The Evolution of a Social Platform

An Interview with Jeff Glueck from Foursquare

When thinking of Foursquare, most people think of a gamified platform popular in 2010/2011 focused on badges, mayorships and check-ins. However, in the 5 years since it’s launch the platform has transformed to into a geo-data rich environment focused on seemlessly supplying users with local data. Jeff Glueck, COO, describes the Foursquare goal as being a “discovery engine for the real world” for consumers.

The goal is a lofty one, but the Foursquare team has tackled technical challenges and built the platform to quietly operate and guide consumers without the constant struggle for screen time other platforms face. With the help of a passionate user community the team has mapped over 65 million places across the globe, allowing them to start passively tracking location data of users. Gone are the days of constantly checking in, with Foursquare’s massive database on location data and today’s advancements in geo mapping through wifi, beacons and digital partners, the platform can extrapolate the aggregate habits of a population far larger than the Foursquare user base that checks-in. This mass of data and subsequent extrapolations is used to inform not only the platform consumers but also partners and customers interested in supplementing their knowledge with geo specific knowledge.

The data of Foursquare powers insights beyond their platform. The data forms the backbones of many partners insights, driving Foursquare’s programmatic business. Forty percent of Foursquare’s revenue comes from powering services outside their platform according to Glueck, with 86,000 developers and platforms utilizing the data, including Twitter and Pinterest. In the spirit of the collaborating social space, Foursquare works to enhance their and other’s data sets to get stronger insights and smarter technology. The geo-science space isn’t fail proof though, Glueck pointed out their data vetting showed 80% of publishers and platforms who claimed to have accurate geo-data failed to pass the Foursquare double check, showing the importance of Foursquare’s massive geo-mapping.

While the programmatic and data areas of the business are rapidly growing, the Foursquare team has not forgotten their consumer base. Smaller than other social platforms, the Foursquare community is uniquely passionate about contributing and sharing. The split between Swarm and Foursquare came out of analysis of the community and realization that there were two camps within the platform. The first is those who wanted a social experience, constantly sharing and community. The other, more wary of constantly posting their location, wanted local tips and insights to discover new places. The platform split allowed Foursquare to improve the experiences for both audience sets, incorporating messaging in Swarm and adapting less intrusive communications within Foursquare.

The Foursquare innovation continues beyond consumer experience enhancement. Announcing a new data and analytics business called Place Insights, Foursquare is bringing geo-data into commercial availability. Positioning themselves as the Nielsen of the real world, Place Insights takes their geo-data built in partnership with partners to build aggregate maps of foot traffic for a place over time periods. While e-commerce is a huge business, 90% of spending is still done offline, and Foursquare aims to answer a missing gap on digital tracking of what is happening in real life locations. Glueck demonstrated the platform capabilities in a heatmap of Chipotle locations in Boulder to identify an emerging hot spot where the next location could be built.

Chipotle Locations vs Checkins

In another example Glueck maps the footprint traffic of outdoor supply stores in Boulder, highlighting those retail stores an advertiser should pitch to sell advertising aimed at increase store visits.

The announcement of Place Insights signals a new era in the Foursquare story. Highlighting the huge growth in location services and the capabilities of Foursquare to add contextual details only their geo data can provide.

Jeff Glueck Announcing the Location Cloud at Big Boulder with Chris Moody

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