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Six Reasons Facebook Places Might Just Beat Foursquare

By: Guest | December 7, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Nate Riggs, owner of Social Media Strategies.

Recently I was sitting on a panel at a SMC Columbus event watching another panelist speak about social search. Halfway through, my friend Rocky leans over to me and says:

“Google buys up the technologies they want. Facebook just builds them.”

Huh. If you think about it, that’s a fairly accurate statement. Facebook has always been in the game of looking at new ideas for technology, finding the holes, and then figuring out how to make it better, faster, and stronger inside their own system.

Crashing the Location-Based Party

It’s no surprise then that Facebook Places entered the location-based scene a few months ago.

I’ll admit, being an avid Fourquare user snared by the very addicting game mechanics, I was a bit skeptical as to how Facebook would enter the room.

For the majority of 2010, Foursquare has led the race in attracting both sides of the network – businesses and human users.

But in the long run, I think Facebook Places might just win. Here’s why:

  1. The GPS is spot on – You would think if your core offering depends on GPS, it would be important for this feature to work seamlessly, right? The catch is Foursquare has always had issues with GPS accuracy. Facebook Places, on the other hand, always seems to know exactly where I’m standing and the businesses nearby.
  2. BIG captive audience – You know the stats already. Barring any disasters, Facebook will most likely reach a billion users in the next few years. In terms of adoption, it’s typically easier to get your user base to buy into a new feature in a familiar system as opposed to on-boarding users to a new platform.
  3. Tagging friends might be the key – Admittedly, there have been some privacy concerns with Facebook Places users having the ability to tag friends who visit a location with them. That said, every time a user is tagged, those updates are distributed across the social graph using the Facebook wall system. As more users start checking in on Places, more and more users will become aware of how to use Places, thus driving adoption.
  4. Facebook deals could be disruptive – Similar to the Foursquare Deals Nearby,  newest feature to add deals to Places locations offers an automated (and free) way for local businesses to attract new customers. This could be a very attractive feature for business owners.
  5. Facebook is always on – When is the last time you can remember Facebook being down? For me, it’s been quite a while. Foursquare on the other hand always seems to be “experiencing surprising new problems” or “over capacity.” Human attention spans are shorter these days. In the highly competitive space for mobile applications, you have about five seconds to deliver value though an app. If your app fails, we move on.
  6. Facebook Places doesn’t need Twitter – Consider Foursquare adoption has been largely tied to leveraging Twitter as a distribution network. Take Twitter integration away, and I’m willing to bet Foursquare numbers would be cut dramatically. On the other hand, Facebook already has its own (much larger) distribution network where users are already spending time. Facebook Places doesn’t need Twitter to survive.

What’s your take on this? Do you feel differently?

Nate Riggs works with mid-sized and large organizations to help them adopt and use social media communication tools and build social media offerings designed to serve their clients. He is a proud dad and lucky husband who enjoys music, photography, and distance racing and can be found blogging about business strategy, communications, parenting, and life in Columbus, Ohio, at nateriggs.com.

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