Saturday, July 10, 2010

Foursquare and Yelp : new flavors of social networking

So Facebook is generating more negative than positive publicity of late, MySpace is kinda passe, LinkedIn is great for professional networking and Twitter's something you either dig or don't get at all.

Want one more social networking tool in your life? There are two hot services which are rapidly capturing the imagination of users, though both are still US based. They will add a different dimension and flavor to your networking experience..and yes, I am posting this hoping that my friends in India who read my blog, will be tempted to log into these sites as well.


1) Foursquare
A small, barely year old New York based startup, FourSquare has already acquired 2 million users after crossing a million users only 3 months ago.  Seems the service is picking up steam.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service. With the ability to link to your FB or Twitter account, Foursquare lets you share your location with your friends by 'checking in' at different places - localities, malls, movies, restaraunts, events etc.Your friends will see you on a virtual Foursquare Map. You are incentivised for frequent check-ins, with badges and titles. Checking into the same place multiple times will get you the title of 'mayor'. Basically the site rewards people who explore and share their adventures, and their friends benefit from their experience too. Brands benefit by offering you incentives for checking in at their stores or events. With a functional bent, Foursquare offers a very different social networking experience compared to Facebook.


And the concept has a lot of potential for interesting apps. Crave reports about CheckoutCheckins, an app that plots your last 50 check-ins on Google Maps and lets you actually step back and review your activity. I can see this being immensely useful especially on a holiday when you view and do lots of things within a short period. The map looks pretty interesting...

According to CNet, there is a 'matchmaking' app called Meet Gatsby, which will help you to meet other Foursquare users with similar interests if you happen to be in the vicinity. It will make user matches by collecting some profile information on hobbies, likes etc., as well as taking into account Foursquare check-in data. This also sounds like a novel and exciting concept.


 

2) Yelp

The Yelp homepage defines the service as "an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know. Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great — and not so great — in your world."

Yelp encourages locals to provide trustworthy reviews of businesses in their community, to benefit both visitors and other localities. And similar to Foursquare, it allows people to post reviews on places they visit. According to CNET, Yelp has recently added a check-in option like Foursquare and also an 'augmented reality' option that lets you search your surrounding area through compass and GPS

Obviously there is a lot of overlap between Yelp and Foursquare. If I dig into user forums, this is the picture I get in a nutshell:

1. Foursquare has pioneered the fun activity of 'checking in', which has captured people's imagination. The site also allows you to 'create' any venue you want and then check into it (you could check into your office, house etc.) .It also offers points, rewards and generally fun incentives for checking in frequently, making it a playful, game-like interface. With a recent influx of funding from venture capitalists, it is also getting its share  of hype and publicity. And yes, it's growing very fast, which is a crucial factor for success of a social networking site.

2. Yelp has recently added the check-on feature which was a differentiating factor of Foursquare. Yelp check-ins are GPS based meaning that you really have to be in that place to check in. This also means that if you forget to check in, you can't do it later. Some Yelp users are annoyed that FourSquare users are constantly updating their location - do you really need to know every move they make? Yelp also has a large and fairly loyal user base and businesses which use the service to get interaction and customer feedback. It offers deep and detailed data including user reviews and opinions on specific localities.

A poll conducted a few months ago on Mashable showed that Foursquare had a distinct edge over Yelp. Currently I am logged into both and testing them out, and I will give you feedback on both! It's kind of boring out there, so I'm hoping that you guys who read this will join one or the other and give me company!