Yesterday Foursquare launched a feature that lets business owners add their own events, complementing those already being added from ESPN, Fandango and Songkick. It’s a small step toward something I think is vital to Foursquare’s future as a recommendation engine for the here and now.
The company has bet their future on the success of Explore and their ability to recommend the best places for you to visit right now. It currently relies heavily on the places that are popular among your friends or the Foursquare population in general, but supporting events could change all that.
Foursquare might not normally recommend you visit a bookstore, but with knowledge of events you could potentially pull up Explore and find a recommendation to visit one because your favorite author is there for a book signing (perhaps it integrates with Goodreads to know this). Maybe a nearby bar is hosting a tap takeover from your favorite brewery (hello, Untappd) or a band similar to ones you’ve liked before (Pandora? Spotify?) is performing down the street.
For you, right now, those are far more relevant results than anything else Foursquare could recommend.
Those kinds of recommendations can only come from Foursquare understanding events at its core. They’re not even close to that point yet, with events being presented solely at the user interface level, but Foursquare has some very smart people on the data science side who could, no doubt, make it happen given the right data.
Getting that data, though, could be the hardest part. Foursquare would either need to build their own structured event database (that contains more than just a name, place, date and time) or partner with another company (or companies) for the data. Facebook or Upcoming.org are the most obvious choices, but both have drawbacks that could make creating their own database Foursquare’s only realistic option. It would fit well with Foursquare’s mission of making cities easier to use, but would likely take years to build the kind of critical mass they’d need.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of adding events to the Explore functionality is that they’re easily monetizable. Since they’d be targeted, relevant promoted events could easily be pushed into the Explore feed. Foursquare would be the only company able to tie those ads to actual check-ins at the events and thus prove their value, much as they’re doing with promoted venues in the Explore feed today.
Events are key to Foursquare providing the most relevant recommendations of anyone on the market. Getting the data they need to make it happen is the biggest stumbling block, but it’s not something that can’t be overcome. Yesterday’s move is a nice first step, but it needs to be taken a lot further to make it something that’s capable of powering everything Foursquare needs it to in the future.
What do you think of events in Foursquare? Should Foursquare consider them when providing recommendations?