Facebook Places: The Location Aware Service – What is it and how’s it being used?

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What is Facebook Places?

Facebook Places is a new app for mobile phones that enables Facebook users to alert their friends to their current location. Similar to other location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla it enables people to provide real time updates of where they are what they’re doing, whilst on the move.

What are consumers using Facebook Places for?

Facebook Places enables people to take advantage of unexpected coincidences such as discovering they’re at the same concert as friend.

Users “check in” when they arrive at a location and see whether any of their friends are nearby.
When a Facebook user “checks into” a location an update is automatically sent to their friends news feed. They can also “tag” friends who are the same location by way of a photo or status update.

Although users can determine how much information about their location is shared, the very nature of Facebook Places has sparked debate about online privacy. Many security experts have voiced concerns over how the functionality has been implemented, particularly the fact that users are opted into most features by default.

Despite these issues I expect that the sheer size and popularity of Facebook will make the service a success.

What’s the ecommerce opportunity with Facebook Places?

Because Facebook Places is dependent on physical access to locations it offers little benefit for businesses operating exclusively online, however for those with both an online and bricks and mortar presence, the opposite is the case. Some businesses are already using Facebook Places to increase customer footfall by offering discounts, free gifts etc for checking at certain locations. I expect this type of activity will increase as more and more businesses integrate location aware services into their websites via the Facebook Places API.

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