Ahhh lurkers, where would the internet be without them. While Foursquare has growing steadily, adding around one million users every month and half during 2011, co-founder Dennis Crowley say that to truly hit scale, Foursquare needs to find a way to offer value to users who don’t check in.
Speaking at the 92nd street Y for the #140 conference this week, Crowley pointed out that Twitter, five percent of users account for 75 percent of the activity. In fact, according to research from Sysmos, 21 percent have never written a tweet and 85 percent update less than once per day.
A lot of those users, however, are on Twitter to follow their favorite celebrities or friends. Some are keeping track of a particular hashtag to keep up with news events like the #arabspring or #weinergate.
On Foursquare, it would be a little strange (you stalker) to follow people without participating.The service is less of a platform for public figures and more of a social network for friends to keep tabs on one another.
But with the introduction of the explore feature, Foursquare is positioning itself as a city guide as well. So it would make sense for a user to join, follow a few friends who are active users that share similar tastes, and use the recommendations generated from that activity. ”As with any social service, you have a core of active people doing things like sharing or checking in, and others who are more commenters or consumers,” says co-founder Naveen Selvadurai. “Having all types of people in our community makes for a better experience for everyone.”
Foursquare might also consider partnering with taste makers to who could be followed by users particularly interested in good coffee, bookstores or public parks. This would be something akin to the list model created by Dinevore. Users might also be able to follow brands which could offer specials, adding economic value to these infrequent check in types.
“A lot of people will look through foursquare Tips when they arrive at a place; it’s a good source of suggestions and insider info, from friends, celebrities, and the foursquare community,” says Selvadurai.
As Foursquare looks to close a big round of funding this summer, focusing on a way to attract and engage casual users seems like a smart priority. “We look at how people use foursquare, and try and increase the value they get out of it. That’s why we created comments (tons of people were texting friends they saw checking in), and Tips (people want to share their expertise). A big part of the foursquare experience has value even if you’re not checking in, because there’s a ton of knowledge that is shared within the community,” says Selvadurai. “In the future, we’re going to find more ways to share more of that, whether it’s more personalized recommendations or better social sharing tools. We’re just at the start of what we hope to be able to do.”