Facebook announces “Facebook Places”

September 7, 2010 by calvin@fourpeasconsulting.com

On August 18, Facebook made the official announcement and launched their new Places service. I believe this feature will quickly elevate the popularity of geo-location marketing. Facebook Places allows a Facebook user to share geographic location information with his/her network. This information can be updated through an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other smartphone. Several partners of Facebook including Foursquare and Gowalla participated in the launch.

What does this mean to you?

Let’s say I’m at Hollywood Vine, a local wine bar. I can update my status so my friends know where I’m hanging out. Within Foursquare or Gowalla, I receive points for frequency of visits to a particular venue or overall visits. At present, there is limited redemption value in obtaining awards or points other than bragging rights. (Note: As of the date of this entry, I am the “Mayor“ of Hollywood Vine according to Foursquare.)

Here’s where the potential gets interesting. Foursquare has about 2.6 million users. Gowalla has less than 1 million users. A savvy retailer can create an offer for a 10% discount or a two-for-1 coupon upon a verified check-in. With minimal nationwide users, Foursquare or Gowalla mobile offers have limited reach. Facebook has 100 million estimated US users so the potential reach is far greater.

Foursquare, Gowalla and the other partners are off building features and functionality to tap into the Facebook user base. Hopefully this includes creating value around points and awards. Companies will have opportunities to target customers utilizing Facebook and based on current location.

Smart companies will employ customer segmentation with geo-location marketing to focus on the types of customers they look to attract. Conceivably, messaging can be targeted by customer type, activity, even sale item. Truly savvy companies are already capturing customer transaction data.

The ability to track marketing activities utilizing geo-location combined with market segmentation presents another opportunity for companies to measure marketing effectiveness. Done properly, this will reduce overall marketing costs while increasing efficiency.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned.

Note: Facebook Places is only available within the US. Places can be accessed with an iPhone app or through the touch.facebook.com website for other smartphone users.