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What Happened to the Game Mechanics of Foursquare?

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In the beginning everybody fought to be the mayor of their favorite Foursquare hangout but over time the buzz surrounding the social media app seemed to have waned as many users simply stopped caring about the game’s badges and check-ins.

To combat their shrinking market influence, leaders at Foursquare recently unveiled a new design and strategy that put less emphasis on game mechanics and more focus on social updates, deals and user generated recommendations.

Executives at the company have been quite up front about how Foursquare’s new design was birthed out of user’s feedback and recommendation. In fact, this has resulted in the company’s decision to rebuild their platform from the ground up. Simply put, the changes users were asking for could not be done within the framework of the old Foursquare. So they started over.

What Foursquare users will now find is a simplified app focused more on content that is tailored to a user’s current location.  At the heart of the new app is the new “Explore” tab. This new recommendation service combines the excitement of local and social discovery by incorporating data such as the time of day, popularity of nearby places, past check-ins of linked friends… and even existing weather conditions. All of this data is factored in the background and used to provide a set of recommendations without much effort on the user’s part. Basically, all you need to do is open the app and hit the “Explore” tab and brace yourself for the wow-factor!

What Foursquare is attempting to deliver on is what Maribel Lopez of Forbes Magazine calls Contextual Connections or Right Time Experiences (RTE). Lopez recently wrote, “People seem to intuitively understand a right time experience. The next phase of mobility is about delivering on the promise of more meaningful and relevant communications. Leading businesses will use mobile, big data and the new business intelligence tools to drive differentiation with right time experiences that are based on context.”

The overall app has been pared down from five tabs to now just three. Within the app, recommended venues for a user are plotted on Google Maps and once a venue has been selected a new feature allows users to drill down into venue information; tagged venue images, current deals, visitor generated tips and reviews. Old mayors may be sad to find their gamified badges on the bottom of the new page, while more social, call-to-action, buttons for check-ins have been prominently relocated to the top right of the screen.

User’s should be happy with this slick new app and hopefully their renewed interest will translate into better engagement data for Foursquare and its ad partners. What are your thoughts? Will ditching gamification elements for contextual connections keep Foursquare in the social media game? Or has Foursquare failed to keep up and thus allowed their right time experience to pass them by?

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