Why the Foursquare/AmEx Deal is the Least Likely Thing to Prove Social Media's ROI

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I always wonder, when I read articles like these, whether the author actually uses Foursquare him/herself. Because, as someone who does use Foursquare--against my better judgement--I'm here to tell you that the idea of it being the thing that is going to prove anything other than that location based services, in their current form at least, offer users little to nothing and therefore are doomed to failure, is laughable.

The most ironic thing about the Fast Company article is the tie in between Foursquare, AmEx and ROI...because Foursquare itself is not making a cent off the deal. Really--we're all looking to a company that makes no money off a deal like this to prove the ROI of social media?

As a Foursquare user, I'm here to tell you--unless you live in Austin or some other social media mecca, nobody uses it. Ok, maybe not nobody, but very few people. If you do use it, the time you're spending fumbling with your phone to check in while you either ignore your friends, spouse or family at dinner or annoy the person behind you as you enter the grocery store is basically time wasted because, for the average user, the return on the investment of your time using Foursquare is basically nil. I recently went to England and while I was there thought hey, maybe something cool happens if you use Foursquare when you're in a foreign country--some kind of international traveler badge (while in the US the idea of Foursquare badges means nothing to me, when I was in England, the idea of badges was oddly alluring to me for some reason). So I checked in a bunch of places and....nothing. Back in the US I'm losing patience with my quests to regain my mayorships at Dunkin' Donuts and movie theaters because, in reality, once you do become mayor, nothing happens. Or at least nothing happens when you live in Olney, MD, where no businesses have heard of Foursquare, let alone specials for the mayor.

But I digress....back to the AmEx deal. The huge red flag I see with this partnership is the concept of anyone connecting their credit cards with their Foursquare accounts. Seriously? With all the recent Sony hacks--a company that is not a "revenue free zone" and can therefore, presumably at least, invest in the most secure user data protection yet STILL gets hacked multiple times--who in their right mind would trust Foursquare with their credit card information? Yeah, not me. Where are they planning to store my credit card data--in an Excel spreadsheet? On a white board in their offices? 

Call me crazy, but I would be shocked if the Foursquare/AmEx deal does anything for Foursquare, AmEx, or businesses signing up deals. Earning a $20 statement credit for a $50 purchase at Sports Authority is not worth risking giving Foursquare access to my AmEx account, having to troll my next statement for the credit, then attempting to explain to the customer service rep at AmEx why I think I'm due a credit when it inevitably doesn't show up. You're telling me that every AmEx customer service person is going to be prepared to deal with issues arising from this thing? Cashiers at stores don't even know what Foursquare is or how to process stuff like a free scoop of ice cream if you check-in at their location; how are AmEx users going to explain and prove Foursquare check-ins over the phone to customer service people who have no idea what they're talking about?

So anyway, color me unimpressed. Looking for social media ROI case studies that actually make sense? Here you go, just for starters. Or here, if you want to read a whole book on it. (not an affiliate link.)