Facebook turns Placebook

Exciting news for Facebookers. It seems the importance of “where” has finally been realised on the world’s biggest social media platform. Geography has made it to the big time. Real-time location updates are now part of Facebook!!!

Facebook has announced that their new application, aptly called Facebook Places, will allow users who are carrying their smartphones to be able to “check in” to real-world locations such as pubs, parks and concerts.

“What’s on your mind” is no longer the only question Facebook will ask its 500 million active users. Now, it will ask “Where are you?” so users can let their “friends” know their location.

This means that Facebook’s 500 million users will be actively pushed to consider their location and be able to update the world on where they are at any given time.

This is the first foray into the location services craze by the social network. Other location services applications, including Foursquare and Gowalla, have grow in popularity with the widespread availability of smartphones that have GPS and other means of determining the user’s location.

Facebook Places will initially be rolled out through the site’s iPhone application, with other smart phone apps to follow soon. This capability has just been launched in the US, and is expected to trickle down to us Australian users in no time.

So why am I bringing this to your attention?  Because bringing location to Facebook can only do good things for the profile of GIS.

There’s no mention yet if Facebook plans to integrate Facebook Places with business pages, but this is no doubt in the pipeline.  And the implications that stem from this are a marketer’s dream. Businesses will be able to quickly and easily target consumers and promote their services on the world’s most popular and powerful social media platform. By seeing where a Facebook user is currently located, advertisers can target them with specific offers and messages that make the most of their location.

Already Facebook allows its advertisers to do this, but only by offering adverts that align to a user’s current city (a form users must fill out at registration). Real-time location updates take everything to another level. If someone checks in to the movie cinemas at Bondi Junction in Sydney, a nearby restaurant could send them a special offer for a meal while they’re in the vicinity. The opportunities are endless.

Facebook is big business and the ‘geo-tagging’ made possible by this new app is really just the first step of its location capabilities. Like a geo-enabled Twitter, this social media update is making people more location-aware. And it’s making businesses more aware of how they can exploit location for their own finanical gain.

Yet another step towards a more geo-enabled world, which is what we like to see.

Alicia S.

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