Foursquare looks ready to join Facebook and other social-networking firms in aggressively data-mining its users for profit, if a new report in Ad Age proves correct.
The publication drew its information from unnamed executives, who indicated that the platform was in development and would “eventually allow advertisers to use Foursquare data to target ads purchased through ad exchanges or networks.”
Foursquare’s official statement to AdAge made the expected nods toward user privacy, while remaining opaque about the firm’s ultimate roadmap: “We’re really excited about our 2013 monetization roadmap, and will provide more details when the time comes.”
Foursquare, which allows users to “check in” to various locations via their mobile device, eventually becoming “mayor” if they rack up enough appearances within a short span of time. Checking into a location also results in badges and points. It’s a key example of “gamification,” or adding game-like elements to an application in order to boost user engagement.
And user engagement’s certainly risen—the company has grown steadily since its launch in 2009. But Foursquare, like all companies, lives on revenue. That makes its upcoming data-mining efforts—again, if true—a wholly unsurprising development.
Even those social networks with a solid revenue stream are seeking ways to rake in more dollars in the long term. Back in March, Facebook acquired the Atlas Advertiser Suite, which offers tools for ad-campaign management and measurement, for an undisclosed sum; it’s a given that the company will use those assets to give its clients more effective ad campaigns, which could help in its long-term battle against that other online advertising juggernaut, Google.
Meanwhile, pretty much every social network has rolled out more robust do-it-yourself analytics widgets: Yelp’s recent “Revenue Estimate” tool, for example, and Pinterest’s Web analytics dashboard. Such packages help these Websites demonstrate their usefulness to advertisers, which could translate into more revenue.
Whether Foursquare decides to open up its data in some fashion to marketers and advertisers remains to be seen. But given how social-networkers have reacted to similar data-mining moves by Facebook and other Websites, it remains to be seen whether Foursquare customers will take such a development well.