My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: FourSquare's American Express Discount - Geo-Location Fast Five 10 million Strong

Sunday, June 26, 2011

FourSquare's American Express Discount - Geo-Location Fast Five 10 million Strong

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance.

W.B. Yeates, The Fiddler of Dooney

Good News in the Social Networking sphere, it seems, comes in pairs. FourSquare has secured another US$50 million in VC (Venture Capital) funding as stated in the article “Foursquare gets $50M to 'make the world easier to use'”, published JUNE 24, 2011 2:27 PM PDT by Liz Gannes, CNET News - Digital Media and the article “Foursquare checks in to $50M in fresh funding”, published June 24, 2011, 3:06pm PT By Colleen Taylor, GigaOM.

Add to that the fact they have also gotten an endorsement deal with AmeX (American Express), which basically is really an over glorified discount program with Geo-Location thrown in.

This as stated in the article “Foursquare looks to AmEx to further loyalty program ambitions”, published June 23, 2011, 8:16am PT, by Ryan Kim, GigaOM and the article “Foursquare, AmEx team up for deals”, published JUNE 23, 2011 8:18 AM PDT by Lance Whitney, CNET News - Digital Media.

Not bad for a LBS (Location Based Service) start-up that burst onto the scene at the SXSW (South by South West) two (2) years ago in March 2009AD as stated in the article “LBS Startups to Keep on Your Map”, published March 31, 2009, 5:04pm PT by Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOM.

FourSquare was seen as being unlikely to get support as slyly hinted in the article “Foursquare unveils its SXSWi arsenal”, published MARCH 9, 2010 11:37 AM PST by Caroline McCarthy, CNET News - The Social, due to its offending idea of sharing one’s Location via a smartphone's built-in GPS (Global Positioning Satellite). Effectively, a loss of your privacy, Enemy of the State (1998) Style!

FourSquare CEO Dennis Crowley certainly has put a lot into developing the Geo-Location concept, despite the naysayers. This latest crop of endorsements is testimony enough.

His concept is somewhat similar to a Mobile Geo-Location Social Network concept I once proffered back in the Fourth Quarter of 2003AD, when I was a Network Maintenance Technician at C&W (now Telecom Provider LIME!) being interviewed by Nurse Gunning for the purposes of a Redundancy Exercise.

At the time I suggested a basic idea for Geo-Location using mobile cell towers, but it got shot down, as C&W, I later discovered, did not like investing in something untried, but preferred the idea of letting others rent access to their Network and offer such Geo-Location services, namely Guardsman Alarms here in Jamaica.

Typical lazy Telecom Providers! Ready markets instead of investing in research and promotion to develop the market’s interest in their products as opine in my blog article entitled “Asus Transformer & Asian Tablets vs Apple iPad - Vybz Kartel's Straight Jeans & Fitted Big Trouble in Little China”.

I did, however, give away the idea of a similar promotion concept in that same Redundancy interview with Nurse Gunning in 2003AD called I Spy Rewards that was based on Geo-Location using Mobile Triangulation from Cell Towers as described in my blog article entitled “Brown Dawg and I Spy Rewards- Geo-location rewards system for Mobile Social Networking”.

Ironically, I Spy Rewards concept was based on a scaled down version of a much grander suggestion I had made while doing an interview with Telecom Provider Digicel back in 2002AD named Brown Dawg as mentioned in my blog article entitled “Audia Granston, Jack Abaramoff and the Spirit of Creativity and Innovation in Jamaica”.

FourSquare was also an idea that I endorsed that popped up during the conversation in April 2009 based on GPS Geo-Location. This was roughly a month after FourSquare had gone live at SXSW as stated in the article “Foursquare unveils its SXSWi arsenal”, published MARCH 9, 2010 11:37 AM PST by Caroline McCarthy, CNET News - The Social .

So to be clear FourSquare is NOT my idea!

But Brown Dawg was a concept similar to FourSquare, based on Mobile Triangulation instead of using the GPS in smartphones, only now being fully documented online in my blog:

  1. Brown Dawg, a Mobile Social Network based on Mobile phones
  2. Brown Dawg and A So di Ting Set - An API tool for User preferences and avoid backlash
  3. Brown Dawg and I spy Rewards - Geo-Location rewards system for Mobile Social Networking
  4. Brown Dawg and Se'et Deh - Behavioural Targeted Marketing Ads
Coincidence, but fortunately so, only in reverse? Perhaps….

Albeit not their first endorsement, it is by far the most significant and the largest. Quite fitting too, having hit the ten million (10,000,000) membership barrier some four (4) days prior as stated on their blog post entitled “Wow! The foursquare community has over 10,000,000 members!”, posted June 20 2011, The FourSquare Blog.

It also signals that more Brick-and-mortar companies in the US of A are getting hip to the idea of partnering with start-ups run by young people, mostly Millennials [ages 18 to 28].

This as evidenced from the recent partnership of VISA with SME Credit Card support Start-up Square, the Silicon Valley Start up headed by Twitter co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey as stated in my blog article entitled “VISA and Jack Dorsey's Square - Leena's TechCrunch of SME's Mad Money”.

Google Wallet is a more memorable example that comes to mind as stated in my blog article entitled “Google Wallet & Offers vs Square & PayPal - SME's International FlashDance”. This as it may be coming to Jamaica via a Texas-based startup named Mozido Jamaica Limited as stated in my blog article entitled “Mozido Jamaica Limited and Mobile Payments - Plants and Zombies say the Gods must be Crazy”.

And there are possibly hundreds more, albeit mostly acquisitions as oppose to partnerships, News of which dot the Silicon Valley landscape.

So what is the explanation behind the rise of Geo-Location Social Networks and LBS (Location Based Services), once derided as being a Social Networking risk by virtue of your total lack of privacy? 

For one, kudos goes to the FourSquare team in ensuring that the privacy snafus that plague the constantly evolving FaceBook as mentioned in the article Facebook to simplify privacy controls amid unrest”, published Wednesday May 26th 2010, Yahoo! News were not a part of the FourSquare culture.

To wit:

  1. Only your friends know your exact Location, unless you choose to make it public
  2. Unlike FaceBook, friend of your friends have to become your friend before they can see your FourSquare profile, which by default is set private
  3. Unlike FaceBook, FourSquare advises you of changes before they, as Audia Granston would say “dash it pon you without warnin’”!
  4. FourSquare gives you the option to set warnings for when certain friends are nearby. Great for dodging a friend you’d rather not meet
  5. Though the FourSquare Platform is accessible via a Computer on a browser, actual tracking of people is not possible without being their friend.
  6. FourSquare doesn’t disclose you Location to law-enforcement without your permission. Great News for criminals looking to rendezvous a la FourSquare
FourSquare leaves security up to one (1) individual: you. You choose your friends and make sure they are genuine friends, much as is the case with FaceBook. Except with a more secure Platform not prone to the vagaries of the privacy problems that plague FaceBook!

Thus, with their privacy secured and a Geo-Location Social Network of like minded individuals toting about expensive smartphones, FourSquare at it inception, was effectively a uber-exclusive club.

Now with smartphone penetration at 50% as stated in the “Verizon iPhone helps U.S become a smartphone Majority”, published April 28, 2011, 6:55am PT by Darrell Etherington, GigaOM and the attraction of discounts and free offers, this exclusive club expansion came as no surprise.

FourSquare’s winning formula from day one has been to make the entire experience of a Geo-Location Social Network into one Big Game. Participants receive what were the equivalent of Scout Badges for achieving certain milestones in terms of check-ins as mentioned in the article “Social-media games: Badges or badgering?”, published MAY 3, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Caroline McCarthy, CNET News - The Social.

The more often or frequent the check-in or rare the check-in, the more Badges you earn. An example is if you are a frequent visit of a certain locale, you earn a Mayor Badge.

Other partnerships with local American SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) soon came about based around the check-in behaviour of its members as stated in the article “Foursquare Builds More Bridges to the Real World”, published September 23, 2010, 3:15pm PT By Mathew Ingram, GigaOM.

Most famous of which was with GoGo Inflight Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) as stated in the article Foursquare and Gogo Form Their Own “Mile High Club”, published August 2, 2010 by Jennifer Van Grove, Mashable in which the traveler gained free-Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network Access by checking in and becoming the Mayor (of an airplane?).

FourSquare grew from strength to strength, reaching five hundred thousand (500,000) users by March 2010AD as stated in the article “Foursquare Turns 1 With Half a Million Users”, published March 11, 2010, 12:12pm PT By Liz Gannes, GigaOM. FourSquare hit the three million (3,000,000) members mark five months (5) later by August 2010AD as stated in the article “Foursquare Now 3 Million Strong”, published August 29, 2010 by Leena Rao, TechCrunch.

Four million (4,000,000) members was a milestone reached two (2) months later in October 2010AD as stated in the article “Foursquare Hits 4 Million Users”, published October 21, 2010, 9:17pm PT By Om Malik, GigaOM. Today, they stand at a decent ten million (10,000,000) customers some eight (8) months later as stated on their blog post entitled “Wow! The foursquare community has over 10,000,000 members!”, posted June 20 2011, The FourSquare Blog.

ComScore’s Statistics stand as testament to FourSquare’s pulling power, as they indicate that Geo-Location based Social Network and LBS are definitely on the rise as stated in the article Nearly 1 in 5 smartphone owners use check-in services”, published MAY 13, 2011 10:47 AM PDT by Lance Whitney, Digital Media - CNET News.

This is best illustrated in the included table of ComScore’s Stats:

Sixteen Million, seven hundred thousand (16,700,000) smartphone customers used location-based services on their smartphones phones in March 2011AD, with twelve million, seven hundred thousand (12,700,000) check-in on various Geo-location social Network Platforms March 2011AD, according to ComScore figures.

The most prevalent users of Geo-location based Social Networks appear to be people in the age range 25 to 34 years old, the lower range of the Generation X [ages 28 to 45] followed closely by Millennials covering the age ranges of 18 to 24 years old

ComScore senior vice president of mobile, Mark Donovan puts meaning to the numbers, quote: “Although still in their relative infancy, location-based mobile check-in services are seeing rather impressive adoption among smartphone users. The ability to interact with consumers on this micro-local level through special offers, deals, and other incentives provides brands with the real-time opportunity to engage consumers through their mobile device.”

Already, competition in the form of Facebook Places and AT&T ShopAlerts exist as stated in my blog article entitledAT&T and ShopAlerts - Confessions of a Geo-Location Shopaholic” and my Geezam blog article entitled “AT&T ShopAlerts and BB for Everyone”.

Proximity Geo-Location Augmented Reality Photo Sharing Social Network Color (need to work on that title description!!) may become competition in the future if they could team up with a company that offers Augmented Viewing discount coupons. Such as ValPak’s Virtual Coupons as opined in my blog article entitled “Color Social Network & Valpak Virtual Coupons - Augmented View's True Colours”.

Ditto too for Google News, also a Proximity Geo-Location Social Network, but based around delivering local News, with the possibility of it being annotatable by the reader as suggested in my blog article entitled “Geo-Location Rise and Google News - Vybz Kartel's News Minority Report Color-ing Book”.

Look like Generation X and Millennials have something Social Networking related in common. This as ComScore Stats indicate that they are BOTH behind this Geo-Location phenomenon (‘cause it’s no longer a trend!) and may be driving it on to further success, in a Geo-Location race, Fast Five (2011) Style!!

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