Location-based social network Foursquare split its service into two distinct products roughly seven months ago, and the company is still experiencing a bit of an identity crisis.
By dividing itself into two apps — Foursquare and Swarm — the company repositioned its flagship Foursquare component as a travel recommendation engine and relegated the gamification of check-ins to Swarm.
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The transition has been dramatic for many of the app’s power users because it forces new behaviors and activities in what was a familiar framework. The shift, however, also expanded the company’s potential to grow and expand, and to reach new users who might have been turned off by the constant location sharing.
The company bet that there’s room for both, and many of Foursquare’s users seem to appreciate the shift. In some cases, the goals of each of the two apps elevate the platform’s overall role.
Foursquare Can Thrive in Stale Business Travel Market
Frequent business travelers and other road warriors may not be the most typical Foursquare users, but the company’s recent split could let it carve out a greater role in the crowded and stale business travel space.
Traveling for work doesn’t have to be boring, sterile or lack culture. By catering to business travelers and providing a more personal concierge to those on the road, Foursquare could tap a global trillion-dollar market.
Even a tiny sliver of that market could equal big returns for the almost six-year-old startup. While many important pieces are already in place, Foursquare still needs to shake off the perception that it is designed for techies and consumers who tend to over-share on social sites. (Foursquare did not respond to a request for comment on this article.)
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David Neuman, director of social media at digital marketing agency Prime Visibility, says he wasn’t happy with the split at first, but it ultimately resulted in him using Foursquare more often as a research app. “I still check in with Swarm, but it has increased my usage around Foursquare’s application for researching places in the area,” he says.
Orun Bhuiyan, founder of digital marketing agency SEOcial, feels similarly about the Foursquare/Swarm split.
“I was a little sheepish about the split at first, but it grew on me,” Bhuiyan says. “The experience is very fluid and since I’m already checking in regularly, the tips are a nice bonus. When I’m meeting a client for lunch and dinner, I quickly learn what’s recommended on the menu. When I’m booking a room in a hotel I might get a tip recommending rooms on a particular floor or facing a direction.”
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Foursquare can unlock unique business value on a more personal level.
“Once I checked into a client’s office early and discovered the executive I was meeting with had something of a sweet tooth,” Bhuiyan says. “I hopped downstairs and picked up a few cupcakes before our meeting, enabling us to break the ice and establish trust much faster.”
Neuman uses Foursquare’s custom search features to search for places that are suitable for working lunches. The app lets you look for establishments with specific amenities, such as free Wi-Fi or power outlets. He has also created Foursquare promotions for clients, to incentivize customers to check-in to places for increased brand exposure or ticket sales.
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Foursquare could offer more concierge-like features for business travelers, according to Neuman. Such features could help users arrange transportation and recommend the best places for business lunches, dinners or quick eats, Neuman says.
Foursquare may also have a leg up on its competition in a few key areas. It’s the combination of filters and accurate reviews that keep Neuman coming back to Foursquare.
“I’ve found Foursquare tips to be extremely applicable to me,” Bhuiyan says. “Part of it is their brevity, another is their great recommendation engine.”
With the social gaming aspect of Foursquare’s service — the check-ins and stickers — moved from the forefront, the company seems more willing to rethink how its flagship app can be used. The business travel space appears to be a market that’s worth pursuing, and lucky for Foursquare, it’s ripe for disruption.