With Facebook positioned as the dominant social network, the one place where most everyone feels compelled to create a profile simply to avoid being left out, there is an emerging set of niche networks looking to capitalize on a more intimate setting.
Dennis Crowley spoke at a Girls in Tech event recently, about Foursquare’s newfound freedom to investigate their user data. “We’ve got tons of user data, but a big part of the last year was just spent keeping things up and running. You remember Twitter went through all those problems, we’re not out of the weeds yet, but we went through all those problems this summer.”
Now that they aren’t preoccupied putting out fires, Foursquare has been able to step back and think about what all this user data means. “We hired our first analytics engineer. This guy just goes through numbers all day long and finds interesting patterns.”
One fact worth noting, Crowley says the average Foursquare user has between 5-8 friends, “Which is great, because it is so much lower than the Facebook number. That is what we want. Facebook is like everyone you have ever made eye contact with in your entire life. Foursquare is the people you see at a bar and don’t avoid.”
The average number of connections could certainly trend a lot higher and still remain a fairly intimate circle. The photo sharing app Path set 50 as the threshold for connections. Sociologists will refer to the Dunbar number, which says 150 is the upper limit of engaged connections a person can have with others. This boundary is probably shifting for a new generation of digitally connected youth.
Still, there is an intrinsic value to a service that connects you with a trusted circle, and its great to see Crowley recognizing this is a competitive advantage that can be emphasized, not a weakness the company needs to surmount as quickly as possible.