Published On: Sat, Aug 21st, 2010

What Does Facebook Places Mean For You?

Well, If you’re not based in the US, the answer is very little at the moment. However, Facebook Places, the social network’s new location-based feature is likely to be rolled out more widely in the not too distant future and with it more concerns about online privacy. We’ve spent time this week talking to clients letting them know about the opportunities this may present, as well as more practical considerations. Hopefully this post will be able to acquaint you with the basics.

What is it?

If you’re familiar with FourSquare, the concept all sounds very familiar. However, if you’re not; Facebook Places encourages smartphone owners to location-share amongst their friends – with the aim to help users discover interesting places. People can add locations, check-in and tag people who they are with. This real-time data then appears in users profile, news feed and the activity stream for the place users have checked-in to.Why?
Why do brands want to know your location? Well, there are two simple answers. Firstly, brands recognise that people trust human beings rather corporations. You may not realise it, but, you are more trusted than a typical business – and by checking-in, users are inadvertently generating a peer-to-peer recommendation. Facebook has been quick to recognise this higher level of trust and subsequent influence that ‘people like me’ garner within their networks.Secondly, brands can monitor check-ins and then interact with users to offer benefits like vouchers or special offers etc. All of which, companies hope will enable them to establish a deeper relationship between users and the brand – and hopefully increase loyalty, leading to more sales, more often.

How’s it different to FourSquare?
Unlike FourSquare – users can engage directly with a check-in via Facebook, rather than having to use a third-party application like Twitter. Facebook Places links directly into your existing Facebook profile, allowing users to “check-in” to locations via status updates.

There are going to be privacy concerns. There always is with any new Facebook innovation. In particular, news that check-ins will appear by default on users profiles, news feeds and activity stream for the place users have checked-in to will cause concern. At present, friends by default, can check users in without explicit approval or permission.

However, I find myself in agreement with Adam Vincenzini of the Comms Corner who said ‘Privacy concerns will be a major talking point too – personally I think this issue will be the one that runs in mainstream media but not the real issue for marketers – people will adjust, they always do.’ I’d reiterate, that if you use social media like Facebook, you need to be familiar with the T&Cs and privacy settings. Most people now set their profile to ‘Private’ and I’d recommend having a browse and adjusting your privacy settings for Facebook Places accordingly.

This development gives brands the opportunity to “own” their physical locations on Facebook, which will provide a new and potentially lucrative opportunity to engage with an audience based on location.
In addition, news that check-ins will appear on customers’ friends’ News Feeds, will provide another channel for brands to generate organic impressions beyond the existing reach of official Pages or Groups. However, the benefit of engagement will need to be sufficient enough to encourage customers to continue to share amongst their networks experiences and recommendations of Places.

Claiming your Place
Facebook has made it difficult for Places to get hi-jacked by using a telephone authentication service. However, it is good planning to secure your venue now, rather than having to go through the reclaim process.

I’m fascinated to see how the launch of Facebook Places is received. We’ve been hearing about the impact geo-location is going to have on social media and mobile for the last couple of years. Foursquare and Gowalla have made inroads in this area, but Facebook Places could catapult geo-location into the mainstream.

You can find out more information on Facebook Places via the the official Facebook page at

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 13 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. I am intrigued about Facebook Places, and wonder how they will allow guides like ours to integrate with it. We have been loathed to spend time and money trying to integrate the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla when the uptake by local businesses has been slow.

    Personally, I can see huge potential for local businesses with the location based services, but, many local restaurants, cafes, bars etc. aren’t even online, nevermind using social media and tools like this.

    Interesting times for hyperlocal and location based social media.

  2. Ben Cotton says:

    Hey Darren,

    Thanks very much for the comment. I completely understand your predicament and that of many local restaurants, cafes and bars with regard to allocating resource.

    As with all social media initiatives, the business has to look at its target market. If the majority of customers are aged under 35, chances are they will be frequent Facebook users and may have a Smartphone. This, coupled with Facebook’s size e.g. 500 million + members make a compelling business case for social media to be used to as a key communications tool. Facebook Places enables users to have a more beneficial and meaningful interaction with brands.

    Shaky Jakes in Leeds and now Bradford is a great example of a brand using social media to engage its audience.

    If the target audience is older, social media may well be used in a more supplementary role as part of an overall campaign. That said, I think there is real potential for brands particularly in the leisure industry to start rewarding users who log-in using FourSquare or Facebook Places and create loyalty in this way.

    It certainly is an interesting time for hyperlocal and location based social media and Facebook’s widespread penetration could finally be the catalyst for mainstream adoption of geo-location services.

    • I have not heard of Shaky Jakes until now, and, it’s good to see them using Facebook to good use. I have spoken to a few local businesses and their response is that “why do they need the internet?” when their customers are local and know about them, which I think is a fair point.

      It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook Places goes, and what impact it’ll have on sites like Foursquare and Gowalla.

      • Ben Cotton says:

        Shaky Jakes is a good case study of a small business using the internet and social media to promote its offering, engage and retain customers and ultimately grow in size.

        Whilst, some local businesses may not immediately see the benefit of having an online presence, it is a sure fire way to let more people know that you exist, which is never a bad thing. The more people who know about you, the more sales you will generate.

  3. katelynmash says:

    Interesting article Ben. I foresee the majority of people opting out of this function because it’s a bit too invasive. In fact, I wonder if Facebook has taken the precautions of setting up a crisis management plan in case people’s safety is jeopardized. Will have to stay tuned and see how my friends state-side are using it until it hops over the pond.

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hey Katelyn,

      I think you’re right in that people will wise up to the safety implications of this feature and simply change the default setting. If you look at the amount of conversation around online privacy, which led many people to set their Facebook profile to ‘private’, I’m sure the same thing will happen with Facebook Places.

      Whilst, I think there are potentially great opportunities via Facebook Places for both consumer and brand, my own feeling is that anything that publishes location, needs to be opt-in, rather than opt out. If this does not happen, I’m afraid Facebook may be reaching for the crisis management plan sooner, rather than later.



  4. Ben

    Nice post and thanks for the mention.

    Big fan of your blog, check in on it regularly – keep up the great stuff!!


  5. I think the really interesting play here is that Facebook are not going into direct competition with the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla by using their APIs – they’re making them more accessible to the huge Facebook userbase. Indeed Foursquare’s recent announcement that the rate of sign ups increased as a result of doing the deal with Facebook means that users are given the opportunity to use it in isolation.

    A user’s ability to then vote with their sign in to either Places or Foursquare means that we’ll see which service users prefer to use, this is a welcome change to the usual ‘buy and kill off’ approach that the larger social networks tend to use.

    The really cool thing here is that this enables each service to work and fulfil different needs for the individual user, rather than try force upon them a one-size offering.

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hey Matt,

      Thanks for the comment. I think that you’re right; Facebook will expose a much larger number of people to the opportunities associated with geo-location and subsequently, Foursquare.

      In the short to mid-term I expect Foursquare will benefit hugely from Facebook Places, however, in the longer term, Foursqaure will have to adapt, innovate and evolve its offering, in order to differentiate itself from Facebook Places.

      It’ll be survival of the most useful and Facebook has an almost unassailable head start in that respect.

  6. Shannen says:

    I’m from England and places will be in my region soon I’m a little concerned that this means people will be able to view where I live and especially with my children on facebook they will be viewed by god noes who!

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hi Shannen,

      I completely understand your apprehension as a parent and it is certainly going to be an interesting time for Facebook. Whilst, there are benefits to be gained from geo-location games, such as Foursquare e.g. money off vouchers, free entrance etc, I’m adamant these services need to be opt in, rather than an automatic feature.

      As with all social media, it is important that users, especially children and their parents are well acquainted with the privacy settings, which I know is no small task in itself. Conversations need to be had so people are aware of the risks, as well as the many opportunities to gained online.



  7. Great post Ben – as a consultant to small businesses (often just one man/woman band businesses) the privacy issue is a real concern. I do understand the benefits but I don’t think Facebook have really thought the privacy and security aspect through.
    I’m not fan of foursquare either.

    These tools are not something I push mostly because with any slip of the button certain things can be exposed.

    There are other great ways to promote a business online other than these tools in my opinion.

    Thanks again,


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