So, with the dawn of Facebook Places on us, there's been a lot of chatter and buzz about the impact it will have on location-based marketing. I figured I would jump on the bandwagon and share a few things I've been thinking about.
I've heard the upstarts saying this will be the end of Foursquare. How can you compete against a 500 lb. gorilla (or a social network with 500 million users)? They occupy two very different spaces. Sure, both are location check-ins, but the way that Facebook is approaching this isn't in direct competition with Foursquare. There are philosophical differences in the user experience.
Facebook is creating a product extension that is in line with their brand. Facebook is about connecting people to friends, family, acquaintances, people you already know. It's about sharing your thoughts, pictures, favorite movies, religious beliefs, and if you are looking for friendship or anything you can get. Facebook gets very personal, as personal as you want to be, so that's why you don't just go around "friending" people you don't know (unlike Twitter, which is all about following people you want to know better). But the whole interaction is person to person. Sure, brands are on Facebook and some have an established presence, but no one logs onto Facebook every day to check status updates from a business.
Foursquare is a game. It's a mobile social game, just like Farmville is for Facebook. The difference between the two is instead of gaming in a virtual world (Farmville), Foursquare turns everyday places into a gamer's landscape. It has incentives for continued use, rewards (have you seen my new badge?), and a scoring leaderboard to fuel competition (who's the mayor now?). Foursquare is much more comprehensive than Facebook Places in that sense. Furthermore, Foursquare is much more of a B2C product with restaurants and stores creating promotions for the application. Because it's a game and it has that addictive competitive aspect, it caters to businesses in a very efficient and easy-to-understand way(fueling return visits to get that precious badge or become a powerful mayor).
So, I think there's space for both, it's just a matter of what people are looking for. If they want to remember the night and who was there just use Places. If they want to get a promotion or feel like they've gained something, use Foursquare.
And you know, Facebook Places is kind of creepy. It's the ultimate big brother. Your friends can check you into places, post pictures for you. No more blowing off your creepy cousin to hang out with your friends tomorrow night. That creepy cousin will know. Marketers will know. I'm in advertising, so I'll know too. Having 500 million users is the applications greatest asset and weakness at the same time. Obviously, having 500 million people be able to plug in like that is a huge asset. But I have over 600 friends on Facebook, I don't want them to know that I went to IHOP at 4 AM or get a picture posted of me on a date or something. Having that many people know where you are at all times is not something I find appealing.
Twitter can get away with it because it's so basic. All Twitter wants to know is what I'm doing. Facebook wants to know where I am, what my religious beliefs are, what my status is, who I should reconnect with, where I work, where I went to school, if I'm sexually attracted to men or women....you get the idea.
I'd like to wrap this post up by disregarding everything I just said, I think...I'm pretty sure I said Facebook was Big Brother in 2005 and that didn't stop me or anyone else from using it. I said that Twitter was pointless and a little intrusive in 2007. And when Foursquare came out, I'm pretty sure I wasn't sold on it immediately. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon.
Who knows? Maybe I'll come around to Facebook Places. All I know is that, for now, I am checking my privacy settings so I know that if I ever go to a strip club, the stripper won't "Place" me. I'm not sure I could ever explain that to my mother, who I am friends with on Facebook of course.