I Hope New Foursquare Replaces the Check-in With the Follow

I’m several weeks into Foursquare’s Swarm app and enjoying many of the social features, although the norms around usage are still forming among my friends. One striking difference is how neighborhood-focused it is because of background check-in vs Foursquare’s venue orientation. New Foursquare, due later this summer, will likely remain venue-centric given its goal of finding places of interest, whether it’s for a coffee, a meal, shopping, etc. This give me hope that Foursquare will ship the ability to explicitly Follow a venue, which I believe is the missing verb in their experience.

Rather than check-in to a venue, I want the ability to hit a Follow button (persistent and asymmetric a la Twitter) to receive updates on that venue, potentially pushed to me in a feed or otherwise made available in some alternative UX. I imagine this could include updates from the venue itself (if it’s a business and has been ‘claimed’ by its owner) and generally just new or popular tips that might interest me. When I’m in map view, I’d also see the businesses I’ve Followed highlighted.

Twitter and Facebook are really terrible places to connect with local businesses on an ongoing basis. Their posts get lost among the broader stream. They’re not presented to me in any sort of context tied to my geography (eg Maybe I’m in NYC right now and would like to hear updates from businesses I follow there but not ones in San Francisco).

What types of information could I imagine being readily available via Foursquare Follow? The coffee of the day/week at my local shop. Tonight’s specials at the restaurants I love. A weekend sale at the independent bookstore. Picture of some new arrivals at my favorite clothing store. And so on. Most of this isn’t “MAKE MY iPHONE BUZZ RIGHT NOW” urgent notification stuff, but it is the type of information I want available to me from the businesses I care about, in the context of an app that I will use to find the best local recommendations.

Foursquare has surprisingly failed to capitalize on the opportunity to create direct messaging channels between users and their favorite businesses, despite the app knowing more about where I spend money than any other entity outside of my credit card company. And so my hope for New Foursquare is that besides in situ venue discovery, Foursquare will create a new way for me to stay in contact with the businesses I appreciate most.