It’s the next big thing in social media, right? 2011 is going to be all about geo-location, right? Well yeah, maybe, but haven’t we been saying that for 12 months already? Wasn’t 2010 supposed to be the year when location-based networking took the social web by storm through Foursquare or Gowalla or a combination of both? But it hasn’t really, has it. And you know why? Because it’s too much of a novelty with not much of a return. It’s lame.
These aren’t my words (well, some of them are). I’ve scoped out lots of people who are both aware of and new to geo-location, and Foursquare is seen as something ‘geeky’, ‘pointless’ and ‘a waste of time’. The majority of people I have asked simply don’t understand why you’d want to let people know where you are all the time, let alone why you’d want to collect meaningless badges or be a major. They feel that it’s dangerous or foolish to plaster your location all over the web. And when I explained to the newbies that you don’t even have to be inside a venue to checkin but simply somewhere in the vicinity (within a couple of miles should do it…), their faces contort into grimaces of disbelief. Understandably.
A couple of people I know feel vehemently that people using Foursquare should ‘get a life’. They see it as the modern day equivalent of train spotting or stamp collecting; Foursquarers are the 2010 philatelists. And let’s face it, they have a point don’t they? I mean really, why?!
Sure, you can share tips on venues, but isn’t that what the likes of Yelp do much, much better? Unlike Facebook, where people share photos and life events, or Twitter, where people share information, or YouTube, where people share video, or Spotify, where people share music, both Foursquare and Facebook Places have a huge ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor. Got the latest ‘Dog’s Best Friend’ badge (yes, it does exist)? Good for you. You sad, sad muppet.
So do I actually care whether Facebook Places challenges Foursquare’s ‘dominance’ of the checkin? Well, maybe surprisingly after that opening salvo, yes I do. Because it strikes me that if geo-location services really are to take off, then it will be people like me, social marketers, who will drive them; we have the answer to the question: what’s in it for me? We can provide the additional incentives that will make the likes of Facebook Places big. Huge, in fact. It’s a location-based marketers’ loyalty-building wet dream.
For what it’s worth, my opinion is that Facebook Places will be the geo-tagged venue of choice for marketers in 2011. The fact that Foursquare reports a million checkins per day and that Starbucks swears by it means nothing. At least, not in the UK it doesn’t (it may be different in the States, where Foursquare has far greater traction and is much bigger). Although Facebook Places is currently limited in its functionality, and although the Facebook team didn’t develop apps for Android and RIM at the same time as the iPhone (why? Too much of a risk?), Facebook’s 500 million audience and the natural link with fan pages give it a massive advantage. I for one will be paying very close attention to what happens with Places and location-based marketing over the next few months. Although, for the record, I still hate it.
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