Geo-Location Finally Checks In With Facebook, The Biggest Focus Group Ever

by , Aug 19, 2010, 2:15 PM
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I interrupt the usual stream of tweets, status updates and check-ins to say a thing or two about the brand new geo-location tool Facebook Places, which, if you think about it, actually conflates all three. (Or it could, if I could just get access to it in this, its first morning of existence.)

But, though I feel handicapped by not being able to play with it this morning, here's what excites me about Facebook Places: it will finally let us all get a handle on how important -- or maybe even unimportant -- geo-location is. While many of the rest of you natter on and on about the features it has, whether people actually use Facebook Places, and how they use it, is all that will really matter in the end.

As readers of this column know, I am not entirely on board with geo-location. Part of it is that I don't go much of anywhere, but part of it is there are a lot of people who find checking in to be too much information. At least, up until this point. Ask yourself, social media intelligentsia, if you were lawyers instead of digital media specialists, would you even know what Foursquare is? And if you did, how much time would you really spend playing around with it? Is telling lot of people where you are a normal human behavior that has just been waiting for technology to enable it? Or isn't it?

One thing is for sure: with Facebook in the game, the entire game changes. It's like going from playing checkers to playing Chinese checkers; it takes a fairly limited game and blows it out into one with entirely new dimensions - reaching all the way to a place where, theoretically, 500 million people could start checking in, or at least be exposed to that behavior. (By comparison, Foursquare is at about two million-plus users right now.)

Though I don't use Foursquare much, Facebook Places actually piques my interest. Why? Because it will let me, as a social media columnist, get in on the next great social experiment of figuring out whether this will become a real phenomenon. I don't really learn much about checking in as a new human behavior when it's occurring within my Twitter posse. Most of you are somehow involved in social media and marketing; therefore, check-ins are an accepted part of our communal feedback loop.

But if I start doing this within Facebook, I start exposing the activity to friends from college and high school, and the mothers I share carpooling duty with. There's very little overlap between those people and most of you. I know what some of you are saying -- it's long been possible to post check-ins from dedicated geo-location services to other social networks with more users. Some exposure has already been happening. But once this starts being a Facebook-centric activity, it becomes easier for those exposed to the behavior to try it. That fact is game-changing.

Now that Facebook Places exists, geo-location either goes viral. Or it doesn't. Facebook, the largest focus group the world has ever known, will let us know the answer.

0 comments on "Geo-Location Finally Checks In With Facebook, The Biggest Focus Group Ever ".

  1. Mark Burrell from Tongal
    commented on: August 19, 2010 at 2:32 p.m.

    whoa!

  2. Pamela Tournier from Focus: Productivity, Inc.
    commented on: August 19, 2010 at 4:52 p.m.

    Totally on-board with your skepticism about geo-location. Appeals to a certain slice of a certain demographic, made still smaller being limited to certain smartphones (e.g., iPhone = 5% of Mobile devices). Checking in to get dubious distinctions (badges, ownership of a virtual place, etc) is 'not normal.' If there's personalized rewards involved, it starts to make sense, but too many of these geo-loc apps make it easy to 'game' the system with fake check-ins. You can be 3 blocks away but still check in with 4square, for example, without ever setting foot in the store. (Although what that fake check-in says about you as a person is almost as pathetic as lusting after virtual trophies in the first place).

    You can add to our basic skepticism of the whole check-in concept a healthy distrust of FaceBook, which has a sketchy reputation in both the Privacy and the 'partnering' areas.

    FB is huge, but huge doesn't mean it's a winner.

  3. Lisa Foote from MixMobi
    commented on: August 19, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.

    Like Pamela, I agree with your observations.

    Perhaps this is the equivalent of Facebook swatting smaller upstarts and defending the geo-location space (even if it never fully leverages / exploits it).

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