I’m not a huge fan of mathematics beyond the basics, and this largely comes from my fondness for the subjectivity of the humanities. But I’ll throw out a formula of my own today, as I think it applies fairly well to Facebook Places and its relationship to Foursquare:
For anyone who’s not a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (if you’re not, then you, me and Sir Patrick Stewart need to have words), the Borg are a race of half-machine-half-flesh humanoids that want to “assimilate” everything in order to turn the universe into a vision of themselves. They are one consciousness, with only one direction, and resistance is futile. Now, imagine the Borg Queen as Zuckerberg, and Foursquare as the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The scene: space, the final frontier. A vast Borg cube drifts towards the Foursquare Enterprise. Co-captains of the ship Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai (founders of this enterprise, or Enterprise) look at one another. “What do we do?” asks Dennis, looking nervous. “We wait for them to make the first move,” Naveen responds.
The bridge is tense, and eventually a small message is pinged from the Borg ship to the Enterprise. “125 million dollars?” it says, without any real explanation. “My god,” says Naveen, “they mean to assimilate us! To make us another one of their little minions!”
“And for such a low price, too,” comments Dennis. “I say we tell them to shove it.”
So they did, and within mere moments Zuckerberg and co decided to launch Facebook Place’s additional functionalities, like discounts upon “checking in” at various commercial locations. It’s a simple concept if you’re a social media CEO in today’s climate – you either accept their offer, or watch as they begin to emulate your every move, but with a hundred times your budget. Facebook is – let’s not mince words, here – the behemoth of social media. MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 – all have fallen before its mighty blows, and those who have not died have been absorbed into the amorphous, endlessly profitable mass that is the Zuckerberg enterprise.
Foursquare and Facebook’s new competition to win the hearts and minds of those for whom tweeting about buying coffee just isn’t enough will benefit businesses in a big way. Offering discounts, automated wall posts, vouchers, codes – it’s all advertising. It’s a good opportunity for businesses to play the market with both networks, see which works better for them. If the two companies allow such a thing that is, which I doubt – we may see Apple go the way of Facebook over Foursquare for example, even if it’s only another attempt by Steve Jobs to woo Zuckerberg after their little dinner meeting about Facebook and iTunes’ new Ping feature.
The benefit for users is that your options when it comes to money off are going to get infinitely wider. Don’t see it from an attention-seeking perspective. There’s a major difference between using social media to brag about sitting in Starbucks, and actually getting 10% off your morning coffee because you’re using social media to brag about being in Starbucks. Everything from Foursquare to Lionhead’s Fable III “territories” campaign screams “explore”, and if it motivates you to get out more, then go for it.
The future looks like an interesting place to be, if you’re a social media fanatic. Facebook will begin to encompass every daily activity you perform, Apps will compete to offer the same thing, and resolute little guys like Foursquare will push for your attention. For once, this puts the consumer in the driving seat – take advantage and have fun.