Facebook Places. How do I put this delicately? You’re kind of creepy, and what’s worse: You make me kind of creepy. And after attending a Social Media Club of Los Angeles meeting where four times the amount of attendees had checked in on Foursquare than Places, I think I’m not alone.
I took Facebook Places and Foursqure for a test drive over the past couple weeks. And while I get all the positive aspects Facebook touted in their press conference/Facebook Places launch, I have to say, so far, I’ve only been mildly impressed. Frankly, I find the application to be somewhat invasive.
I first used Places to check-in to a bustling Starbucks on Melrose. I saw that one other person had checked in, as well. He appeared to be attractive in his picture, which piqued my interest, so I clicked on his profile. I learned a lot about “Mike:” he’s a photographer, likes dogs, Mad Men. Then I looked around the room and actually saw him, became completely embarrassed, left feeling like an inadvertent stalker – dirty. I don’t use Facebook as a way to meet new people. On a purely personal level, I use Facebook to stay in touch with my friends and family, to look at people’s pictures when I’m bored or procrastinating, and to get a more intimate look into the lives of people I’ve just met – NEVER the other way around.
Later that week, I got together with a couple fellow bloggers, Kelly Ryan O’Brien and Champagne and Heels. Since I was in the midst of my Foursquare/Facebook Places “Pepsi Challenge,” I pulled out my phone to check into the café. I checked in to Foursquare, earning myself 7 points (one for a first time check in, the second for this being my second stop of the day). Then I went to check in on Facebook. Since I was meeting with two of my Facebook friends, I asked if I could tag them on my check in. Both declined, saying that they didn’t want people knowing where they were but for separate reasons. “What if I canceled a meeting with someone on I’m friend on Facebook with to be here? Now they know.” Good point. We’re in L.A.; that happens all the time. My other friend said she was just extremely private, but interestingly does have a Foursquare account. However, she is only friends with three people – old friends from NYC – on Foursquare and, as a recent transplant, uses it as a fun way to keep up with her gal pals back east.
There is an anonymity that goes along with Foursquare. My Foursquare friends know nothing about me beyond where I am, or have been, and the city in which I reside. I can choose which check-ins I want to share on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, it’s somewhat of a game. There are incentives, which make me want to come back for more.
I don’t see too many people checking into places on Facebook thus far, via Places, or Foursquare for that matter. I’m interested to see how this all pans out. On the business side of things, I favor Foursquare. When people check-in, they check into locations I manage, where I can give users deals, tips, etc. Places does not allow people to check into our fan pages, which is irritating, but that is another blog for another time. Stay tuned.
The social media giant was supposed to launch this new offering back in June, but Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated in an interview with Ad Age that privacy issues were the cause of the delay and that it was “a very important area, but it’s also a sensitive one.”
But now it seems the day of the much-anticipated announcement is upon us. Geeks, marketers, local business owners – think retailers and restauranteurs – rejoice! What exactly does this mean for us?
Thanks to location-based pioneers like Foursquare and Gowalla, we’ve seen the value of these services. By posting specials and promotions that encourage users to “check in” to establishments, business owners and marketers already are leveraging the users of these offerings to serve as mini, grassroots marketers for our businesses and brands. These check-ins get posted onto the users respective geo-location site pages and typically then onto their Facebook and/or Twitter pages, offering invaluable and coveted word-of-mouth advertising.
And while Foursquare recently confirmed its number of registered users to be approximately 2.6 million, imagine what will happen when the behemoth Facebook, with more than 500 million users, starts offering a GPS-based service.
Ian Schafer best speculated in a May 2010 Ad Age column, “Almost overnight, the ability to easily broadcast your location on and via Facebook will be put into the hands of about 500 million people — 500 million people that retailers and businesses with physical locations will have the opportunity to influence people nearby to visit. This will go from curiosity to one of the biggest opportunities that a marketer can have within a month of its launch as users become more comfortable with the feature.”