Foursquare is failing to grab teens’ attention

Matthew Warneford

Research carried out by Dubit shows that location based social networks such as Foursquare and Facebook’s Places have failed to engage young people, with many seeing little point in the applications and almost half worried about sharing their location.

The research surveyed 1,000 teens aged between 11-18 years of age with an equal balance between gender and age. The Dubit Youth Informer panel is the largest of its kind in the UK.


Awareness of location applications was low throughout the sample, with 48 per cent of those surveyed claiming to have never heard of Places, Foursquare or the less popular Gowalla and SCVNGR. Unsurprisingly Facebook’s Places was recognised more than any other service with 44 per cent being aware of it compared to 27 per cent having heard of Foursquare. Despite losing out to Facebook, it’s an impressive result for Foursquare when it’s considered that the service hasn’t benefited from the initial install base that aided the launch of Facebook’s product. Awareness of Gowalla and SCVNGR is at 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

Awareness of all services increased with age with Foursquare seeing the biggest difference. 20 per cent of 11-14 year olds were aware of Foursquare compared to 38% of 17-18 year olds. Places saw an increase of 12 per cent across the same age ranges.


Despite Foursquare’s relatively high awareness, its usage is poor. Of the teens that are aware of the products, five per cent use Foursquare, compared to 30 per cent who use Places. Once again, Gowalla and SCVNGR both barely registered with only 1 per cent and 0 per cent of the teens using either.

A significant 67 per cent of the sample didn’t use any of the services with girls being less interested than boys with 76 per cent not using any location application. This is compared to 60 per cent of boys who despite being aware of location services didn’t use them.

Reasons against

Over half (58 per cent) of respondents said they don’t use location services, citing that they ‘didn’t see the point’. Despite teens being seen as careless with their online privacy, 45 per cent are avoiding location services as they consider them unsafe. Other reasons given included 28 per cent believing their phones couldn’t run the software and 16 per cent saying they don’t use them as their friends don’t either.


Young people’s indifference to location services was highlighted when asked to score the services they are aware of out of five (‘one’ being pointless and’ five’ attributed to them loving it). Across all four services a score of three was the most frequent, indicating that they neither loved nor hated the products.

At the lower end of the spectrum a score of one or two was awarded by 40 per cent of respondents to Places, 47 per cent to Foursquare, 33 per cent to Gowalla, and 48 per cent to SCVNGR. These scores were only given by respondents who were aware of the named service.

Reasons for adoption

The most popular reasons for the adoption of location services were that users found them fun (48 per cent) and like their friends to know where they are (45 per cent).

For teens, boasting about their location and social standing is much more important than the other benefits of the services, with special offers (14 per cent), getting tips (12 per cent), and points and mayorships (12 per cent) coming far down users list of priorities.

Peter Robinson, head of research at Dubit says: “When Places launched much of the criticism was focused at its lack of gamification – it just didn’t look fun. As we can now see, this doesn’t matter to teens who would rather boast about where they are and who they are with; all benefits that come from being on the largest social network.

“Ultimately teens just don’t see the point of these offerings. Perhaps when Facebook’s Deals product gains momentum this will change things and young people may be driven by discounts but at the moment the brands who are using these platforms, and the platform owners need to be telling teens why they should be using them and how they can do so safely.”

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