Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Last night Facebook launched “Places” a platform that allows users to check-in in real time to their location via mobile device.
This announcement has journalists, techies, marketers and consumers in a tizzy today trying to sort out the implications of how Facebook Places will change the world of social media.
Here are my initial thoughts on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Facebook Places just a few hours after the launch. (Do you like that caveat that I just built in since I could totally change my mind about it 3 months from now?)
Foursquare has been the leader in location based social networking, however the primary Foursquare user base is relatively small (2MM registered users) and largely limited to urban based early adopters. However, the sheer size and diversity of Facebook users presents a whole new world of opportunities for marketers to reach consumers though location based technology .
For a simple example of how this could eventually develop, lets envision the grocery shopping experience for someone like my Mom (j/k my mom doesn’t even know how to text but let’s pretend that she is tech savvy).
She goes to her local supermarket and checks-in via Facebook Places. Instead of having to pick up the super market circular, ShopRite sends her push communications about this week’s special offers. Also because her phone knows that she is in a supermarket, Facebook serves ads that are manufactures coupons for Cheerios and Ragu. She is also a member of ShopRite’s loyalty program so when she is paying at the register, she also gets an additional 100 rewards points just for her Facebook Places check-in.
One word – Privacy. One of the features of Places that kind of creeps me out is that it allows consumers to check-in their friends without their permission. Now you can obviously update your settings as needed, and I understand why they created this feature based on the popularity of Facebook photo tagging, but this kind of bugs me.
First off there are a series of steps needed to deactivate this feature and most people are too lazy or some just don’t understand how to do it. There should just be one big button that says something along the lines of ‘DO NOT WANT.’
Secondly, I want to be able to control when and where I check-in. I don’t want the world knowing that I actually paid to go see “Eat, Pray, Love” with my best friend and theater full of middle-aged ladies. I have a reputation to maintain. I imagine the inadvertent check-in could cause a lot of problems in the future.
This is not to say that I am against location based social networking. I have a Foursquare account (that I use whenever I can remember ) but my Foursquare friends are different from my Facebook friends and that is for a reason. I don’t necessarily want all my Facebook friends to know what I am up to. A great addition would be for Facebook to let you manually select the list of people that your check-ins are broadcasted to, similarly to the way your limited profile works.
Whenever Facebook makes a fundamental change to their platform you can always expect a wave a complaints and people threatening to leave the platform en masse. The launch of Places is guaranteed to incite this as well as it brings your digital presences and your real world presences even that much closer and the erosion of the barrier between the two is guaranteed to make folks nervous. If nothing else it will force me to only become Facebook friends with people that are actually friends.