Facebook announced what can clearly be called a “me too” location check in function yesterday, but hey, when you have half a billion people using something, even a copied innovation can have huge immediate impact. Facebook Places is a smart-phone location check-in feature that allows users to share their location, find the location of their friends, and discover new places based on other Facebook user recommendations – much like Loopt, Foursquare and Yelp! provide.
To get started, you’ll need the most recent version of the Facebook application for iPhone. (As of last night you had to search and download as it was not showing up as an update) You also can access Places from touch.facebook.com if your mobile browser supports HTML 5 and geolocation. A lot of information about how this service works is still evolving (Only available in the US right now as well) but you here’s the current FAQ page from Facebook
This is a big deal because location check-in has exploded as a habitual way of connecting and it stands to reason that a large number of people using Gowalla and Foursquare today will migrate their location check-ins to the network where they spend most of their time already – Facebook. This move kind of makes my status as the Mayor of my local coffee shop look a whole lot less interesting.
Facebook seems very invested in this function and were adamant about the fact that users will have the ability to set and restrict privacy using Places. By default your checkins will go to your profile and news stream. If you want to change who can see your checkins, go to your account’s privacy settings. You’ll see that “Places I check in” is by default shared with “Friends Only.” You can change who views your checkins from this area.
Why It’s a Big Deal for Business
- Facebook is building a suite of advertising tools that will allow you to list, claim and advertise your place on Facebook
- You no longer have to educate your customers – they all know what Facebook is
- People checking in at your business are naturally telling some part of the word about your business
- Offering coupons and special offers for people who check in is a natural way to tap the power of using online tools to drive offline sales.
- Data that you can collect on users and amount of times they check will prove extremely valuable in tracking customers and advertising spend
If your business is not already listed on Places you can add it by following these instructions. The roll-out is a bit spotty across the US today, but my guess is that by next week people will be Places happy.