As much as I like the service and platform of Foursquare, the pure fact is that they are on borrowed time. In my book The Chipotle Effect, I predicted that Foursquare would need to become a review site to have any chance of making it in the Big Data haul that is occurring in social and digital right now. Unless they get purchased, their future is limited in the restaurant business. Restaurants represent 65% of all location actions on social right now.
The reasons are simple - Yelp, Twitter and Instagram control the three key elements of the digital food universe: reviews, conversations and photos. If Foursquare could win in any of these categories, I would have a glimmer of hope that they will resolve as a winner in a few years, but the reality is that they do none of these very well. Foursquare was the king of location two years ago, but location has morphed into a more integrated and mobile platform than the fading check-in.
Yelp still abounds in reviews of restaurants, and Twitter is doing nothing but accelerating in conversations around restaurants and food. In fact, in the last year alone, Twitter has grown 125% in conversations around restaurants as tracked by the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI). Don't get me wrong, location is not dying. In fact, location is thriving, but doing so on an integrated level on various platforms. The recent major play by Apple to skip the NFC technology and place Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in their new flagship iPhones as the new king of awareness technology will launch a frenzy of location aware apps in an ecosystem that dwarfs everyone. EVERYONE! Be on the lookout for location apps and platforms that will kill the check-in and send it the way of other technology wonders like the fax machine.
Location is accelerating due to the conversation layer around restaurants. The RSMI tracks over 52 million consumers and over 125,000 terms, and we’re seeing the conversation purge is staggering and location is playing a bigger role than ever. It may be the holy grail of how brands and businesses will actually measure efforts and budgets poised for digital and social campaigns and internal resources.
The death of Foursquare is, of course, unknown, but my bet for restaurants is that the future of location will be focused within more robust and developing platforms of real content like Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Yelp. Facebook could still be in the picture around location, but they will need a bigger play to make this a reality, like buying Foursquare with keen integration to the massive Facebook audience. Either way, Foursquare as we know it is no more, at least for the restaurant business.