to locations and find places near them. But we can use the data they provide in a number of ways.
  2. For users – we should all be aware of what data we are revealing when we use social media. The tools that are being developed are great and can add real value to some experiences. But they are not for everybody and not everybody wants to share information about their lives in these ways.

I for one am looking forward to watching if and how Assisted Serendipity grows and potentially our first Foursquare wedding. I don’t think we should be rushing out to buy hats just yet, though.

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