Twitter dines out on Foursquare’s data

In another in a chain of high-tech hookups, where search and social-networking giants have tapped into the wealth of data collected by smaller location-based startups, Twitter announced a new partnership with Foursquare, that once-red-hot New York-based location-sharing service that remains data-rich even as it’s losing some of its former luster.

As Erin Griffith explains in her post on Fortune’s Tech blog, the marriage should give Twitter much richer, more detailed and valuable location-based data to exploit and build out its own advertising services on.

Twitter users can now use their own exact location in tweets:

Rather than a simple geographic location—e.g. “New York”—Foursquare’s data, which gathers information on venues from billions of user-generated check-ins, is more specific and contextual, e.g. “Time-Life Building.”

Beyond the product implications for Twitter, this deal highlights an aspect of Foursquare that the company is eager to tout: Namely, that Foursquare is sitting on a mountain of data that is valuable enough for a social media giant like Twitter to pay for it.

As TechCrunch points out, the partnership has solid potential to make the Twitter user’s experience far more dynamic when it comes to sharing not just one’s location but all the other information that comes along with it:

Previously, location services in Twitter worked by detecting your coordinates based on your device sensors and assigning a spot based on those parameters. Now, users will be able to tap the location button to get a list of nearby suggested places so that they can ID a very specific spot. Location based tweets could do a lot to help Twitter extend its monetization and advertising options, as well as help onboard new users by providing them with location-relevant Tweets before they build their own timeline. The company describes the features in detail over at its Support website.

In her post, Griffith also points out the possible pitfalls of the union between Twitter and Foursquare.

Questions have swirled for years about the fate of Foursquare, a beloved New York startup that many believe fell victim to the hype cycle. With $121.4 million in venture backing (and $41 million in debt) but waning popularity with users, the company has spent the last chapter of its life fighting the impression that it is struggling. Last fall, the company made its biggest bet yet: It split its namesake app into two. Swarm, a new app, is for checking in and sharing your location with friends. The existing Foursquare app is now solely for recommending restaurants and other venues based on your preferences and location.

And the path ahead could be rocky:

The social media data business is a tricky one; many hopeful startups have excitedly gathered data from Tweets and status updates and Likes but struggled to figure out a compelling business use for it. Foursquare is different, Horowitz tells Fortune, because its data contains context and insights around a user’s preferences. “You can’t collect a bunch of data and sell it to people and have that be a business,” he says. “What you can do that can be valuable as a business is collect a lot of data and through some kind of very smart thinking and software, gain valuable insights out of the data.”


Credit: LiPo Ching/Mercury News


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