Home > Mobile, Technology > It’s All About the Parties: Making Location-Based Service Relevant for College Kids (Part II)

It’s All About the Parties: Making Location-Based Service Relevant for College Kids (Part II)

Let me touch on some comments made regarding the first post:

1-I received a lot of comments in regards to the way I sized the college student market. I sized it deductively not empirically. The point of this exercise–and this blog–is to flush out ideas and thinking. I could have simply gone to US Census and picked up the numbers of college students in 2011-2012. So to cross-check my numbers, I did. There is about 19.7 million college students attending two- to four- year institutions (I’ve embedded the excel document downloaded from the US census website). That’s not too far from my estimate of 22.8 million…

US Census Data, 2011-2012 Americans attending two- to four- year institutions

2-I’ve been asked: why should Foursquare care about college students? I discussed the subject with Adam Bordow, co-founder of Lasso, a creative mobile app startup based in LA. At first glance, Foursquare actually excluded college students from their overall strategy. He mentioned that Dennis Crowley had originally developed Foursquare for his own reality of NYC, where there is a need for real-time stream of location-based interactions. There simply hasn’t been a need for one on college campuses. “There is simply less to be discovered on a college campus which would render Foursquare less potent, and even less irrelevant if that distribution channel was pursued,” Adam emailed me. Agreed. For small colleges located in the middle of nowhere, there is no incentive for Foursquare to extend their network so that the small student body can check into the two coffee shops on their campus.

But think of larger schools located in prime cities. Harvard-Cambridge/Boston. Stanford-downtown Palo Alto and its plethora of stores, restaurants, coffee shops. Think of the larger metropolis: SF State-San Francisco. NYU or Columbia-NYC. UCLA or USC-Los Angeles. For the students attending those schools, there  is plenty of opportunity for those college students to check in at bars with their friends and get free new deals for food and beverages (what I would do for a Foursquare deal for John Harvard’s in the Square to get a discount for pitchers of beers…especially if the Niners go to the Super Bowl…it’s not like I’ve been living in Boston for the last four years getting bullied by my roommates, aka the Patriots/Tom Brady uber-fans…what better way to rub it in their faces while buying discounted pitchers of beer and batches of hot wings? Just saying).

Foursquare could go in a different direction with college students. Foursquare already has had a difficult time incentivizing check-ins. That’s not the case for merchants. Foursquare can easily flash their 15 million users when they’re trying to garner SMBs’ interest.  These mom-and-pop shops are in the early stage of their businesses, so if they can direct potential customers to their shop at a very low price, they’ll partner with Foursquare. But for younger users, Foursquare is having a more difficult time incentivizing check-ins. When you first start using Foursquare (i.e when you check into Quedoba for the first time), you can get a newbie discount for the good being sold. But perpetual users seem to be having a more difficult time unearthing discounts. For instance, Adam has checked in 445 times and has only redeemed 2 deals. I’ve checked in over 110 times and I haven’t received notice of any sort of deal. I think Foursquare needs to offer a different sort of incentive for college students–or, as a matter of fact, any of their users, but that’s a different subject altogether–if they are ever to start using Foursquare. So how does Foursquare reel them in?

Offer real-time check-ins for parties.

Fact: college students go out. Even at Harvard  (trust me, it happens more frequently than you would imagine.) More than once, on a Saturday night, one of my friends asks/emails/group texts “Where’s the party tonight? Where’s everyone meeting up?” If Foursquare could leverage its real-time check-ins, college students could know where their friends are partying. Whether it’s a bar in Boston, a final club on Mt. Auburn street (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnUhNw5AtYU&feature=fvsr), or a party in Eliot House, college students will check-into the parties, write in comments (“sweet party”, “too many bros”, “rough scene”), and allow for their Foursquare friends to see where they are. Even if it’s a random Monday night and you want to go Karoeke at a bar in Cambridge, Foursquare can alert your friends that you’ll be there. Moreover, if those places haven’t been created on Foursquare, you can create them yourself–just as you can put your house on the map in Foursquare, enabling you to check-in (and become mayor right away), you can create new locations where you might go out and party.

Remember the the end goal isn’t to offer college students rebate deals: we want them to start using Foursquare. Let college students party, and let them brag digitally about how sweet their time is–and once their friends see that,  they will hop on the bandwagon, and hopefully become new Foursquare users.

Indeed, there is potential for a location-based service to streamline one’s social life. Putting it like that sounds sad, but how would we describe what Facebook and Twitter have done in the recent past? They’ve made social interaction online basically seamless and transparent…why can’t Foursquare do the same when it comes to connecting people when they go out?

I’ve been operating under that hypothesis for these last two posts because I feel that if Foursquare can get more users, they will have more data available to them regarding the tendencies of the people checking-in. From there they can figure out how to use that to their advantage and monetize their product. But it doesn’t seem like Foursquare wants to go in the direction I’ve outlined in these last two posts. As Adam pointed out, Crowley recently said in gigacom.com, “People know us [Foursquare] for check-ins, but with the data, we way to push people more toward the recommendation engine and the way to do that is make that prominent and a big part of the app.”

Yet…when is data convincing enough? When you have truck loads. How do you get truck loads of data? You get more users.

Plus it wouldn’t hurt if I were able to check into John Harvard’s, order a cheaper batch of buffalo wings, and feel good about myself when the 49ers win the Super Bowl. Just saying.

PS Many thanks to Adam Bordow, co-founder of Lasso. Follow him on Twitter @bordow or check out his creative website at adambordow.com. More on Lasso soon–stay tuned for more about that!

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Categories: Mobile, Technology
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