In our previous post, Building Relationships on Facebook, we continued our series on Facebook by going in depth about how to build relationships on Facebook, via messaging, wall posts, comments, and status updates.
In this post, we continue our discussion with a look at a compelling feature in Facebook, Places, allowing location tags for users.
Use Facebook Places
In August, 2010, Facebook introduced yet another innovation: a location-aware feature called Facebook Places. Focused primarily on the 425 million active members using Facebook on mobile devices, it has three main features which allow members to:
- Share their current location with their friends
- See friends who are currently near them
- Discover new places around them
It is this last item that has advertisers and business owners salivating. For years the idea of location-based advertising has been tantalizingly close — we’ve been blogging about it for a decade. If you’re a retail establishment, the attraction of knowing when current or prospective customers are in your neighborhood is strong. You could reach out to them with coupons or other offers to attract them to your store.
Enterprises that hold offline events such as product demonstrations may also benefit from this type of information. Facebook Places offers a way for members who are attending such real-world events to notify their friends of their location and invite them to participate.
Of course, for Facebook members with tons of friends, the addition of another datum to the News Feed may just serve to annoy those who really don’t care where you are at the moment. Location-based social media pioneer Foursquare solves this problem by asking its members to specifically subscribe to the location information of friends. It remains to be seen if Facebook takes this step rather than requiring users to opt-out of showing this information on a friend-by-friend basis.
Adding Places to Pages
Facebook a couple of types of pages: your regular profile or timeline page, which is associated only with a real person, you; and a Page (often called a Like page or a Company page; formerly called a Fan page – confused? Yeah we are too. It’s just a page you can have people Like, and Follow, and possibly Check In with.) Businesses that have locations can create a Page, associate it with a location, and encourage members to check in from that location, for example when they attend an event.
More than 42 million business pages exist on Facebook, and each one can be associated with a real-world place. 
Overall, while it may seem that Places will primarily benefit retail businesses that can give coupons and other incentives for people to check in to their establishment — just like Foursquare — the feature really does have potential for enterprises as well — for example as a tool to support couponing and other promotions or as a way to boost participation in corporate responsibility efforts such as blood drives or roadside clean-ups.
But there may be a downside to Facebook Places, and it’s kind of typical of Facebook’s approach to members’ data. You can tag people using Facebook Places without their consent or prior knowledge. The site does send a notification email when someone checks you in, but if you’re out on the town, you’re not necessarily following email.
We’re sure Facebook considers this nothing more dangerous than tagging someone in a picture of a past gathering, which has been possible for years now. But it is different. You can tag Facebook members who are not actually at the location, and if that location were, for example, a topless bar, problems could definitely ensue. Or imagine you said you were washing your hair Saturday night, but a friend checked you in to the exclusive nightclub you went to instead. Someone could get upset.
Members could also make an event look larger than it actually is by tagging hundreds of absent friends. The possibilities for problems with this feature are endless. Once again, we expected that there will be a hue and cry about the new Facebook feature. And once again, we expected that Facebook will respond by enabling members to change an obscure privacy setting to protect themselves. There was a hue and cry, and Facebook does offer a privacy setting to disable the feature.
Next up: Top Things to Do on Facebook
Using Facebook Places is the 124th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 334. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2
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