Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Social Network Changing Of The Guard?

By most accounts, a strange thing happened at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference this year - a new social network dominated.

While last year was the year of Twitter for most of the communications between attendees, and the year before it was Facebook, this year foursquare was the social network of choice for learning about what and where things were happening at the show.

If you haven't joined the foursquare craze, it's a combination of social network and game. Everyplace you go you "check in" to receive points, and you can see where your friends are as well. The more places you go (even if they're the same ones over and over), the more points you receive and you move up the rankings amongst your friends and players, unlocking prizes, secrets and suggestions as you go. While it started as strictly a consumer network, businesses are now getting in to the act by giving free items to players after 10 or so visits.

But foursquare is more than a game. It's a way to explore and share your experiences with your friends. If you check in at a restaurant, for instance, you might receive some suggestions regarding the best item on the menu, or the best place to sit.

There's a foursquare app for most mobile phones and that's where this network shines, making it one of the new generation of mobile apps that can truly exist without it's web counterpart. And at the rate it's exploding, it may soon become one of the most used phone apps ever.

Is foursquare just this years fad and will it have some legs? It's too early to tell. But even though Twitter use seemed to slow down at SXSW this year, it shows no signs of overall diminished use, which is also true of Facebook. But remember that there are over 100 social media networks that have more than a million subscribers with new ones coming on line ever day, so don't be too surprised if a new social media app that hasn't broken out yet dominates at next years conference.

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