The success or failure of a business depends on a lot of factors, many of which are external to the business itself. Economic conditions, trends, technology – all of these can have a profound effect at any time in a business’ life cycle. And while some businesses are lucky enough to operate relatively unchanged over the years, some models require adaptability.

Such is the case with Foursquare – a relatively mature app in its industry. Foursquare’s social, discovery, and check-in features have garnered it huge success over the years. But as trends, mobile technology, and the competitive landscape  have evolved, Foursquare’s leaders have begun to see a problem in their model. According to a wonderfully in-depth piece on The Verge today, this observation of the fundamental ways in which people are using (and not using) Foursquare’s services has led to a breakthrough – and a brand new app.

In a bold move that the Verge article refers to as “the great unbundling”, Foursquare’s leadership has decided to separate what it sees as two distinctly different functions of the app: social and discovery. They saw that people were rarely using their app in the way they originally intended: “…just 5 percent of Foursquare users were opening it to find friends and find a restaurant.” This insight led them to decide that they could satisfy the needs of more people more readily by dividing these distinct services into two apps.

The newcomer, called Swarm, will exist outside of Foursquare and will help users see who on their self-selected friend list is nearby, and also check in if they want to share their own specific location. (Swarm is launching soon, and you can sign up to for a download invitation here.) Foursquare itself will be refocused into something geared more toward discovery; leveraging of the incredible amount of data Foursquare’s users have helped the company amass since its launch in 2009.

So what lessons can a small business learn from Foursquare’s bold new strategy? Always be aware of what’s going in the world around your business, and be open to taking a new direction. Starting a business is a huge undertaking, and it requires a zealous commitment to the company’s purpose. But if your business is going to enjoy long-term success, you have to reevaluate the environment that allowed you to stay afloat in the first place. You didn’t launch your business in a void, and you can’t operate in one indefinitely.

If you’re curious about how Foursquare went about making this decision, check out this great video from The Verge:

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the product marketing manager and resident blogger for Pagemodo. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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