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25 August 2010

Here I Am! (Facebook Places)

I’ve been a Foursquare user for a while. I’ll admit at first I didn’t get it and it seemed a little creepy to be broadcasting to the world exactly where I was. Soon enough,  the hesitation faded and the addiction set in.

So you can imagine that I was a kid in a candy store last week when Facebook launched Places. Places allows you to check in using a Facebook mobile application to a location and even tag the friends you are with. Since more people use Facebook then Foursquare, this is really big news for the millions of somewhat reasonable people who will not be able to resist the temptation to shout out to their social network, “Here I am!”

A single friend shared with me recently that he felt quite complimented when another female friend told him he would make a great husband. His chest puffed out a little as he said thanks, and asked what made her think that. She responded that his wife would never have to wonder where he was because he was always checking in online and broadcasting it. The initial warmth of the perceived compliment along with his inflated chest deflated a bit. However, the reality is a quick skim of your Facebook newsfeed will result in an instant knowing of the whereabouts of several of your friends.

This new found transparency offered by location-based technologies does have drawbacks. For example, the online world has been buzzing over the ability Facebook gave the Places feature to check your friends in somewhere with you without their explicit approval or permission. The concern is that your friend doesn’t actually have to be there to be tagged there. We can all imagine the headlines as we learn of a couple who split up because the guy’s friends checked him into “places” he shouldn’t have been and the spouse didn’t believe he wasn’t there. Fun times!

By the way, you might want to visit your privacy settings in Facebook, click customize settings and disable “friends can check me into places” if you have some friends with skewed senses of humor.

Another task to consider is claiming your place (or business) on Facebook Places. If you have a brick and mortar location, chances are that before long,  someone is going to check in there. You should claim your Place and ensure that the information about your business is accurate by becoming the administrator of your location. Once you claim the location of your business, it automatically gets a Facebook page.

The cage match between Foursquare and Facebook is on. Fueled by the millions of Americans who just can’t resist sharing their whereabouts with everyone on their social network. It’s amazing how our boundaries and definition of privacy keeps evolving.

6 thoughts on “Here I Am! (Facebook Places)

  1. Hi Wendy, Matthew from Corcoran here,

    Interesting take on Facebook Places, thanks for sharing this. I think it's misleading to characterize the competitive discussion between Foursquare and Facebook as a 'cage match' however. While it's certainly true that this move is commoditizing the check-in, the 2 platforms are very different outside of the core check-in functionality.

    For Facebook, it's one of a suite of many, many services they provide (photos, posts, chat, video, sharing etc.), whereas with Foursquare they are a service specifically built around location – remember that the 4Sq guys have been thinking about this for a long, long time. I think many Foursquare users will find Places too limited and not 'fun' enough. The 4Sq business is built around exploring new places, and, as they say 'making cities fun to explore'. Without the game mechanics and real-world rewards they are aggressively building out, FB Places could end up being fairly limited as a service, despite their obvious advantage in terms of user base. If they can add real-world value to location-sharing within Facebook, then it begins to creep into Foursquare territory.

    It will be interesting to see if this has implications for the real estate industry, who are still coming to terms with the concept of checking-in, especially given your thoughts on privacy. For a vertical that's so home-based, the idea of checking in to any type of home, either for sale or otherwise, is inherently thorny.

    1. Matthew,

      -Ryan Neu from SCVNGR here

      I think a key element to Facebook (as a generalization and not just Facebook Places) is that it is a social platform. Facebook is bad at games. They've tried, failed, and moved on. They will continue to serve as a platform and will leave gaming to third party utilities. They do not need to incorporate game dynamics because third parties can fulfill that niche (think Mafia Wars).

      Facebook Places intentionally stayed far, far away from gaming components. My prediction, another location-based company will serve as the gaming utility for Facebook. Will that be foursquare? Probably not because they do not have enough substance beyond the check-in. Foursquare will become less and less relevant as Facebook acquires more and more adopters.

      I think the nail in the coffin for Foursquare will come about once Facebook Places locates a social utility to fulfill the gaming aspects. Once that occurs, who would need or want to check-in to Foursquare?

      -Ryan

      1. Hi there Ryan,

        Interesting thoughts and for the most part I agree with you, especially about Facebook locating a social utility (what I called 'real world rewards') as really being the main competitive aspect against Foursquare. I think you're right about just the sheer scale of what Facebook is capable of now versus the other check-in services.

        However, I think Foursquare's advantage is what they do provide beyond just checking-in, and this idea of 'what's beyond the check-in' (essentially what is the point of doing it), will be interesting to see play out over the next few months. I'm interested to see what you guys do with all of this of course. Exciting and interesting times for sure.

  2. Hi Wendy – It's Noreen, BH&G Rand, Briarcliif Manor, still waiting for that calendar from the Mt. Kisco Class. As far as Places, I would be concerned with telling people where I am, there is already too much info out there about us, now they will know where we are, especially if sharing with the world?!? Yikes Opens the door to potential stalkers and crooks as well as target marketing based on location demographics!!! I am all for more coupons!

    1. I absolutely agree with you, Noreen. I see no use, whatsoever, for business or personal, to broadcast to people where I am at any given moment of the day. People have had their houses robbed because they posted on Facebook where they were going for the evening or announcing vacations. There was just one all over the news in the last couple of weeks, where someone posted they were going to a concert that evening, and came home to their house ransacked and robbed, and their security cameras caught that it was one of their Facebook friends. I have had a stalker in my life who had to be put in jail twice over the years. This is social media gone haywire, and people haven't learned from what some Facebookers have gone through, and now are taking it to an extreme level. I for one, will not partake.

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