Information has leaked that Facebook is set to roll out location-based features for users and brands as soon as this month. According to Advertising Age, users could see location options any day now.
These features include the ability to check in at various locations, including retail spots and restaurants. We’re unclear as to whether users will be able to add or customize their own locations, but we are fairly positive that this move will put Foursquare, Brightkite, Gowalla and other location-based services in an uncomfortable position.
Meaning for Users
The ability to check in to different locations is, as we’ve reported previously, a game-changing feature for Facebook. Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and other startups that specialize in location-based features and services — and that often take checks from corporations for branded integrations — might have trouble competing with a Goliath like Facebook if the push toward checkins continues. Facebook has the userbase and mainstream adoption to bring location-sharing tools to a huge audience, excluding these newer competitors from the market. And if the company is rolling out features now, that likely means an acquisition is not likely, either.
If this feature does indeed roll out soon to end users, it also brings with it another round of privacy concerns. It’s clear that not all users understand the risks of public sharing or how to protect their likes, groups and updates. When they risk exposing their locations to the general populace, another layer of security precautions (along with the usual media FUD) is sure to follow.
Meaning for Brands
McDonald’s will be the first brand to test the new features. The McDonald’s integration will involve users checking in at McDonald’s restaurants and showing featured food items in their posts. Digital advertising and marketing shops around the country are preparing to construct campaigns around this new functionality.
It’s interesting to note that this move further puts Facebook into competition with Google for local advertising dollars. Being able to target users geographically as well as demographically gives hyperlocal advertisers an edge and might cut into Google’s most profitable revenue stream.
Would you use Facebook rather than Foursquare to check in to restaurants, night spots or other locations? Do you think Facebook can beat Foursquare and other services to making location checkins mainstream?
We welcome your comments and will continue to follow this story closely as we wait for an official response from Facebook.