Facebook Places Analysis: 3 Reasons Why Facebook Will Continue to Be Your Aggregator of Social Information

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While everyone was talking about the new Facebook Places application last week, I wanted to wait until I had a chance to actually experiment with it myself and report firsthand back to you on my analysis.  A little bit of historical perspective can’t hurt any analysis either: A few days in social media seems like a few months in real life.  Now that a few days have passed and I’ve had a chance to take the Places application out for a test spin, I realize what Facebook is trying to do: Become the default social aggregator of your information at home or on the go.  We’ve seen them do this by creating a platform and mobile application that helps you keep in touch with and check out what your friends are up to.  They have extended this with the Social Graph API so that you can see what else your friends “liked” as you browse the web, with some companies like Levi’s extending the Social Graph APIs to the extreme.

If mobile and the location-based application are the next biggest thing, instead of reinventing the wheel, Facebook decided intelligently to partner with the leading “check-in” services in Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp to extend their presence with the Places application.  In doing so, they have positioned themselves as the default place to check out where your friends are when you’re outside on the go.  As a result, similarly to extending the Facebook experience to the Web with the Social Graph, they are now extending themselves to location-based services, and in doing so will continue to be a sticky social aggregator.  Here’s my analysis on 3 reasons why this is the case:

1) Places API and Partnerships Extend the Location-Based Social Application

By opening up their APIs as they always do as well as creating partnerships with the leaders in the field of location-based social applications, Facebook continues to position themselves as the aggregator of social information.  I didn’t realize this myself until I started using Places and noticed all of the check-ins that were happening outside of FB on other platforms.  Facebook doesn’t and shouldn’t care whether you use Foursquare, Gowalla, or Yelp to check-in: All of your check-ins on these other platforms will now flow into Places.  Furthermore, with the new Places API, companies like Booyah, the creators of MyTown, are planning to release a new application called InCrowd.  One can only predict that this is just the beginning of companies building upon the Places API.  Why not?  Analysis from a business perspective will clearly show that if you wanted to offer a location-based service, FB is the clear platform to partner with because they potentially give you access to half a billion users.  Not bad, huh?

2) Where are Your Friends?

Recent statistics show that Foursquare and Gowalla have a combined 2 million users.   As with any new Web 2.0 application, the value in the application is only there if a lot of other people are using it.  While a lot of my social media friends are using Foursquare, analysis has proven to me that whenever I check in at a local restaurant here in Orange County, California filled with tens of people I am usually the only one checking in.  Facebook recently hit 500 million members.  Do the math and you’ll come to the conclusion I made: Facebook is where your friends are, not Foursquare, Gowalla, or even Yelp.  Doesn’t it make sense, then, for the largest social media site to aggregate all of these other check-in services so you can truly see where all of your friends are?  You can now see why the partnerships above make sense for each party: Foursquare needs more users for its platform to become mainstream, and Facebook needs active users of location-based mobile social applications.  And, whether we like it or not, we all need Facebook.

3) It’s About Your Friends, Not Places

To further emphasize my point that Facebook is all about your friends, the user interface for Places first shows where your friends are.  I was confused as to how I could go about checking-in from there, until I realized that the “Check-In” button on this initial screen will lead you to the familiar “Places” screen like you have in Foursquare.  It is true in Foursquare that the “default” screen is Friends, but I am always using “Places” first to check-in and then see where my friends are.  The cool thing is that as I write this blog post from the comfort of my home, I can launch the Facebook iPhone application and instantaneously see where all of my friends have checked-in.  Facebook seems to understand that it’s not about the check-in and becoming a “Mayor” but about seeing where your friends are and keeping in touch with them.

Where is all of this analysis going?  Without a doubt, Places will lead to broader acceptance of location-based social applications.  In fact, as predicted, this has already happened: Foursquare has already seen a surge in new signups since Places launched.  And it wouldn’t surprise me if Foursquare actually used the Places API to extend their own platform into the world of FB.  I will personally stick with Foursquare for my actual check-ins while checking up on where others are on Facebook, but one very positive potential from all of this is that maybe people will stop tweeting their Foursquare check-ins and instead realize that all they need to is simply “check-in” to be found on the default social information aggregator of them all: Facebook.

In case you’re still not familiar with Places, here is a video explanation straight from the source:

Where do you think Places is leading us?

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
PeopleLinx

Comments

  1. says

    I think Places is leading us into a privacy nightmare. While I understand that Facebook WANTS to be the keeper of all of our social information, I’m not sure how comfortable everyone will be with a single entity having that much information. Not to mention the giant privacy hole that exists by allowing you to check other people in. See my assessment of Places for more details at:

    http://www.socmedsean.com/2010/08/21/facebook-places-is-a-big-privacy-fail/

    Keep in mind that I’m a big proponent of geo-social apps, but only when they are done correctly and allow me to choose how much information I will share (e.g. FourSquare allowing me to check-in “off the grid”). As with almost everything else they do, Facebook has rolled this out with little concern for privacy and they’ll make changes later after they have generated all the buzz they want.

    Just my $.02.

    –Sean

  2. says

    I think that Facebook is, as usual, very smart for jumping on the bandwagon for a new application that seems to be taking off. There are a variety of reasons I won’t use FB places, number one being I am a loyal foursquare user and actually have more friends there than on FB. FB is assuming that your actual ‘friends’ are on facebook. While that may have been the case at one time, many people feel like their network on facebook now mixes too many disparate elements (personal/professional/family) and so are reluctant to share. I also think it is unfortunate that you are unable to ‘hide’ places, since I can see the newsfeed becoming a running list of where people have checked in.

  3. says

    Location applications are all the rage, that’s for sure. I do believe that, used correctly, this will benefit everyone. As long as people properly manage their privacy, and the privacy of their friends.

    Thanks for an insightful article.

  4. says

    Sean,

    Appreciate the comment and feedback. Yes, Facebook does push the envelope on privacy without explanation, but I can see through what look like privacy concerns and instead see a lot of advantages. That being said, with every new Facebook feature, we will have to be careful as to how we use it and to always check what settings exist for it _before_ we start using it.

  5. says

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for your comment and you bring up some good points. I am also a loyal Foursquare user yet there are so many more people on Facebook that it makes sense for them to be an aggregator. That being said, since we have the ability to maintain our privacy through Facebook Lists, it would be nice if they could extend which List we could expose to Places. Maybe that functionality already exists?

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