Facebook Places – Death Knell for Foursquare?

Facebook has launched Facebook Places, the social network’s first major foray into location-based services.  Clearly a direct challenge to the more established (and rapidly growing) Foursquare, will this latest service take off, backed by the network’s global clout, or has Facebook arrived too late on the location-based services (LBS) scene?

On the face of it, Facebook has a ready-made success story.  Having spoken to colleagues, friends and Social Media pals, all of us have far more friends / connections / contacts on Facebook than Foursquare.  In my own case, this is a ratio of about 20:1 in Facebook’s favour, meaning a Facebook check-in service would be much more informative in terms of seeing where certain friends are hanging out.

However, one of the potential pitfalls for Facebook could well be an increase in ‘virtual litter’.  I’m sure that all of us have a few Twitter friends who insist upon checking in at every possible location in the vicinity – dry cleaners, doctors, supermarket, corner shop, pub, off licence – and automatically feeding these check-ins through Twitter.  Subsequently, our Twitter streams are packed full of ‘I’m at so-and-so’ updates – something which, if done frequently, is proven to annoy followers.

Another possible bone of contention concerns issues of privacy – a topic that is by no means new to Facebook.  I helped to run a networking event recently, with many attendees ‘checking in’ on Foursquare.  This mass ‘swarm’ attracted a Guardian journalist who was researching a piece on cyber-stalking using LBS – great for him, bad news for me and my delegates!  With many people continuing to misunderstand the level of their ever-changing Facebook privacy settings, could Facebook places unwittingly facilitate an increase in unwanted attention?

From a marketing perspective, Facebook has already been proven to provide some of the most targeted advertising available.  The addition of a location-based service could spell very bid things for marketers – and even more effective advertising.  But Foursquare is growing – and placing all of your eggs in one basket may not be the best option just yet – even if it is the largest basket in the industry…

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