Conscious Unbundling: Why Foursquare broke up with the check-in

Recently, Foursquare revealed its brand new app makeover, and not everyone is happy about it. Much to the chagrin of Foursquare Mayor’s everywhere, the brand overhaul included the elimination of the check-in, a break up that has the feature moving on to an entirely separate app dubbed Swarm. Foursquare power users can still find most of the features they are accustomed to using, they simply have to look in two separate places. The new Foursquare and Swarm apps link to one another, and the transition between the two is fairly seamless if both are already downloaded to your phone. However, the response from users has been very negative. The new Foursquare and Swarm both have just a 2-star rating in the App Store.

Conscious unbundling

Foursquare is not the first brand to “consciously unbundle” its flagship app into multiple parts. LinkedIn users must download an app literally called "Job Search" to find and apply for jobs.

Facebook has split its services into no less than 9 different apps— including the highly publicized yet now off the radar, Paper, and the controversial Facebook Messenger app, which has been criticized for a poor UX and a sketchy privacy agreement.

Breaking up isn’t hard to do

For brands, the breaking up of apps into separate entities is not such a far-fetched idea if you’re trying monetize. In this pay-to-play world, more apps simply mean more advertising space. Yet, the pattern of brands unbundling their apps might be an indicator of a much larger digital trend.

The buzzword of the year is shaping up to be "digital snacking"— a term which refers to the habits of online and mobile users to consume content in short, bite-size quantities, such as a few tweets during your 10 minute subway ride home or a quick scroll through Facebook during TV commercials. Digital snacking has had a profound impact on content producers from smaller brands to journalism giants, as both have watched visit duration and page view counts continue to drop.

For example, in response to dwindling attention spans, the New York Times released NYTimes Now— a standalone app, separate from its main reader, which features just ten of the top stories of day. NYTimes Now tells you what you should be reading rather than have you comb through pages of headlines to find something interesting.

Take another example in the wildly popular dating app Tinder, whose user interface is limited to just a simple swipe left or right to accept or reject potential mates nearby. Gone are the days of filling out a comprehensive online dating profile. Tinder is simple, it’s fast, and it gets 850 million “swipes” a day.

The unbundling of apps from Facebook and Foursquare might just mark yet another reaction to digital snacking. Users don’t want an app that does it all. They want an app that does one thing and does it well.

Relationship advice

Your brand might not be launching its own app, but the rules of digital snacking where simplicity is key, can still apply to your content strategy. Many brands make the mistake of implementing the same strategy across all of their social platforms. You might be using your Facebook page to do it all– post photos, share articles & links, release video, and promote events. Don’t make your platforms a catch-all. Dive into the analytics to determine what type of content or service resonates the most with your audience and turn up that dial. You might just find yourself in a stronger, longer term relationship with your community.

Share your thoughts on “conscious unbundling” with us on Twitter @Sparkloft.