August 19, 2010

Facebook Places: What It Means for Foursquare and For Advertising


Facebook announced their much anticipated Places offering on Thursday to much controversy. The privacy (or lack thereof) that Facebook had previously been criticized for violating came steaming to the forefront again. With people’s whereabouts on the line, privacy on Facebook is a major concern for most users, even those already active in Location Based Services’ because of the enormous Facebook user base.
Besides the privacy issues, there are a number of interesting takeaways from today’s news

  1. The Facebook Places Logo.While this could be a coincidence, it is hard to believe it was overlooked by the Facebook team. The Places symbol is a 4 inside a square . Could this be a jab at Foursquare letting them know to watch out because Facebook is here? Is it a simple witty piece of design (Facebook has a history of adding interesting subtleties into their site just for fun)? One thing is for sure, the symbol is too obvious for Facebook to think it would be unnoticed.
  2. Advertising Opportunities. Facebook Places will give businesses one more reason to create a fan page (it does it automatically when location is claimed by an owned through proof of ownership), moving Facebook even closer to having the most complete database of local businesses. The local advertising space has not been successfully capitalized on yet, and this database of businesses could make it the dominant force over Google and Yelp for local ad space.
  3. More User Data. While Facebook hasn’t mentioned it, they will most likely be including user check-in data into fan page analytics. This will be the first time Facebook will be providing offline data to businesses, which is much more practical, especially to small businesses looking to find hard data on in store customers. This will also encourage more businesses to actively participate, and advertise on Facebook.
  4. Places Has Made Foursquare The New Twitter. You haven’t made it as a social network until Facebook steals your idea. This happened to Twitter with the @ mentions, as well as the live stream. Now Facebook has taken Foursquare’s idea of location based check-ins with a rewards system, and adapted to fit their massive user base. This is a message to Foursquare letting them know that their idea cannot be ignored any longer. Their idea developed enough to be integrated with a mainstream platform, much like what happened to Twitter.
  5. Foursquare has finally made it. Don’t feel sorry for Foursquare, Big Brother Facebook hasn’t dug them a grave quite yet. Many people thought Facebook’s shift to combat Twitter would kill them, and it has only strengthened them, as will happen with Foursquare. Facebook Places will bring millions of new users into the location based service realm, creating a bigger target audience for Foursquare. Many people will soon become fed up with the stream of check-ins from their huge network of Friends on Facebook, many of whom they haven’t actually had human contact with in years, and live in different parts of the world. Once people realize the annoyance of check-ins from irrelevant friends, they will shift to Foursquare, where they can follow users in their area whose updates hold more significance to them. Facebook has opened the door for Foursquare to expand, but has shut the door on ever having the largest share of users checking in at the same time.

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