This has been a hectic year in social media. It seemed every week a new app, service, tool, platform or metric was being introduced. Perhaps as a result of this, I’ve been feeling some social media fatigue. One of the places I’ve most acutely felt this fatigue is with Foursquare. Sure, finding discounts for free chips and salsa at Chili’s is nice, but the vast majority of the time I’m just checking-in to check-in. Becoming a mayor or earning a badge has lost its appeal.
Part of the problem is the loss of the novelty, but another part is the lack of emotional engagement. There’s something missing for me with Foursquare because it’s not touching me on a deeper level. Perhaps it’s a lack of narrative or story. There’s really no connective tissue between my check-ins, or between my check-ins and those of my friends. This lack of emotional pull leaves me feeling that if Foursquare were to go away tomorrow, I really wouldn’t miss it.
But this post isn’t about Foursquare, it’s about Gowalla, another Location Based Service that is usually compared to Foursquare. A month or so ago Gowalla announced several changes to the service. These changes were necessary for Gowalla to move forward and evolve – a smart move to help it move away from Foursquare, yes, but also to change the nature of the user experience. I reached out to Andy Ellwood, Gowalla’s Director of Business Development to find out more about these moves and here’s what he told me:
“The basic idea that the newest release of Gowalla centers around is the idea that has always been at the core of what we are doing here with Gowalla: your phone as your passport. How do we help discover the world’s most loved spots and share the stories that people create when they are exploring the world around them? How do we incentivize people to tell better stories, not just check-in for some gamified electronic reward? What is the underlying action that we want to bring to the forefront of the conversation and that works for EVERYONE not just the early adopters… These are some of the questions that we asked and that influenced this latest version. The goal is to encourage discovery, exploration, and sharing the best that you see with those that you care about and inspiring them to GO as well.”
Andy perfectly articulates the very issues I’ve been talking about. Stories, taking action, exploration. Those are powerful things to leverage. I hit Andy up with some follow up questions:
Rick Liebling: I’m starting to develop check-in fatigue. Gowalla, GetGlue, Foursquare… There has to be more to it than that, doesn’t there? Is that where the new Gowalla is headed?
Andy Ellwood: Gowalla is, and has always been, about discovering the world around you, sharing it with your friends, and having a record of the places that you go. The narratives that Gowalla documents are much more than a check-in, it is a story that has the potential to inspire others.
Rick Liebling: Gowalla is always compared to Foursquare, but do you guys see the landscape differently?
Andy Ellwood: The visions for Gowalla and Foursquare have always been different, but the technology through which we’ve each used had enough similarities for comparison that in the nascent industry, we were often in the same sentence. Gowalla is about going, doing, and sharing the new places your go. Foursquare is about unlocking your city and loyalty to the places you go most.
Rick Liebling: I’m believe that not enough sites/apps/platforms are infusing emotion into their offerings. How is Gowalla trying to leverage the emotion and passion of travel?
Andy Ellwood: We recently added the Love button (because love is more awesome than like) and have Highlights to subjectively describe why a certain place is awesome. People are emotionally attached to the places they go and, if given the right platform, inspire others to go there too.
Rick Liebling: How can brands engage consumers in new ways via the updated Gowalla?
Andy Ellwood: We ask two questions of every brand that we begin working with: 1) What is the experience that you want to create? 2) Where are the places that you want that experience to happen? Once we understand that, we are able to use the multitude of features from Gowalla to craft an organic experience for those going out with Gowalla that allows the brand to be a part of the story in a natural way at places that are important to their brand.
Rick Liebling: Complete this: Gowall: Come for the ________, stay for the _________.
Andy Ellwood: Come for the exploration, stay for the story.
If you haven’t yet, give Gowalla a shot. If you have tried it, tell me what you think of the changes.