Friday, January 07, 2011

Will Foursquare replace "Wer r u?" or "San k n?" text messages in the Philippines? (Updated)

Foursquare may not be immediately big, but it's the start of a 
new generation of sites that brings online engagement to the real world.

A conversation over Twitter with good friend @RJMarmol over an article published on ABS-CBN's website "Filipinos no longer text addicts" started me thinking that the current bid of Philippine telcos to push mobile internet usage is really gaining ground.

Here's an excerpt:
Text messaging is no longer the most popular means of conveying holiday greetings.
This holds true among the 71 million combined subscriber base of Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Instead of sending their Christmas and New Year greetings via SMS or short message service during the recent holidays, the cellular subscribers preferred to call and/or post their greetings in various social networking sites.
Data provided by Globe, the country’s second-largest mobile phone operator with about 26 million subscribers, showed that SMS traffic declined year-on-year by 6% on December 24; 12% on December 25; and 9% on December 31 and January 1.
Smart claimed that SMS traffic went up on the same days albeit not as high as it used to be in the past years when handsets then still lack the capability to connect to the Internet.
“Our SMS traffic for Christmas and New Year is up over last year, but the growth is not as strong as prior years. But social media through our mobile network is definitely up,” said Smart spokesman Mon Isberto.

Currently, Globe has been heavily promoting I-Phones and other handheld devices that can make use of mobile internet connections.  Despite problems with the reliability of its mobile internet connection (you can see Filipino tweets ranting about its poor connections), several of my friends have opted in to their post-paid plans because of the phones bundled with the plan.

Smart mobile internet (which is what I use) seems to have no problem connecting anywhere I go, but I am not sure if it bundles I-Phones or I-Pad 3G with its postpaid plans.

In anycase, with the current figures on text messaging use versus mobile internet and mobile broadband, it seems to indicate the success of current marketing efforts of telcos to get its subscribers to use the more costly service (10 pesos for 30 minutes vs 1 peso per text).

However, it can be argued that in 30 minutes (assuming that the mobile internet connection is fast enough), one can view and send more information (not just text, but pictures and short videos).

Now, after Christmas and New Year Greetings, the message that accounts for a lot of text traffic perhaps will be "wer r u?" or "san k n?".  One sure sign that mobile internet will be catching on is if instead of texting, people start logging on the internet using their phones or tablets to see their friend's status on Twitter or Foursquare.

I am aware that Twitter allows you to geo-tag your tweets (with longitude and latitude), but Foursquare brings something more to plain geo-tagging which is actually a "game" element.

Users of Foursquare apart from "checking in" at a venue, or posting a message notifying their friends about where they are, get the added benefit of having their check-in logged and assigned points.  Apart from that, the points allow them to accumulate badges and rank (mayorships) depending on what venues they visit and how many times they visit the venue.

It is this gaming element, perhaps, that will make Foursquare a hit among the younger set of 3G phone users given some more time.

Foursquare was launched on March 11, 2009 and while it hasn't reached the mind-boggling proportions of Facebook in the Philippines, it is showing signs of catching on here.  

It describes itself on its website as:
Foursquare is a mobile application that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. It is a friend-finder, a social city guide and a game that challenges users to experience new things, and rewards them for doing so. Foursquare lets users "check in" to a place when they're there, tell friends where they are and track the history of where they've been and who they've been there with. For more information on how foursquare works, see our searchable
The latest statistic I've found on the number of Foursquare users around the world comes from Techcrunch. One article says that on April 22, 2010, Foursquare registered its One Millionth User -- which is a milestone.
Congratulations QuakeHOLD I. of Escondido, California, you’re Foursquare’s one millionth user. Or, at least, you’re the user with the one millionth ID. Yes, the much talked-about location-based service crossed the milestone today.
And another more recent article published on July 7, 2010 from Techcrunch pits Foursquare with Gowalla (another GPS based social networking site) and it shows more current stats:
As of today, Foursquare has just over 1.9 Million users. Gowalla has around 340,000.
At its current pace, Foursquare will surpass 2 Million users within a week.
Foursquare is adding almost 10x as many new users per day as Gowalla and, despite a significantly larger base, has a daily percentage growth rate that is 75% higher than Gowalla’s.
Currently, Foursquare has about 5.6 Million venues and Gowalla has 1.4 Million venues.
1 in 3 venues on Foursquare have been checked into only once or never. That number is 1 in 4 on Gowalla.\
The most popular venue name is “Home,” followed by national fast food chains like “McDonald’s” and “Burger King”
On Foursquare, men outnumber women almost 2-to-1. Exact gender breakouts are not available for Gowalla, but the most popular first names suggest a similar distribution.
Still, according to PC World, Foursquare has reached 3 million users.
Foursquare hit the three million user mark over the weekend, less than two months after the location-based service passed the two million users mark in July. This success comes despite predictions Foursquare would be crushed by Facebook's recently launched location-sharing feature called Places. But Foursquare's recent user milestone suggests Places may actually be helping Foursquare's growth by popularizing the concept of checking-in and sharing your location. Foursquare's three-million-user milestone was first reported by TechCrunch which derived the number based on its own research. Foursquare has not made any formal announcement of its traffic.

The only thing that indicates that Foursquare will soon gain more users in the Philippines is that Filipino celebrities have begun noticing it.

Recently, Philippine TV celebrity @DaphneOP (Daphne Osena) tweeted "I don't know what's the point of foursquare. Why would you want everyone to know where you are?"

And I just had to respond with several tweets which eventually got a re-tweet from @DaphneOP.

For celebrities, the issue going against Foursquare -- apart from privacy concerns, leaving them open for stalking -- may be that their Foursquare check-ins may be construed as endorsements of the particular places they visited.

But for the average Joe and the small business owner, Foursquare can be a boon.

Just think of it as literally being put on the map and recommended by your own loyal customers.  In the US, establishments have even started giving incentives to Foursquare users who become Mayors of their Venue on Foursquare or who just simply "check in".


fjordz said...

I'm such a Foursquare addict. I really don't know what's making me addicted to it. Maybe the game-like point system? Or maybe the fact that you wanted to know whether the place you're visiting is already in the check in venues or if it has a crowned mayor.

Not really sure. Nevertheless, I enjoy checkin' in and chronicling the places I've been to.

ernie said...

Very... Nicee... Blog.. I really appreciate it... Thanks..:-)

imBabyG said...

I agree with fjordz about - curiosity of the place you're visiting if its already in the check-in venues/mayorship plus the TIPS i get from the previous visitors :)

I like reading your articles aliw! Fanned? HAHA

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