You’ve Got A Great Business Idea Foursquare, Don’t Forget About Common Sense!

by Tim on January 21, 2010

Foursquare

Where does insulting your users and your potential business partners fit in a business plan?  I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.  The creators of Foursquare seem to have missed this little nugget of wisdom when they were designing the popular geo-location based game.

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a geo-location based, mobile gaming app that allows players, or users, the ability to ‘check in’ at any venue they are visiting using their mobile device.  The game awards users points for actions like checking in at a venue and identifying new venues.  The game also awards badges (i.e., boy scout merit badges) when a user takes specific actions like checking in to multiple venues in one night, or checking in to the same venue multiple times in one week.  One of Foursquare’s most compelling features is its ‘Mayor’ concept.  Whoever checks in the most at a given venue is awarded the title of ‘Mayor.’  For more background on Foursquare, Jennifer Grove has an extensive Foursquare overview post over at Mashable.

I am a big fan of Foursquare generally, both from a user’s and a venue’s point of view.  From a user point of view, I have been one for six months now and I’m hooked.  I admit I’m a little obsessed with earning and defending the Mayor title at my favorite hangouts, and have met other users who are trying to oust me.  The resulting competition is a bit addictive to say the least.

From a venue’s point of view, this is a great tool for budget-friendly marketing and advertising. As more and more users compete over mayorships or venue hop to earn more points, the venues see more traffic.  Foursquare also allows venues to partner up and offer in-game specials (free first beer for the mayor, $1 dollar off lattes when you check in, etc.).  I assume Foursquare is kicking around ideas to monetize this relationship once the game reaches critical mass.

Here’s the problem: Foursquare curiously created a badge labeled “Douchebag.”  Huh?  I don’t get it… a Dbag is a derogatory term.  If you’re unfamiliar with its meaning, check out the urban dictionary.  Being called a Dbag is a bad thing (think Jersey Shore).  I was under the impression Foursquare users should want to earn Foursquare badges.  Why would I want to earn a badge that labels me in a derogatory way?  I wouldn’t… and a quick twitter search tells me I’m not the only one.  I don’t understand Foursquare’s thinking here.  How is insulting your users a good thing?  Is Foursquare contemplating other derogatory themed badges?

On top of that, how should the venues react to the Dbag badge?  First, you’ll need a little background on how badges work.  Users are free to ‘tag’ venues with labels.  For example, Crunch has been tagged by users with the label, ‘gym’ by users.  Because of this tag, when you check in to Crunch 3 times, you are awarded the ‘Gym Rat’ badge.  I’m happy with the gym rat badge.  Unfortunately, Crunch was also tagged by users with the label, ‘douchebag.’  When you check in to 3 different venues that have been tagged ‘douchebag,’ you are awarded the Douchbag Badge.  I’m not happy about that badge.  But think about it from the venue’s perspective.  Foursquare allows, and even encourages (look under “What Are Badges?”), random users to label your business with the derogatory term.  Then Foursquare labels your patrons with the derogatory badge.  Why would you want to partner up with a service that insults both your business and the people who patronize your business?  The only answer I can come up with is you wouldn’t.  Does Foursquare’s competitors Yelp, or Gowalla, or myTown insult their users and venues?  Not that I’m aware of…

If I’m missing something here, please fill me in… if I’m not, Foursquare, it’s time to clean up your tags and badges!

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