Why I’d Use Shopkick But Not Foursquare

Sometimes it feels like I am the only one in the world who is not into Foursquare. Or at least the only one in Silicon Valley. Or at least the only one who works for TechCrunch. I’m definitely the only one on staff who has never written a post about them, and that includes our guest poster Vivek Wadhwa who usually obsesses about issues like patents and immigration.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a smart idea, and I have plenty of friends who get sucked in by the cleverly-exploited game theory dynamics. I think eventually location-based services and bringing a real world, micro-location aspect to a Web that has erased the importance of where-you-are is the next huge market. And I give the founders props for not taking the easy sale and driving a hard bargain with some of the industry’s toughest investors.

But, as a user, telling my friends where I am doesn’t gives me enough in return to warrant the privacy invasion. The problem isn’t more seamless check-ins or putting more barriers to protect my privacy — the problem is giving me a good enough reason to share. The assumption is that return will be loyalty coupons, but with rampant fake-check-ins and the sales and marketing challenge of selling every mom-and-pop hipster bar, coffee shop, restaurant that’s going to be one hard network effect to pull off. (Ask Craigslist, Yelp, OpenTable and the zillions of competitors that failed to get that local network effect in even one city.)

The social media rules, for me, are simple: I don’t get hung up on privacy. I assume if I voluntarily put something on the Web, it’ll get out. If I don’t want it out, I don’t put it on the Web. And if I’m sharing things that help you as a marketer, I need something in return. That whole endorphin rush of connecting with far-flung friends, knowing where they are, what they are doing, who they are dating? Facebook and Twitter already have nailed the low-hanging fruit there so you have to up the ante considerably if that’s supposed to be the users’ motivator, just like Groupon upped the ante on Amazon.

Enter shopkick—which launched last week and is the first location-based product I’ve seen that could give me a reason to share. Cyriac Roeding Shopkick’s founder and CEO was on Press:Here with me last week and I figured it was worth posting for anyone else out there who’s felt alone and adrift in this Foursquare-obsessed world. (Full show is here.)

There are three things I like about shopkick and two reasons I’m waiting to try it. Likes: Doesn’t rely on bogus, fake-able check-ins; the sharing is between a retailer and me and they already know I’m in the store so it’s not much of an invasion; I actually get points I can use broadly across several online and offline brands, including making charity donations. Two caveats: It’s only on the iPhone and there aren’t close to enough retailers to make it a must-have….yet.