Is a Foursquare Check In More Valuable Than a Google Places or Yelp Review?

In this month’s PandoMonthly NYC Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley shared his belief that a Check In is more valuable than its less modern counterpart – the local review. As guerilleros, we see it slightly differently.

To a packed room of bloggers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and media students, Dennis made very clear his monetization strategy for Foursquare. In the previous NYC PandoMonthly, I asked Jonah Peretti about his revenue plan, to what he replied:

“Profit is not in our short-term plans”

A discussion about the sustainability of his answer is due, but let’s stick to Dennis – Foursquare has a ton of behavioral data and is slowly starting to offer ad targeting based on it to registered merchants. You can see a shy example of those when you hit the “Explore” link on the top nav of the app.


Ideal for On-The-Go Mobile Recommendations

Dennis’ vision for Foursquare is to build the most accurate and valuable local recommendations engine. He sees users relying on the app to decide where to go for Sushi, Coffee, or to find a masseuse, and in that regard Foursquare is no different than Google or Yelp. The big difference is the social data – would you be more likely to visit a sushi restaurant with a 24/30 Zagat rating on Google after 30+ random reviews or a restaurant that 4 of your friends have already checked in to?

In the mobile, on-the-go arena, Foursquare really has the upper hand. Now that Google is merging its Places product with Google+, we may see this social element come into light, but not only is this proposition not happening for at least another year, Google+ users (just like Yelp users) have much less reasons to check in compared to Foursquare. Say what you want about the pull exercised by “badges” and “mayorships” – they’re much more interesting than a G+ check-in. Even the mighty Facebook failed at it.

Useless for Proper Planning

Stating the obvious here, but if you’re near a computer, Foursquare is pretty useless. To assume a user would log into Foursquare to find a hotel, find a venue for a holiday party, or compare two menus is a very big stretch. Google is near unbeatable at search, and that’s where Foursquare’s check-ins show their biggest limitations.

Check-Ins Supplement Local Reviews

We’ve determined that check-in data is more valuable than search results for users standing at a bus stop, while Google remains king for users planning which sights to visit in a trip to San Francisco. Unfortunately for the time-consumed business owner, this means they’re both necessary.

We’ve outlined before how we leveraged Foursquare and local reviews to promote a sandwich shop on the Outer Banks, and the tactic remains true today – motivating your customers to check in is a fantastic way to earn precious real state within their social graph, and having check-in specials set up will give you a higher chance of generating new visits from on-the-go users.

But if these users come back home and write terrible reviews on Google Places, it’ll be hard to earn the business of those planning their catering lunch or out-of-town visitors. They’re in front of a computer searching for places to eat, and if your business appears on a Map result with a poor rating, there’s no Foursquare special that will change their mind.

Different Mindsets, Different Needs


Understanding the different purposes of Foursquare and local reviews such as Yelp and Google Places means understanding the reason behind a check-in – mobile, on-the-go recommendations – and the need for local reviews – for reputation management and to create strong “first impressions”, which will then generate a future check-in.

As social media opens more channels for customer interaction, the business owner has more channels to monitor and opportunities to benefit from. What is your business doing to generate more check-ins and reviews?

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