I have yet to become a fan or user of social/location based check-in services
though I am a fan of the beaconing strategy they employ. As I’ve written before,
value creation on the web involves more than a one-to-one exchange of value. A
trifecta of goal fulfillment between your product or service, your audience and
a third party (advertiser, restaurant, etc.) is required to create value. This
is where these services fall short for me and thanks to recent tweets from my friend and SEO guru Natasha Robinson I’ve finally realized why.
As Natasha says, the check-in links syndicated through social media verge on
unclickable. The reason is rather simple. The landing pages provide no value to
the referrer. Yet, the landing page is the spot where the triangulation of
goals must align. The whole value chain for this product converges at the
While we can clearly see the potential of these services to
provide tangible value to the establishment where check-ins occur and some (for now less
tangible) value to the Mayor McCheeses and people doing the check-in, I
would argue that the service only works if there is strong value being created
in the stream. Without this newfangled linkbait, the fish ain’t gonna bite.
Let’s take a look at each of the content areas on Foursquare’s
landing page and see what is and isn’t working for a referrer and the value
triumvirate as a whole.
1) As a referrer I already know from my stream the name of
the establishment. I already know that the person that has checked in here. There
is huge immediately actionable value for the establishment though. Many locations would benefit from an announcement categorizing everyone who entered it. Of
course that can provide parallel value to the person checking in.
2) The amount of check-ins and visitors does not really tell
me much, especially for a new service that is building scale — it’s very
difficult for a naïve user to asses this value. Again, most of this value rests
for the establishment.
3) The images of the Mayorship and the people who’ve been
here have negligible transactional value to anyone.
4) Maybe most interesting for a location based service the map has very
little value. In most cases the address above is sufficient information for a
referrer at the moment of landing. The establishment and check-in already know where they
5) Tips can be helpful but their value is tied to a small
segment of temporal traffic (the moment or prior to check-in). While this value
is highly dynamic tips have the most shared value among troika of user,
establishment and audience.
6) Tags are fairly generic. They likely provide the most
value to Foursquare to provide classifications however it doesn’t appear that
many users are adding tags. Also it appears there are some negative aspects to
user tagging that can affect the value chain.
So the question remains, and of course has become heightened with Yelp adding a
location based feature to its service last week and others soon to enter the fray, what improvements can Foursquare and
other services make to encourage CTR on their linkbait and then create value
from all from those visitors. That’s a rather big question so I’ll just tackle
it form the referrer perspective.
As a landing page the primary success metric needs to be converting visitors to register for the service. As the product grows there
are many more success metrics that can add value for optimization (e.g. new
visitors to location pages that eventually check-in). For existing users there are also important metrics to optimize on against bounce rate/use. What good is a notification service if those notified don't take action?
As mentioned in the dissection above there is nothing on
this page that is persuasive and inexplicably there is not a call to action. Is
this a game? Then tell me what makes it fun or challenging. Is this a place to
make plans? Then what are the tools that make that helpful and easy. Why do I
want to use this service? What are the benefits to me? Until the answers to
those questions are obvious landing on this page has no value for a referrer
and products like this are missing a golden opportunity that may be as temporal
as the very content they distribute.