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22/08/2011 by

Will Facebook Kill eBuddy & Foursquare?

Being a strategist I can be inspired by technologies and innovations. They can disrupt existing business models and create very smart new commercial ideas and marketing directions. Here are some scenario’s on Facebook versus eBuddy and Foursquare.

Close your eyes and imagine you are the CMO, CSO or CIO at eBuddy, a very successful Web Messenger company. What would be your strategic moves, when feeling the very hot breath of the disruptive force called: Facebook Messenger down your neck?

What would you do if you would be the CMO, CSO or CTO at Foursquare, the very successful location-based social network, feeling the powerful beast called: Facebook Places hunting you down in the dark foggy woods?

eBuddy is a free and very popular instant messaging service online. Every month eBuddy reaches over 23 million unique visitors worldwide, 70% of whom are 13-24 year olds. This makes eBuddy one of the largest and fastest-growing youth websites in the world.

eBuddy allows you to go on popular IM sites including AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk and others. The application gives you notifications when a friend signs on and when you receive messages.

If you are having multiple conversations with multiple friends, you can keep up with the conversation with tabbed conversations. eBuddy is also one of the few online messenser applications and websites that supports webcams. This allows you to make video conversations and to set your own personalized avatar for eBuddy.

You can also keep up with all of your sites by staying online with multiple sites at one time. eBuddy is a nice web application for users who don’t feel the need to download a standalone application on their desktop.

But, what would you decide and do, being the CMO or CSO at eBuddy? With Facebook growing at the speed of light in every market around you. And Knowing that Facebook has already launched its Web Messenger and is about to launch its Messenger for Mobile.

Would you create more partnerships being eBuddy? Invent new technologies to switch directions? Push your marketing spend to grow? Or sell?

I could ask you the same thing, if you were the CMO or CSO at Microsoft, since their MSN Messenger (Windows Messenger) might feel the exact same Facebook heat?

Or would the Skype acquisition be your strategic defensive move? Expensive defensive tactic knowing that Microsoft paid $8.56 billion in cash for Skype, another Messenger alike service, now with VOIP and Video services…

Now to Foursquare vs. Facebook.

Foursquare, the location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore.

By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues that they want to visit and surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues.

Merchants and brands leverage the Foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences. Foursquare has over 10 Million users worldwide (April 2011) and over 3 Million check-ins per day. Funny detail: Foursquare users can share their check-ins on i.e. Twitter and Facebook.

Foursquare is pretty fun. Users can become the Major at a business, when visiting frequently (check-ins). And Foursquare users can collect badges. This might create a fun and compelling battle between people that can create buzz on Foursquare but also on other platforms, i.e. on Facebook.

And businesses can do very targeted local promotions and special offers through Foursquare. But true, fun, influential, but not mainstream.

But, Facebook has Facebook Places. And Facebook will certainly try hard to push Facebook Places and to grab a bigger market share in location-based services. Facebook might eventually even decide to block Foursquare messages from being posted to Facebook Wall…

Now you are the CMO or CSO at Foursquare. What would be your strategic moves? Would you create more partnerships being Foursquare? Invent new technologies to switch directions? Push your marketing spend to grow? Or sell?

This is the direction that Foursquare took. From their current position, it might be a very smart offensive that will gain awareness, content and might broaden their user base.

Foursquare announced new features yesterday. Features that allow check-ins at events, like concerts or movies, instead of just the places where those events are happening.

The new feature is available only for iPhone, but Foursquare plans to add updates for Android and BlackBerry soon.

The company said the new features will simply formalize the existing behavior of its users. “It’s one of the most common check-ins on Foursquare: You head off to a movie theater, check in, and type in ‘Harry Potter’ to tell people what you’re seeing. Or check in to a stadium and shout ‘Patriots game’ or ‘Lady Gaga concert,’” the company stated in a blog post.

And I know several people that are fighting to become the Foursquare Major at a local restaurant or even one specific gate at JFK Airport…

Foursquare is even partnering with ESPN, and concert listing service SongKick, for the new features.

In addition, Foursquare users will now be able to see other events that are happening at venues — like other movies screening at the theater or additional artists scheduled to perform later at the auditorium where their friends are.

And recently, Foursquare released an application update a few days ago that began showing pictures that users post alongside their check-ins as part of the stream of updates. This makes it similar to looking at Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram, but with a smaller pool of friends.

So Foursquare might be a very small and niche social network; most people are becoming more selective about who they add to their network, often only including those that they consider close friends, rather than the employers, in-laws and neighbors that get lumped in on Facebook and Twitter.

So Foursquare seems to have chosen the strategic direction to stay niche with very high quality services, instead of aiming for hit and run growth. I like that approach. Why?

Because I meet too many CMOs that are only focusing on the acquisition of new clients through very extensive media budgets. But most of these CMOs seem to have forgotten that great and innovative products, and a CRM driven approach, might be the way to pull more customers through their funnel, towards trial, preference and advocacy.

Now close your eyes again. Imagine you are the CMO or CSO at your current company. Are you looking at the competitors in your segment? Or also at the meta trends that could disrupt your existing business model any given Sunday?

Are you focusing enough on creating better products, innovations and creating loyal brand ambassadors? Or are you too much depending on just advertising?

And if you had to put 50% of all your savings into a bet, would you bet on eBuddy or Facebook Messenger? At Foursquare or Facebook Places?

Source: New York Times and Jess3 for the Nasa Foursquare visual.


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Igor Beuker

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