Andy Meek is a senior reporter for The Memphis Daily News, where he covers business news in a city that FedEx, AutoZone and more have ensured is a hotbed of entrepreneurship. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyMeekTN.
Are we maxed out on checking in?
While Twitter lets us tell the world what we're doing, and Foursquare lets us tell the world where we're doing it, a new generation of apps and checkin services now lets us tell the world what brand we prefer to do it with. We can grab online deals based on our location and send out what amounts to a Tweet-sized roll call of our recreational choices.
What's next in the evolution of geolocation? Foursquare's most attractive qualities - the social game of checking in and the availability of local deals - arguably provide a foundation. But will we need more value if checkins are ever to hit the mainstream?
Closing the Gap
Back in March, Aaron Prather and some of his colleagues were trying to rack up something a lot of other music lovers with smartphones and Foursquare accounts were collecting: some of the new badges added this year for SXSW attendees.
But Foursquare probably didn't intend for Prather and his colleagues to collect the badges the way they did - or, more specifically, where they did.
They did it from Memphis, about 650 miles away from where people were supposed to be earning the badges in Austin. It was thanks to a loophole in how Foursquare users are able to tell their friends where they are.
Prather is the CEO of a new Memphis-based startup called stiQRd, developers of an app with the same name. The premise of stiQRd is simple: a location network that prevents unverifiable checkins.
StiQRd users scan a QR code that's geo-locked to a specific location. Businesses can use that setup to digitize loyalty reward punch cards, offering them to customers who are confirmed regulars. The customers, in turn, can trash the loyalty cards stacking up in their wallet.
'Verifiable is the key,' says Prather. 'Nothing in Foursquare prevents me from driving by and checking in somewhere as I keep on driving by.'
Prather and his colleagues are also convinced that Foursquare's rewards and offers are spotty enough that users would likely get more value out of a digitized loyalty card. And participating stiQRd businesses will also get, depending on which option they choose from a tiered pricing system, a batch of customer analytics.
It's a unique value proposition that adds something tangible and arguably worthwhile to checkins and mayorships.
StiQRd is one of several similarly focused apps that, if you haven't heard of them by now, you probably will very soon.
Whatser is another geolocation service in the vein of Foursquare, with a little bit of Groupon sprinkled into the mix. Whatser offers benefits for users and businesses, with the former sharing favorite locations and discovering new ones and the latter 'claiming' a location and then communicating deals to users who are fans of that location.
The business-oriented features of stiQRd and Whatser stand to offer a richer payoff for businesses than their checkin competitors. With Whatser, the focus is not on checking in, per se. This dispels the corner-cutting that can be part of the Foursquare experience.
Hipster is a locally focused service that feels like a cross between Quora and Yelp, and which recently raised $1 million. Other contenders like Gowalla and Minglebird have also stepped into the ring dominated by Foursquare. And even these services are keeping one eye focused on big fish like Facebook and Twitter, which have been edging into the geolocation sphere.
Prather says his app's goal is about something deeper than Foursquare and digital loyalty cards. 'It's also a community. We're trying to make almost a mini social network.'
The creators of these apps are betting that while Foursquare has us hooked on checking in, users will want to go above and beyond in terms of accountability, rewards, social and other real-world benefits.
Author: Andy Meek / Posted: 01-06-2011