Five things you need to know about Facebook Places

[ First Posted, October 5, 2010, http://emergingspacesmalaysia.posterous.com ]

1) How would Places compete with Foursquare and other location-based services?

The initial public reaction is that Facebook is competing with Foursquare and Gowalla, but this is not the case at all.

Places is a new application programming interface (API) that allows Foursquare and Gowalla to integrate their location-based services onto the Facebook platform. Also, Booyah and Yelp services will also be implemented onto the platform. Previously, there an API was made for games which allowed developers including Zynga as well as the likes of Playfish to come in.

In theory, Facebook does not need Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, or Booyah, for it can easily deploy a location-based service that would probably gain an immediate following from its 500 million members. However, partnering with Foursquare has its advantages, as it would be similar to what Facebook did with Zynga. Once Zynga gained its fair share of traction and following through its popular games such as Farmville, Facebook had all to gain and was able to generate more earnings through such ventures.

The united Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla platform still has its competitors though, namely other location-based services such as Brightkite, Whrrl and Koprol. However, metaphorically speaking, when comparing location-based social media services, Facebook is like the Godfather who just walked in, and now the rest of the minions have to kiss it’s ring.

2) Facebook’s platform is the main strength of Places

The Facebook platform and the familiarity and habits of its half a billion users worldwide that are already sharing and engaging on it would be the main drivers of Places.

No other location-based service so far can come near Facebook in terms of scale and mass adoption. Online users will soon see the reach and speed in which Places would be rolled out and promoted in their respective regions and markets; there’ll be no escape from it as multitudes of Facebook users would no doubt jump on the bandwagon.

3) Privacy could be an issue

The entire industry of location-based services is relatively new, and there are still a myriad of possible ethical issues that have yet to be resolved or thought through. The biggest challenge could still be privacy. Brands and marketers, while facing up to the challenge of harnessing location-based services, also have to understand that they cannot be intruding on users of Places if and when they launch location-based offers and promotions.

4) Marketers and brands can stand to gain from Places

With the added integration of Foursquare into Facebook, marketers will be now able to integrate location-based and social media services better than ever before, compared to when all the platforms were separated.

This means fewer clicks for users of these services and faster interaction straightaway. Users would benefit from more activity online with friends and family while brands and marketers will be buying into more intrinsic and connected networks of consumers.

For the corporate world and the retail industry, Places could represent a fun way to get people coming back to their stores both online and offline. Think of the loyalty programmes that could be incorporated using this new service. We could start to see extra tabs on news feeds besides the usual comment, share and like, users could see a new “Who has been here” tab at various online stores and locations, and could follow suit to make their purchases.

5) Places has huge potential here in Asia

The potential and adoption rate for Places is huge in this region, especially in metropolitan cities in Asia. The travel industry as a whole (airlines, guides, reviews) has alot to gain.

Think about well-connected cities with high digital consumption such as Seoul and Hong Kong or smaller but equally vibrant cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, this new service was made for places like these where there are large groups of mobile, tech-savvy consumers who are hungry for fads, and there’s always way more activities and things to do after 5pm, therefore there would be a lot more opportunities for “checking in” to numerous locations and places.

Location based services are still at it’s infancy, and the future holds alot more exciting things to come.

Contributed by: Hieu Kau Sern, Digital Director, and Nicholas Chhan, Digital Manager at Starcom MediaVest Group Malaysia.

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