facebook places: right move or out in left field?

The trouble with trying to keep up with geosocial media developments is how the landscape changes all the time. Like last week, while I finally wrapped my blog entry on SCVNGR, Facebook sailed out of left field in unleashing its new Facebook Places feature. My quick take: It brings all the good and the bad of Facebook into play.

The good: Facebook has an immense user base — in the neighborhood of 500 million and counting. You can check in somewhere and learn your friends are nearby. Or catch up with friends if they’re already out somewhere. Or stalk somebody … er, forget that last one. Anyway, even with the surging numbers for Foursquare, chances are a lot more of your friends are on Facebook and you can see what they’re up to while staying connected to this huge social media community. Anyone can create a place, anytime, anywhere.

The bad: Because anyone can create a place anytime, anywhere, you could end up with duplicates (which detract from shared experiences), erroneous/misspelled entries or intentional misinformation. Facebook’s track record shows little interest in data hygiene if these happen. The app itself brings no value-added. You can check in and comment and … that’s about it. You can’t become a mayor or earn a badge or post a review, tip or photo. Maybe those are coming. But maybe these aren’t so much bad as just streamlined. Let’s save the true scorn for …

The ugly: If you run a business or work at a college, your venue may exist but good luck making it a place of true engagement. When I look for a check-in on my campus, the created venue is State University of New York at Oswego, a name almost no one uses (please call us “SUNY Oswego”). I could create SUNY Oswego, but then you’re into duplications and you can’t consolidate dupes as easily as on Foursquare. Nor can you claim a venue as easily as Foursquare. If at all.

OK, let’s say I want to claim the Facebook Place of State University of New York at Oswego, being the college’s director of web communication and social media canary and all. If I try to claim the venue, I get to this screen:

Hm. I don’t happen to have a digital copy of our articles of incorporation, since SUNY Oswego was founded in 1861. Nor a local business license, BBB accreditation or, well … does Facebook — which started, remember, in the higher education market — expect any college to have these articles?

This Facebook maneuver seems the wicked stepsister of the community page. Not the actual fan page we manage (with some 7300 often-engaged fans) but the spam-filled artificial construct by Facebook where the info comes from Wikipedia. The one I inquired about helping months ago — in case anyone has questions or seeks legit information — but haven’t heard from Facebook about. When community pages rolled out, creating more problems than solutions, Michael Fienen penned an excellent blog entry titled Facebook Hates Your Brand. With unclaimable, unverifiable and uncorrectable Places proliferating, this observation is more apt than ever.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “facebook places: right move or out in left field?

  1. jesskry

    Great thoughts, Tim. Ugh. I hate Facebook Places and will not be using it. I dont see how its helpful, beyond just jumping on the geosocial bandwagon.

  2. eff

    Admittedly, this point is coming from someone who doesn’t use foursquare or gowalla, but I’d venture that most of the people who do use them aren’t trying learn where their friends are — they’re not looking for a social experience.

    I think they’re either using it to publicly position themselves as fun and active (it’s a way to manage their personal brand) and/or using it as a kind of personal diary. They can go back and look at where they’ve been and use it to recall (hopefully) good memories.

    But your points about about a bad / difficult user experience are all well taken…

  3. Lou Borrelli

    I like Oswego College with State University of New York in small font underneath, centered….but I digress.

    Facebook is turning into Facebot, with a political void – its not right or left or center – a black hole of epic proportions that threatens to swallow the universe as we know it – pancake tweets and all…

    My sense is that the more it does, the less special and cool it is and thus becomes a bland utility like Con Ed or Verizon…

  4. JP Rains

    As a geo-social enthusiast, I am not thrilled about Facebook places. Not because of security concerns, competition for emerging networks or because I’m trying to dislike Facebook. I just don’t think it will be fun.

    From the looks of things (I don’t yet have access to places, being from Canada) Facebook may just bore people out of the geo-social space. Users will just see another location post and immediately skip over it like some poorly targeted ad.

  5. I haven’t tried Facebook’s version but seems to me FB is just trying to cram as many of the different features of social media as it can. Status like Twitter, places like FourSquare, videos like YouTube, pics like Shutterfly, etc., etc., etc. I am a foursquare participant but only because I’d like to try to get coupons or discounts from participating businesses. At least I’ve heard that happens? I don’t remember to check in as often as I should, though! I just am moving too quickly to stop and do it! LOL!

  6. Tim Nekritz

    JESS: As always, you probably best summed up my feelings with the word “ugh.” Seems like a “me too!” move.

    EFF: I think the branding/journaling represents a basic appeal of Places, as well as Gowalla, Foursquare and the like. And, as I said under “good” a lot of people who don’t want one more app in their life should like Places. It’s just everything else about Facebook that represents the downside.

    LOU: Remember the old KFC ads: “Do one thing. Do it well.”? Then they branched out to all kinds of things beyond chicken. MTV ditched music videos for whatever dreck they have now. Everyone wants to add new and shiny, whether customers want it or not. Your corporate analogy is right on the money.

    JP: First, I love the term “geo-social enthusiast.” Second, I think many may see this as the next Farmville or “which former MP were you in a previous life” quiz that gums up the feed. Not that 4sq isn’t like that with Twitter sometimes, but I’m not sure if you can turn Places off. And also, the first time you oust a friend as a Mayor on Foursquare, that’s when the fun really begins.

    KERRI: I have yet to capitalize on a Foursquare deal, but I expect to some day. Just like I expect to start a regular running routine again. But I really like the community experience of it. And Facebook really is starting to look more like an imitator than an innovator.

  7. Not sure how it would work with a public university, but most private schools are required to submit articles of confederation to their respective secretary of state. In Missouri, I was able to download the latest PDF from the secretary’s website pretty quickly —probably the first time I’ve been totally impressed with a state-run website.

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