Last week, in a piece on ReadWriteWeb, guest author Mark Watkins declared 2011 “The Year the Check-In Died.” Watkins admits Foursquare’s users have swelled to 8.5 million and the app more than doubled in active users between July and December 2010, from 2 million to 5 million. But he concludes that since Foursquare’s web traffic has gone down and “many of those five million users aren't active,” and because Facebook Places never really caught on, check-ins are going to disappear this year.
Understandably, bloggers protested. “No, The Check-In Isn't Dead,” retorted a Business Insider piece, saying “Bragging about hanging out at a cool place really work[s] across all demographics...The check-in is alive and well.” I tend to agree. The people I know who use Foursquare do so regularly and almost religiously (one coworker keeps wrestling over mayorship of her house with her husband, for example). Global Foursquare Day, on which check-in aficionados could meet up and enthuse about the technology, was this weekend (4/16, or 4 squared). The check-in seems to have transcended merely being a plaything of the digital elite – but it is still relatively new. As others have pointed out, who’d have guessed something like Twitter would’ve caught on?
As one blogger puts it, “what really matters is the GOAL of the check-in. If the goal is to build a database of POIs and you can convince people to do that for you, it's a win!...Mostly, I think, check-in is still young and both participants and the companies behind such offerings are still figuring out how to use them.” Agreed. Check-ins are a means, not an end; much like with mobile tagging, using them without purpose can be fun but may yield lackluster results. Clarifying your goals beforehand is key.
And checking in has the potential to be about so much more than declaring your “mayorship” of your office building’s coffeeshop. As we’ve touched on before, mobile tagging – for example, putting a Tag by your burrito shop’s cash register – could make checking in even better by connecting it to couponing or group discounts (à la Groupon), not to mention incorporating your business’s branding and giving you access to analytics.
As long as businesses are still learning about check-ins and experimenting with how to connect them with their business goals, using mobile tagging and other technology, then the check-in will be just fine. Do you agree? Are we missing ideas for getting more out of check-ins? Let us know in the comments below or on Tag’s Facebook or Twitter pages.