When most people think of Foursquare, they immediately think of the “check-in.” And yet observers have been predicting the check-in’s demise since at least 2011. Whether due to faded novelty or general anxiety over leaving a digital footprint wherever you go (are you listening, NSA?), Foursquare has fallen out of favor among many members of the digerati, despite a 50% increase in usage since last year.

So why can’t Foursquare seem to control its narrative?

To hear investor Fred Wilson tell it, Foursquare’s heavily-publicized struggles have nothing to do with their product or their ability to raise funds. The real problem? Foursquare hasn’t done a good job communicating its killer use case: “maps with people in them.”

“It’s not really about the check-in anymore. It’s about ‘maps with people in them.’ And you don’t get ‘maps with people in them’ from Google, and you don’t get ‘maps with people in them’ from Apple, and you don’t get ‘maps with people in them’ from Nokia. You get ‘maps with people in them’ from Foursquare. But what they haven’t done a good job with is talking about that.”

Wilson compares Foursquare’s image problem to the early struggles of Twitter.

“Back in 2008 and 2009, we realized at Twitter that 10% of Twitter’s users wanted to tweet,” Wilson said. But once Twitter retooled its product — and its public identity — to be more about consumption than creation, that’s when it really took off.

As far as Foursquare goes, Wilson says it has the product part right — 100s of millions of people use Foursquare’s API through Instagram and others to geo-tag their content — but not the identity part, yet.

“Until they can get through that transition about what they are, so people can understand what they are, the stories are going to continue to get written that Foursquare’s struggling.”

And as for whether Foursquare has struggled to raise money?

“Any company that raises $41 million isn’t struggling to raise money.” Okay, then. Fair enough.

[Cover image via elyrosenstock on Twitter]