Is Facebook Places Game-Changing?

Last night Facebook launched Places, their location-based service that let’s you check-in to real life locations and tell all your friends. It also lets you tag your friends in the check-in just as you can tag them in a photo or in a status update.

This is something that lot of people have seen coming for a while. As Foursquare, Gowalla, Google, Loopt, Brightkite, MyTown, and various others have been deploying location-based services and growing their users, Facebook calmly watched from the sidelines, quietly building their own.

How is Places different than just writing in my status “I am at the mall?”

  1. It allows you pull up specific locations and creates Pages for those locations – i.e. if I create a location for my apartment, and check-in there, a page gets created that my friends can now “like.”
  2. It allows you to tag your friends in the check-in (which you cannot currently do in a status update from the iPhone app).
  3. It tells you who else is at the mall. The average FB users has around 130 friends which is a lot of status updates to comb through to find out if any of your friends are nearby (and don’t give me the argument “If I wanted to see my friends I would text them and tell them I am going to, or at, such and such bar.” It’s BS. You might text one or two friends, but it’s not the same as finding out a buddy of yours is at the bar next door and going to meet him.)
  4. It allows brands/advertisers to serve you up content related to where you are and what you are doing (notice I didn’t use the “T-word”). Right now brands can search for statuses like “I’m shopping” but without knowing where you are, it’s not very actionable. But if they know that you are shopping at a specific mall, where they have a store, they could send you a message, or show you an ad, or provide you with a time-constrained offer.

So what do I think will happen next? Most people’s initial reaction was “well, there goes Foursqare!” Which is only natural considering that 20% of Foursquare users post their updates to Facebook anyway. Why would they bother using Foursquare?

Well,  in a pretty genius move, the team out in Palo Alto decided that instead of trying to squash the competition with their 500MM users (and 150MM active mobile users), they would invite them to the party. Hopefully they can all play nicely together. Facebook with its huge user base, the others with their vast directories of every location in the country all neatly tagged and sorted into marketable categories, and us the users, with our precious minutes of engagement.

For all those users out there collecting, badges, pins, points, and all the other social prizes will they switch? I’m not sure. But from Facebook’s POV it probably doesn’t matter. Because the Late Majority and the Laggards won’t adopt those platforms at all. They are just now getting into Facebook, why would they start adding other pieces to the puzzle?

Until then, you can find me wherever Facebook Places says I am (or rather, wherever my Foursquare location posted to my FB status says I am, since Places hasn’t been turned on in Boston yet).

About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

One Response to Is Facebook Places Game-Changing?

  1. This is a wonderful post and may be one that can be followed up to see what the results are

    A mate emailed this link the other day and I am eagerly looking your next write. Keep on on the fabulous work.

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