Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook "Places". What's It All About?

If you're like me you probably watched and are digesting the Facebook Places announcement. I've had some time to check it out and to read the documentation (a techy perspective) and what follows is a brief perspective from my point of view. Ok. So here is a rundown of what I know so far.

Why is it important?
Because Foursquare and Gowalla combined have just a few million users. Facebook has north of half a billion. When Facebook gets into a market, they bring everyone. Literally, everyone.
So that said, let's talk about what it offers for marketers and developers.

Currently the API is limited to read access only. This means we can read information about places and we can ask users via an extended permission if we can read information about the places they are checking in to. We can't currently create places or check people in to things via the API. This is what's called a "write" API and Mark Zuckerberg said this is still a few weeks away. But rest assured my Irish and American friends...he's on it!

Facebook Pages
Pages are what excite me the most. Every place that gets created will also get a standard Facebook-type of page that we're all used to. Many brands, especially in retail and tourism/hospitality, are creating Facebook Pages for each of their locations, branches, etc. Now, those pages could be the actual "places" pages that are generated from this new product. I believe that this is what will happen and companies that jump on board early will see huge benefits of moving fast. We saw this with the "Page" product launch in March 2009 and the "Like" launch in April 2010.

Facebook provided some information for "claiming" a Place Page as your own and creating a real page out of it. Currently this seems like something that is still in the works. When a "place" is created it is not technically a page yet. The owner of that Place has to come and "claim" the Page. Officially, Facebook says, "Places can only be claimed by official representatives. Verifying a Place claim requires uploading some kind of official document, such as a local business license or Better Business Bureau accreditation."

There's absolutely an opportunity here for new Facebook apps, or "tabs," on your Facebook page. $$$. Initially developers could probably easily build an app that reads in a specific "location" and displays all of the people who have checked in. There's likely much more developers can do here, especially once the write API is opened up. Currently its only available for the iPhone! I'm excited  for when they  release the "Places" app for my Blackberry!!

So will the current 1 million Foursquare users retire their apps?

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