Jobbing social media managers would probably agree that Dennis Crowley cuts an inspiring figure; the founder of New York-headquartered location-based social network Foursquare, he dreamt of the day when he had the means to automatically send users notifications giving them ideas on where to shop, where to eat or what to see depending on where they happened to be.
How to realize a dream
But he had a big problem: in 2009, when Foursquare launched, users had to “check in” to the smartphone app every time they wanted interesting tips about their location. When a couple of years later he experimented with a new app that would send notifications automatically, he found that it drained smartphone batteries. Creative social media managers can identify with his frustration: great ideas sometimes hit the buffers because the technology isn’t there to deliver them.
But then Crowley tapped the talents of two brilliant minds – his lead engineer Anoop Ranganath and his data scientist Blake Shaw – and set them to work on solving the problems. And they did: a successful pilot for a new Ranganath and Shaw-built version of Foursquare over the last couple of months culminated in the launch last week of the Foursquare 7.0 app for iPad and iPhone, offering users those location-based “passive notifications” just as Crowley imagined. And it doesn’t kill batteries.
Company research suggests it’s paying off. Users are not only interacting with the new app 60 percent more frequently than ever before, they are spending 30 percent more time on it as well.
The new app also comes with some visual enhancements – the most useful information now appears right at the front of the alert image. By far the most popular alerts are in the “when you get there” category – like when a hungry social media manager walks into a restaurant. The app will send a notification suggesting the best dishes, often based on what friends have already tried.
The days when users just checked in to Foursquare simply to show their friends and others where they were are over, and Crowley’s very happy about it.
As he puts it:
“You really had to know how to use Foursquare to get all the value out of it. The best version of Foursquare is the one that you don’t have to remember to use.”