Home > Mobile, Technology > “You’re on Foursquare, bro?”: Why Foursquare isn’t relevant to college kids, but should be (part I)

“You’re on Foursquare, bro?”: Why Foursquare isn’t relevant to college kids, but should be (part I)

“You’re on Foursquare?!?” My buddy gasped the other night. “What’s the point of using Foursquare, bro?”

He had a point. Out of pure curiosity, I recently started using Foursquare a couple of weeks ago. For so long I had heard great things about the mobile platform…but it had yet to be relevant to me. So I decided to check it out a couple of weeks ago, and started using Foursquare as often as possible. I checked into “Chateau Popp” as often as I could; checked into every library at Harvard every day; lined up some sweet badges (I unlocked the Bookworm badge in no time); and next thing you know, I had racked up a couple of mayorships, and even unlocked a deal at Chipotle. So now that I had become a pretty avid user (can you say 143 points in 5 days?), I asked myself the same question my buddy asked me: What’s the point of Foursquare?

Foursquare is an incredibly simple to use product with great design: right there we already have the great first step of a successful startup. And Foursquare knows that: with 15 million users checking in around 1 billion times, it has already garnered a lot of success. Step #1 for startups: build a easy-to-use, well-designed product that gains traction quickly. Step # 2: worry about monetizing it. So far Foursquare has done a formidable job with Step # 1. As for Step #2…well, if my buddy’s comment is any indication, the fact that Foursquare appears to be irrelevant–I don’t think we could say the same thing about Facebook or Twitter–makes Step # 2 a far reach (at least for now). Foursquare should be worried by Facebook’s recent integration of Places into its platform. And considering that location-based services is becoming a more crowded field with the likes of Gowolla, aka-aki, Loopt, and Rumble (to name of few of the hundreds), Foursquare needs to realize that while it has a great product, it needs to position it more strategically.

I’m not saying that Foursquare needs to rethink its business development strategy. Instead, I’m saying that in the short-term, the location-based service provider needs to make themselves more relevant day-to-day. Foursquare has a great product because it adds another dimension to social media.  For Foursquare, Location, location, location is key–at least that’s the paradigm the New York based startup is trying to inculcate within the larger matrix of social media technologies. Just as Facebook made wall-to-wall posts and photo sharing the first pillars of social media websites, Foursquare is trying to make location another cornerstone of  web-based interaction. I hope that Foursquare succeeds in this endeavor; while I know that location-based social media can be construed as simply another voyeuristic dimension to already narcissistic set of technologies, I think Foursquare can make a meaningful addition to this field. The billion dollar question is: how exactly to they do that? Have they already done it but they simply haven’t gained traction yet? Or do they need to change their outlook on the market?

So where should they start? My answer: the college-age demographic. In a series of posts, I will be looking at how big that market is, why Foursquare should more aggressively pursue that demographic, and what exactly Foursquare should do to gain more traction in that untapped market.

How many students attending 2 to 4 year institutions are there in the US? Let’s make some assumptions. If there are 320 million people in the US, and assuming that the life span for Americans is 80 years old, then there are 4 million people per year (aka 4 million 21-one year old, 4 million 5-year olds, etc). If we assume that the ages of 18-24 constitute the ages of college-level students, that’s 28 million people. However, since we know that not everyone in each year goes to college, let’s assume a 60 percent penetration rate for each year (aka 60 percent of 20 year olds go to college, 60 percent of 21 year olds go to college, etc), that’s 2.4 million * 7 = 16.8 million people between the ages of 18 to 24 who are in enrolled in either 2 or 4 year college. Let’s also not forget those who are returning to school-out of the 60 million people between the ages of 35 to 50, 10 percent are going back to school (6 million). so 16.8 million plus 6 million=22.8 million students who are attending 2 to 4 year colleges in the US. 

Foursquare has 15 million users…and there is a potential market of close to 23 million? Out of the 15 million users that Foursquare already has, even if we assume that 30 percent are college students constitute that 15 million already using Foursquare, that’s still 23 million-5 million=18 million potential users that Foursquare can tap into. Even if they only capture 20 percent of that market, 3.6 million new uses increases its user base by close to 25 percent…that’s not a bad showing. If Foursquare wants to become more relevant, it can very simply attract more users. With an even stronger user base, who knows what will happen here?

Great product, great design, strong user base…so why isn’t Foursquare as relevant as Facebook or Twitter?

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Categories: Mobile, Technology
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