ImageLast month, Foursquare’s CEO Dennis Crowley addressed rumors that Foursquare’s growth had become stagnant, which he said simply weren’t true – in fact, they consistently see their numbers grow by 10-30% each month. However, he did admit that Foursquare was no longer the “shiny, new thing” in the world of social media. Although their user base is still growing, it seems that fewer and fewer businesses see the need to utilize location-based marketing tools like Foursquare. In a recent survey published by Fox Business, just 17% of business surveyed said that they use location-based social platforms to promote their business, while 97% of those surveyed reported using other social channels, like Facebook, for marketing. That is a staggering difference, and it raises the inevitable question of why there is such a large discrepancy.

Foursquare, and other location-based social platforms, are hard to control

Social media is already a bit more chaotic than most business owners prefer. It gives irate customers a channel to air their grievances to the public, and a small mistake could wind up becoming the next bit of viral news. It makes sense that business owners don’t feel very confident investing much time into Foursquare, or sites similar to it. Many might feel like it is inviting bad press, and while you can certainly make the argument that if the service is good, the reviews will be too, even a handful of negative reviews amongst a sea of positive ones might be enough to dissuade potential customers. And those negative reviews could pop up every single time someone goes to check into a business which, understandably, leaves many business owners opting for social marketing platforms that they can better control, like Facebook and Twitter, rather than investing time building up their Foursquare profile.

Business owners are too busy, or don’t care

Unless the business is a restaurant or a bar, location-based marketing isn’t very useful. People like to read reviews of local restaurants and try new things, but what about the tire shop down the road? Or the little mini-mart around the corner? Do these places really need to invest time and energy building a profile and a following, or is it better to focus on their real-life relationship with current customers and build things up the old fashioned way? That’s hard to say, but it has been very difficult for sites like Foursquare to break into local markets. And while no one has a concrete answer why that is, part of the problem is probably that, when you run a local business, you have to be more involved with your community and your customers in the area. If being friendly with your regulars already brings in plenty of other people, why force yourself to sit in front of a computer building a profile that you don’t feel you need?

There isn’t much in it for the consumer

Yes, you can get badges and baubles and achievements from using Foursquare; there was even a time when being mayor of a particular place was worth bragging about. But ultimately, Foursquare doesn’t offer much to its users unless that user is already a part of an active network of fellow Foursquare-ers. The reviews are useful, but you can get reviews from loads of other sites – Yelp, Google Local, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, local directories. On the flip side, none of these sites have a very strong a social aspect to their service. You leave a review, people can read it, you can get directions to whatever business you’re looking at, and sometimes you can get a coupon. That’s about it. Foursquare’s social features do set it apart from its competitors, but if people are just signing up for a couple of weeks and never using it again, the social features aren’t worth much.

So should businesses invest time into Foursquare, or is it not worth the effort? That’s hard to say, though apparently the service is looking into become more of a recommendation app, which is really only useful to the restaurants and bars that already get the most out of the platform. But for the most part these platforms don’t seem to offer very much to average, local small business, even if that same business understands the importance of social marketing. Unless something changes, or there is a huge migration to a particular location-based social service, then we may be looking at the end of this marketing tactic.

image: Annette Shaff /