One of the hottest trends in social media is the growth of location-aware mobile applications. With the immense popularity of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-powered mobile devices, software developers are pushing the mobile platform forward faster than any segment of consumer electronics.
Of all the location-aware mobile applications, Foursquare is perhaps the most exciting. Foursquare was created by Dennis Crowley and Neveen Selvadurai and launched earlier this year. Crowley’s previous project, Dodgeball, was one of the pioneering social networking services for mobile devices. Dodgeball required users to text their location into the service and they would be instantly notified of friends, other Dodgeball users and points of interest all in their close vicinity. Dodgeball was purchased by Google and has since morphed into Google Latitude, Google’s up-and-coming foray into location-aware social networking still in its infancy.
Foursquare takes the basic principles behind Dodgeball but presents it in a much more robust and user-friendly way. Rather than text in one’s location, Foursquare users simply fire up the mobile application on their device and it utilizes the phone’s GPS technology and data network to presents them with a list of venues near their current location. The user selects their location from the list (or adds it if it’s not currently in the system) and they are “checked in.” By connecting to Twitter and Facebook, users can instantly and automatically alert their social networks of their location.
Perhaps the most innovative feature built into Foursquare is the “Mayor” system. Users that check into a venue with the most frequency in a set period of time are tagged as the mayor of that particular venue. Aside from the bragging rights that come along with being the mayor, more and more locations are taking Foursquare off the mobile devices and into the real world by rewarding mayors with a variety of prizes. Restaurants are offering free food to the Foursquare mayor while some bars have been known to give free drinks to their respective mayors.
Foursquare users also have the option to leave a tip for others at the venue they are checked into. Whether it’s raving about a particular restaurant’s salmon dish or urging others to try the Long Island Iced Tea, Foursquare’s system is posing a real threat to popular social review services like Yelp and CitySearch.
Crowley and Selvadurai have created a system that not only is immensely fun for its users, but allows local businesses to market themselves leveraging social media in a whole new way. Whether this was truly intended or is simply a side-effect of the game’s popularity, there’s no denying that Foursquare is creating a new level of interaction between businesses and customers that is sure to be a growing trend in 2010 and beyond.