Facebook Places: Taking Check-ins Global

So I’ve long thought that services like Gowalla and Foursquare (which allow you to “check-in” when you visit certain locations, see which of your friends me be there or see what special deals or services that location is offering) has a big hurdle in terms of widespread adoption. In short, there aren’t enough people using these esoteric little services yet to matter much.

But all that might be about to change with Facebook Places, which took the idea from Gowalla and Foursquare and made it automatically available to its hundreds of millions of users on Wednesday.

More thoughts, after the jump.

Now, you can use your Facebook mobile app to check-in somewhere; see which of your friends have been or are there; see what photos they might have taken or what comments they might have made there; and, of course, leave your own comments, photos, videos and other data. And that information becomes stored at that location, well, forever.

Not only can you check yourself in at a place, you can check your friends in as well.  So if I’m at the CD & Record Exchange and I see a friend there, I can check him in at that location as well. It works similar to tagging your friends in photos.

(You can disable that setting — “Friends can check me in to Places” — in your privacy settings. Note that it’s default setting is to allow people to check you in.)

Anyway, this could be the thing that takes check-ins to the big time in terms of widespread adoption. Crafty publishers and marketers will leverage this to do interesting things. Adventurous business owners will find a way to offer promotions and deals to encourage check-ins to drive real, physical traffic their way. News organizations might find a way to use this as another “citizen journalism” tool or a way to deliver hyper-local information to readers. There are lots of possibilities.

Widespread adoption remains key. But niche use could be significant as well.

Say what you will about how Places affects competitors like Gowalla and Foursquare (who are actually in some vague way “partners” with Facebook on this roll out), the real clash happening here is between Facebook and Google, as each compete for your limited time.

Places also finds more pervasive ways to allow its members to be brand messengers among their myriad circles of friends.  This goes beyond seeding your message to a few key “influencers” with large followings; there are influencers in every social group, no matter how small. They key is reaching all of those influencers with brand messages. Put simply, it’s another new way to harness good ol’ fashioned word of mouth.

A final note: CNET notes that Facebook’s Places pitch shifts the rhetoric on check-in services from what we’ve been hearing from Foursquare and Gowalla. For Facebook, it’s not about immediacy or marketing — even though we all know that it is — but about aggregating and annotating events and experiences in the physical world.

Which can be really cool or really scary, depending on your point of view.

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2 Responses

  1. Adoption of GeoSocial services is critical but as I’ve travelled to other cities I’ve seen how there were more people using these services than I thought.

    I’d assumed that GeoSocial was 12-18 months away from building a critical mass but with the introduction to Facebook places I think that timeline has been greatly accelerated.

    The most fascinating aspect of Facebook Places so far is seeing a large number of FB friends that had little to no percieved interest in Foursquare or Gowalla suddenly checking in.

    Love your final paragraph.

  2. Thanks Keith.

    I’ve been monitoring my group of friends to see how widespread the use is and have so far been very surprised. There’s of course the usual gang of early adopters, but there’s also folks I wouldn’t consider very social-media savvy checking in all over the place.

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