Written by Tehneyat who currently resides in London, United Kingdom from where she is blogging for Mindjumpers. You can follow Tehneyat on Twitter @tehneyat.
Two days ago, Facebook announced how they are going to use Facebook as a platform for communication between users and franchises. Facebook is offering people deals from different places they check into (coffee shops, clothing stores, restaurants etc) by checking into Places on Facebook.
This is great advertising for consumer communities on Facebook. As Facebook advertising is right now, it allows marketers to buy ads that point towards their Facebook fanpage. Consumer centred groups will now be able to draw their consumers targeting them according to geo-location services offered. Brilliant marketing strategy.
Sharing and Location Based Services (LBS)
The whole aspect of ‘sharing’ comes in when you allow Facebook applications to access your profile. Basically you’ll be sharing whatever you do in real life with your friends online. Sometimes your friends and you will be sharing the same experiences together offline and sharing this (ie that you’re doing it) online.
In terms of using Facebook as a location based service (LBS), you have been able to do check-ins and read reviews of friends/other people who had already been to those places to see what they had to say about it through other LBS such as Foursquare and Gowalla, and share your locations through services such as Google latitude, TripIt, Dooplr, Glympse, Brightkite and numerous other apps.
Sharing what you do offline online is not what’s groundbreaking here. What makes Facebook doing this so special is viewing it from a marketing perspective and the 500 million active user community that lives on Facebook. Although Foursquare has mainly been used by users to check in to places (to a certain degree a one-way relationship), this is the first time LBS carry great marketing potential for marketers to push themselves into the consumers space where it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Regarding privacy issues, as long as you as an individual user remember to opt out, then all your offline activity won’t be registered online to your Facebook profile.
Social Services and Me
I was recently asked why the social aspect of this does not appeal to me. Looking at it as a marketing tool, I think it’s an absolutely brilliant strategy of merging offline and online with real time users and consumers. Uptil now, pages have been able to market themselves through status updates, but combining the genius of LBS allows them, with their friends, not only to have single check-ins, but group check-ins if they check-in with their friends to get a group discount. However, when I first heard about Foursquare I wasn’t exactly excited (actually my initial response was ‘why’d you want to be the mayor of Mc’Donalds?! I was obviously wrong, many people do), but I still feel the same way about Foursquare as I did back then. I don’t have the obsessive need to check-in everywhere I go, even if they are offering a free croissant with your coffee.
The only reason I use Foursquare is because it allows me to track back to places I have been. Works out like somewhat of a dairy of good places I’ve visited. So instead of checking into places because I’m getting a free coffee or starter or a croissant, I check into places I really like and enjoy, so it creates real value for me in terms of word of mouth marketing. Next, I use Foursquare to check where’s a good place to go for coffee or dinner through its nearby tips, because people offering their opinion regardless of goodies offered carries greater significance and value to me.
What’s to come in the near future
I really like the fact that Facebook is being milked for what it’s worth, but what I really don’t like is when people pretend like Facebook’s ideas are ground breaking. They are not. They are just combining other services all into one: feeding the marketers their consumers. I really don’t like the fact that Zuckerberg and his team are promoting this. I’m already thinking, which companies have made deals with Facebook to be part of the first ones to roll out ‘Places’ and ‘Deals’, what preferential treatment is being given to which companies, and does Zuckerberg and his team really expect that people are going to sit back and base their social interaction through Facebook alone? Dude, seriously?! Firstly, Pew Research Center just published a report which basically says that it’s a fraction of people on Facebook (ie we’re talking about 1%, 2% and 5% of users) who use LBS on Facebook. Secondly, I don’t understand why Zuckerberg is trying to create a monopoly and market out of Facebook. Why didn’t he connect with brilliant minds that are out there running other social platforms and for example incorporate FourSquare into this grand plan of his. So basically, he’s ‘stealing’ FourSquare (and Gowalla and other LBS)’s idea of location based service, and is more interested in running his own little show rather than seeking to cooperate with them and building something GRAND and fantastic for users. Basically, what all this so far is showing is that Zuckerberg still hasn’t learned to play with the other kids.
The future lies in apps continuing to develop as they are developing and then one person coming along and merging them together to feed offline consumer behaviour through online tools. Well, as Facebook is doing, but Facebook is limiting themselves to keeping all the a) users to themselves b) market to themselves c) not interested in sharing d) monopolizing the market
Facebook’s strength lies in its 500 million users, and Facebook intends to keep ALL of that information selfishly to themselves (everyone up till this point has been playing the ‘sharing is caring’ game, including Google that allows you to export all your contacts to Facebook upon initial sign up). Basically, the new features announced on Facebook allow you to download stuff you have uploaded (pictures, videos, posts, events, etc), but it does not allow you to export your contacts, nor does it let third parties access that information, other than users’ names. So basically what Facebook is doing is putting up a big fat ‘STOP’ sign, meaning that all other third party services cannot build your social graph somewhere else. Meaning, for example, when the day comes that Facebook is so 2000-and-late and you want to export all your contacts from Facebook to your new social platform, it’s not going to be possible as Facebook won’t allow other services to access this information.
There is great potential for the development of a social platform that picks up all the apps, combines them into one, picks up users from those apps and give them a more intergrated approach to being a consumer in this world than just checking in through Facebook. Facebook is just a platform for marketing and one day Facebook will be looked back upon as the ones who started altering the communications platform to where LBS were joined with consumers as well as actively targeted users to create active offline consumers activities to online. By the way, Lars Rasmussen who recently announced that he was joining Facebook, completely makes sense now.
In any case, just to spice things up, I was hoping for a really brilliant hacker to come along… (that’s when things would get messed up, and the revolution of a new social platform will start to develop and take place), but luckily Google came and showed who’s really got the big balls in the house. Woop woop! Go Google!!