helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By , Director of Digital Marketing at Torchbox

Facebook Places has launched in the UK this morning following its US launch last month and I believe its launch will see location-based services go mainstream in a way that the likes of Foursquare haven’t just yet.

If I was to ask you who the Mayor of your town or city is, would you answer with a resounding Churchill like ‘oh yes’ or a game show inspired ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue’? For me it would be the latter. I know the mayor has a big black car and fancy robes. But I have no idea who he or she is.

And that lack of awareness is how I have felt as a mayor or former mayor of various places on Foursquare – the location-based social networking site that allows users to earn points and badges for checking in at venues. If you check in more times over a 60-day period than anyone else, you become the mayor of the venue.

At one point, I was mayor of my local pub, park, church and hospital. I’ve got 32 friends on Foursquare from work and far flung places who may have been aware of this, but none of the friends who I see regularly had any idea about my mayoral prowess because they weren’t using Foursquare.

They do however all use Facebook. And the majority still use it regularly.

That is why I find Facebook’s launch of Facebook Places so exciting. It is quickly going to bring location-based services to a mass market. A load of my Facebook friends have already used it this morning no doubt many more will as the day progresses.

Playing around with your mobile and updating people on Facebook when you’re out and about is a natural part of going out and I believe people will take the little bit of extra trouble to check in on Facebook Places and say where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing. And you certainly won’t miss the Places icon on the Facebook iPhone app as it is right in the middle of the navigation screen. Facebook are giving it centre stage.

As you’d expect, some people have raised privacy concerns, but I don’t think this will stop it becoming huge quickly.

In terms of Foursquare, it remains to be seen what effect Facebook Places will have. The day after places was launched in the US, Fourquare claimed to have had it’s busiest sign-up day ever and it has announced it has now reached 3 million users. This number is bound to be dwarfed by Facebook before long as its 500+ million users start to use Places. Foursquare does, however, currently have things Places does not – the game play, the badges, the ability to become mayor and perhaps this is what they really need to focus on becoming famous for in a mainstream way.

Brands in the UK have used Foursquare as a way of driving PR stories and to show they are forward-thinking organisations. Early adoption has certainly driven headlines for the likes of Domino’s Pizza. I would be interested to know if it has driven business – there is currently no mayor at my local outlet despite the fact that a free pizza is up for grabs every Wednesday to the mayor.

However, if I worked for a brand, organisation or charity that had venues or shops, I would definitely look into Facebook Places, how it works and what opportunities there are (one downside seems to be you can’t add multiple locations and have to authenticate each individual venue – I feel sure this will be addressed sooner or later).

Early adopters will be able to drive PR headlines but it also has the potential to drive interactions with and insight from the people who visit your destinations.

Facebook Places is definitely going places and you may as well take a look to see if it is worth jumping onboard to help you reach your objectives.

For a guide to Facebook Places for Businesses and Advertisers, click here.

To get started on Facebook Pages, you’ll need the most recent version of the Facebook iPhone app or if you have a mobile browser that support HTML5 and geolocation you can access .

Henry Elliss, Tamar
September 17, 2010

Nice post, Rob. Crumbs, what a week it’s been for big launches!

Places is pretty much a skeleton of a service at the moment, but the potential for it is massive. Gowalla have already signalled their intention to use the API to semi-merge the two services together (particularly on Facebook) but I think Foursquare will be most at risk.

Gowalla give you so many added-value things when you ‘play’ – whilst FourSquare has a tonne more users, but from what I can see most of them simply use it as a service exactly the same was as Facebook Places, so they’ll be quick to swap.

September 17, 2010

I think facebook may well get all the credit for bringing it to the masses but in reality I don’t think it will actually have much impact. Most facebook users simply don’t have GPS enabled phones and those that do are already using them with apps likes foursquare, latitude, searching for local places on google maps and of course satnav. Google as always are in the best place to offer local geoaware advertising and are already doing so. It is why click throughs are higher on android than anywhere else because the ads are becoming more and more relevant to the user.

Rob Salmon
September 17, 2010

Hi Henry & Ben – thanks for commenting!

Henry – totally with you on the week for big launches…

Ben – I’m going to be really interested to see what impact it does have! I think it will mainly be iPhone users for now as not sure how many people will use the mobile address – but there are plenty of iPhone users! 20 of my Facebook friends have already checked in on Facebook – be really interesting to see how that number grows over the next few days…

September 17, 2010

Indeed, also doesn’t really help that the touch version currently seems to be broken for android

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