Location-Based Services: Foursquare vs. Facebook Places

social media toolsAsk any marketer about trends for 2011 and you’ll undoubtedly hear the phrase “location-based services.” However, among Foursquare, Facebook Places, SCVNGR, Gowalla and many others, marketers have a lot to choose from.

In this article we’ll cover the two major players—Foursquare and Facebook Places—and see how they stack up.

What are location-based services?

Location-based services allow users to connect with others based on their current locations. In most cases, people use their smartphones (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) to “check in” to businesses like restaurants, bars and stores they visit. These locations are then broadcasted to their online friends.

Many of these services also have a gaming component, allowing members to compete against one another or to collect rewards (like online badges) for their activities.

foursquare badges

Foursquare offers badges that are unlocked as an incentive for checking in at local venues and events.

So why do marketers love location-based tools so much?

A few reasons:

#1: Free word of mouth

Because each check-in is broadcasted to a user’s friends, there’s natural word of mouth advertising that occurs through the site. Marketers’ theory is that if users see their friends check in to a location, they may be more likely to visit.

#2: Reviews

Most location-based tools allow users to write reviews of the places they frequent. These reviews are then shared with other users who check in to those locations. This can have a real impact (either positive or negative) for businesses hoping to be discovered by new customers.

#3: Specials

Sites like Foursquare and Facebook Places allow businesses to run specials that are unlocked by users who check in to their locations. For example, a pizza place could create a special that gives free breadsticks to customers who check in five times. These specials encourage frequency, first-time visits and competition among customers. More on this later.

Now let’s compare the two major players—Facebook Places and Foursquare.

Users

In 2010, Foursquare announced that it had more than 6.5 million members worldwide.

Facebook, on the other hand, said that as of October 2010 (just two months after its launch), more than 30 million had tried its Places service.

It’s unclear how many of these users can be considered active versus simply setting up accounts. But based on download volumes, it’s clear that Facebook made a big splash upon its launch.

Activity

In 2010, Foursquare claimed that its users checked in to locations more than 380 million times.

Facebook has not yet released its Places check-in numbers.

But Business Insider (2010) recently ran a one-month comparison between the two services, looking at the difference in total check-ins at several popular NYC restaurants.

foursquare vs facebook

Business Insider found that five times as many users checked in on Foursquare than Facebook during a one-month period at a NYC restaurant.

Foursquare overwhelmingly dominated in the experiment, with 5x (or more) the number of check-ins in some cases. It’s unclear if these numbers apply to all businesses in all cities, but Foursquare users appear to be far more active than Facebook Places users.

Deal Options

As mentioned, both Foursquare and Facebook Places encourage businesses to create specials that reward users for checking in to their locations. But options for these specials vary slightly per site.

For example, as part of its “Charity Deals,” Facebook lets businesses donate a certain amount of money per check-in. This type of special is not currently available through Foursquare.

subway

Subway recently offered a Charity Deal on Facebook, offering $.10 per check-in to promote heart health.

deals

Using Facebook Places Deals, businesses can choose to offer one of four types of deals and can set restrictions on date, time and availability of the deal.

Foursquare, on the other hand, allows businesses to run what’s known as “Mayor” specials. These deals reward the individual who has checked in the most to a location.

Foursquare is also in the midst of expanding their check-in deal options for businesses to better compete with Facebook, so you’ll begin to see a lot of overlap between the two.

Reach

One of Facebook’s key advantages over Foursquare is its large, built-in network of users (600 million+ of them!). And because Facebook launched long before Foursquare, many of its users had time to build up their own networks of friends.

In fact, the average Facebook user is connected to 130 friends. This means that on average, each Facebook Places check-in has the potential to be seen by 130 of a user’s Facebook friends.

Foursquare users appear to have much smaller networks, and thus a much smaller reach. The site doesn’t appear to disclose data about the size of its average user’s network. But anecdotally, it’s hard to find many users with more than 50 friends, meaning that each check-in may be seen by just a small group of users.

Quality of Reach

The majority of Facebook users are connected to their intimate social networks—friends, family, co-workers, etc.—while many Foursquare users are connected to those they’ve never met (e.g., Twitter followers).

From a word-of-mouth standpoint, it can therefore be argued that Facebook check-ins are more valuable than those spread strictly through Foursquare. It’s the difference between telling your best friend where you’re hanging out versus telling a complete stranger. Your best friends are going to be far more likely to trust your recommendations.

facebook check-in

Facebook check-ins are published on the user's wall and unlike Foursquare, Facebook Places allows users to tag a friend in their check-in.

foursquare check-in

Foursquare offers the option to post check-ins to users' Facebook walls and Twitter feeds.

Please note that Foursquare users are able to share their locations to Facebook and Twitter, but very few choose to do so.

Tips

Let’s look at five tips on how you can begin capitalizing on one or both location-based services:

#1: Set goals

Looking to increase foot traffic? Want to see your regulars visiting more often? Before you launch your first Foursquare or Places special, be sure you’ve defined what you’re trying to accomplish. This will help you to better analyze your results and adjust your campaigns as needed.

#2: Educate yourself

As with most social media tactics, it’s important that you first understand the tools from a user’s perspective. Doing so will give you better insight into how and why your customers are using these tools, and may give you insight into what your competition is doing.

#3: Learn from others

Sometimes the best ideas can come from the least expected places. So before launching into a large location-based campaign, make sure you know what others are doing out there. Take a look at your competition, obviously. But also venture outside of your industry. You never know when you’re going to stumble across the idea that kicks your brain into high gear.

#4: Be creative

The biggest mistake you could make in launching a special would be to do something that’s already being done. Find something that’s going to make people turn their heads. Something that makes them say “Huh?” And, most importantly, something they’re going to tell their friends about. If you’re not excited about your deal, they probably won’t be either.

#5: Promote, promote, promote

Once you’ve launched a promotion through Foursquare, Places or any other location-based network, make sure you get the word out. These technologies are still relatively new for most consumers, so there’s a certain level of education that has to go into making these things successful. So upon launching, make sure you have in-store signage to promote your special. Send out an email blast with information on how to use the sites. And if your special is unique enough, send information out to local bloggers and media.

There’s no cost associated with setting up a profile on Facebook Places or Foursquare, so if you’re looking to launch a location-based promotion, there’s no harm in giving both a try to see which service generates more buzz and drives traffic to your business. Just consider the above tips before you launch your campaign.

Have you been thinking about launching a location-based campaign? What results have you had? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Ryan Goff

Ryan Goff is VP and director of social media marketing. He oversees online and offline social media campaigns and social media marketing efforts for clients such as Texas Instruments, Ocean City, Maryland, and Visit Baltimore. Other posts by »




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  • erickwrites

    Ryan,

    There are also the physical and social radii to consider. Sure, my Facebook page consists of people I’ve known from school, work, or other places; but many of them live hundreds to thousands of miles away from me. They can tell me about a great seafood restaurant 1,000 miles away from me all day, but it doesn’t help me a bit. What I mean by the social radius is the average amount of time that has gone by since the last time a Facebook user has talked to a person on their list. I have Facebook friends I talk to in person, other’s I never see but chat with online at least once every few weeks, and then those whose profiles I forget are on my list and I haven’t seen them in person in 10 or more years.

    It is like this, before the rise of nation states and international commerce, Britain was the world’s leading super power. Not long after nations began to explore the world and trade with one another Britain began to lose its world domination. Rather than trading with other nations, they continued to hoard their money. While the extrinsic value of their wealth may have grown, the intrinsic value of their wealth diminished because they hoarded it rather than used it to create relationships. In the same way, the amount of Facebook or Foursquare friends a person has does not solely determine the value of Places or check-ins. One must also consider the intrinsic value of those friends–the physical and social radii–and by that one can better determine the true value of Foursquare check-ins and Facebook Places.

    Erick

  • http://www.colemanmg.com Antonio Coleman

    Ryan I think its the reviews that holds a lot of power, because people really read that stuck before engaging in a company..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://flavors.me/douglaswright Doug Wright

    Where is the data to support this statement? “Please note that Foursquare users are able to share their locations to Facebook and Twitter, but very few choose to do so.”

    Most of my foursquare connections regularly publish their check-ins to Twitter and Facebook. And it isn’t hard to also publish this to LinkedIn (via a connection between your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts).

    I’m not trying to say that your statement isn’t true but I’d like to see the evidence that you based it on.

  • JamHan

    Erick,

    Like you, I also have facebook friends who live just down the road from me, to around the world from me. I certainly wouldn’t expect friends from Japan or Canada to hop a flight in order to check out the new local sub place I discovered. Nor would I expect any of my friends who I do not regularly communicate with (but who are local in proximity) to show up as a direct result of my checking in to a location. Thank you for pointing this out as I believe this should be factored in to the equation to determine the value of a given location-based service.

    ~Katie

  • http://twitter.com/DMBrowers Derek Browers

    Based on the data that we’ve seen at MomentFeed I can tell you that the Business Insider comparison used here is not necessarily representative of other cities. Foursquare dominates check-in activity in New York City but in some other cities Facebook Places is more popular. So platform popularity really varies by the user base of each region. It’s one of the main reasons we argue that large brands engaged in LBS need to have a presence on multiple platforms.

    Additionally, I can confirm that most Foursquare users are not pushing their check-ins to Twitter. I know that it is popular for those in the space to do so, but the data suggests that the average user isn’t doing it.

  • erickwrites

    Katie,

    Definitely. I’m glad you appreciated it, and I appreciate your kind words. I always try to look at things from various angles.

    Erick

  • http://flavors.me/douglaswright Doug Wright

    Derek,

    I think you make a great point when you said “…most Foursquare users are not pushing their check-ins to Twitter. I know that it is popular for those in the space to do so, but the data suggests that the average user isn’t doing it.”

    I think that one thing that makes it difficult to compare Facebook Places to foursquare, Gowalla or SCVNGR is that the former is a much broader and less LBS savvy crowd and the latter are the opposite. Hence why the comparison isn’t a true oranges to oranges one if you drill down to who the users of all of the above are.

  • http://twitter.com/DMBrowers Derek Browers

    Yeah, I completely agree. The check-in traffic we observed in Austin during SXSW this year pretty much proves your point re: user types.

    It will be interesting to see if any of those users whose first LBS experience was on Facebook will eventually migrate to another platform as their awareness of the space increases.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1317342986 Susan M. Merlo

    I am an Internet Marketer and have a bunch of restaurant-clients who, of course, love the whole concept of Foursquare / Facebook Places. It’s a great traffic driver and gives immediate social proof. Users really seem to have fun with it, too!

    From a personal standpoint, I’m a foursquare user over Facebook Places user for the simple reason that Facebook Places doesn’t work on my Blackberry! I’d love to use Facebook Places, but for some reason, Blackberry/RIM just can’t get it right yet. Anybody else have the same experience?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1317342986 Susan M. Merlo

    Yikes – Guess I better get over to Disqus and get that pic changed! :)

  • Nei Grando

    Foursquare is perfect here in Brazil, Facebook Places does not work here.

  • http://twitter.com/nancymurray Nancy Murray

    I’d be interested to know what some of the demographics are for the heavy users of location based services, particularly age. Personally, I’m fairly active online and heavily engaged in online marketing for my organization, but have no interest in advertising where I am to the world, even if it’s to get a special deal. Is this a personal bias, more age related (nope, I’m not in my 20s anymore) or something else?

  • http://weightplateworkout.com/ Robert Pinto-Fernandes

    Let me first say what a great article this is Ryan. For a long time I have believed that there is much unused potential in the relationship between Social Media and local businesses.

    Erick, I love your point about Britain ostracising themselves in world trade, it made me think of another example of ostracism, Facebook itself. It is currently the internet “superpower” in many ways, but surely this will not last forever, and maybe it should focus on building relationships and incorporating other businesses into its own business model. Sorry if that was going off on a tangent. :)

    So thanks for the article Ryan and thanks for your alternative point of view Erick!

  • http://twitter.com/Pride_ly Pride.ly

    I think I got as much value from everyone’s insights as I did from the article. I myself refuse to compare the two. I am on four Square and unlock my badges because its fun. I do send out random shout outs. People comment back and I do comment on friend’s checkins.

    I do share checkins on Twitter. I have about 75 friends on Foursquare and rarely accept friend requests that are not local.

    I’m also the authorized Community Partner in Minneapolis for a reward based LBS app called WeReward. Part of our signup for a consumer is to select either Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare to share their checkins on the WeReward app.

  • watkino

    From the perspective of a local merchants serious about rewarding actual customers – both services have yet to lock down any kind of verification said “customer” was actually in their business. I became the “Mayor” of multiple businesses on Foursquare without ever having set foot in the businesses I was supposedly mayor of.

  • Lkinoshita

    At @UltimateBurger, data shows 33% post to Facebook, which is great because it counts as a keyword in the status update (more valuable than just a ‘like’).

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    Great overview of the two major LBS networks. I wanted to add my perspective.

    Obviously, it seems as if the early adopters have so far been most active in LBS networks. So for our company, we’ve had much greater activity on our Foursquare locations than Facebook Places. While I agree that the worth or quality of Facebook friends should be more, I don’t think Facebook has been as effective at really pushing their Places functionality. So for our time/effort investing in LBS specials, I’m still heavily recommending Foursquare over Facebook. The Foursquare push to Twitter makes it extremely easy to follow up immediately in real-time with customers).

    Also, to answer an earlier comment regarding demographics. We’re seeing the bulk of our users ages 18-35 (around 50 – 60%), with the balance in the 35-55 age group. Gender is around 40% female and 60% male, and our biggest markets (out of the western region) are San Francisco , Los Angeles, and Las Vegas (probably due to urban/tech friendly/early adopters). Again, this is focusing on one region but I think it probably accurately estimates the typical Foursquare demographic at this time.

  • Guest

    Hi Ryan – if you like to see how these 2 services compare to each other for about 500 locations we’re tracking on Geotoko (http://geotoko.com) – send me an email at hello@geotoko.com and I’ll send you the login info. You’ll be surprised how much Facebook Places has caught up and how many people use it, even though they get very little press mention in tech blogs compared to foursquare.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/mdyoder Michael D. Yoder

    It seems as if the idea is that a business should use one or the other LBS. Why not use both FB Places and Foursquare? What the heck, why not use Gowalla, Yelp, Urban Spoon, WeReward, and Scvngr, too. I realize it might be a bit much to try and do them all. But, there is nothing that says you can’t use more than one. It all starts with knowing your audience and which platform or platforms are most likely to be used.
    Not sure I agree with several of your broad statements about Facebook check ins carrying more value and your unscientific assessment of “quality of reach”.
    Thanks for getting the discussion started. The comments added much value.

  • http://twitter.com/marcoarreguin Marco Arreguín

    I’m developing a LBS for my city, I’m exicted and I think it will work in México, but I’m starting with my city, I’m trying to develop a site: kind of directory for the users, but trying to take the bussiness of the city to the web, and I have a service kind of foursquare or facebook places merged with things like google hotpot.

    Some people say to me that it will fail, because all of that already exists. But I have been analyzing and I watch that not so many people use these services already.

    What do you think about it?

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  • http://www.mikemccready.ca/blog/ Mike McCready

    I was of the same opinion about Facebook Places having more potential reach and thought that the opportunity for further reach lied with Facebook Places. That being said, I don’t think Facebook can rest on it’s laurels. Foursquare has a lot of potential. And right now, Facebook Places don’t allow check-in deals outside of the US.

    While I see the larger user-base of Facebook a definite plus to using Facebook Places, I think the potential for innovation and fun with Foursquare may in the end win.

  • Janet

    @Nancy I agree. I’m a 20-something and active in social media, but I don’t use the check-in features for personal use.

    Does anyone know how a blog or website could use these location-based services? Or are they strictly for local businesses and places that can accomodate foot traffic?

  • erickwrites

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for your kind words. And yes, I think the probable downfall of Facebook’s dominance is something to consider. Though, I do wonder, since so many sites rely on Facebook to drive a large amount of traffic to their sites, if that interconnectivity will help sustain Facebook.

    Erick

  • http://twitter.com/jbrink2great Jeremy Brinkerhoff

    What a great discussion this is! I have already learned so much. I wanted to pose a few questions though, for furthering the discussion. I am an Internet Marketer as well, but I have a background in Psychology. My questions are as follows:

    1. What social dynamics affect the popularity of a given service in a given area?

    Some of you mentioned that Foursquare kills it in NY, but not in other major US cities. And Facebook rules the smaller areas. So why is this? I feel like it is a combination of the ever-elusive WOM factor AND level of technical knowledge of the area. Most people I have come into contact with through my business HAVE NO IDEA about these things, and need only to hear about them from a maven or connector like myself. Once they do, they often put it into full affect and run with it. This leads me to my next question.

    2. How do we, as marketers, harness THAT trend? Moreover, how do we reach that sweet spot for WOM communication?

    I feel like this brings everything back to branding. A deeply consistent brand image makes its way into people minds, sometimes below their awareness. Think of the way in which a yellow “M” on ANY sign in the world makes us immediately think of a quarter pounder. Or think of the way in which the cheesy jokes made by Southwest flight attendants makes us think of how great of a time we have on Southwest flights. Of course, these both can be seen differently, but my point is that understanding the origin on the basic information people need to be compelled to initiate a WOM transaction is the real key to this – and thereby all of our marketing efforts in general.

    3. What will be the best way to develop an effective LBS Strategy?

    Right now, it seems like understanding the social dynamics of the area should be the first step. Next, deciding what platform is most popular with respect to the target market. Then, what is the best way to meet those people with the proper info to make them want to use the service. Finally, using the service hopefully converts to business.

    Thoughts on this?

    -Jeremy

  • http://weightplateworkout.com/ Robert Pinto-Fernandes

    You’re welcome Erick. Yes it’s a complicated issue, and I suppose that interconnectivity could work either way, there are a great deal of sites heavily reliant on Facebook for traffic. As I saw someone write recently, Facebook’s downfall would most probably be caused by a huge change in their monetization strategies and/or terms and conditions. The business model they use at the moment has certainly proved very successful!

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  • http://twitter.com/NowIamHereToo Christopher Hamblin

    As I am building an online business I wasn’t seeing too many benefits initially except for special events at a physical location but this week I heard that just by regularly ‘checking in’ at my office it would help with SEO. Any body no how tue this is?

  • Amy H.

    This discussion feed has definitely been helpful. I work for a national restaurant chain that is heavily franchised. So, we can’t necessarily claim all of our sites, and run deals on them. Thus, foursquare is perfect for us, because Franchise Partners can choose to claim their sites and run deals or not.

    I wish that FB Places would get their act together. It seems that for now at least, you cannot link more than one FB location to your fan page. I stupidly claimed the corporate office and linked it to our page before I realized this.

    Now, I am stumped as to what to tell our Franchise partners. We have a policy that there only be one restaurant page for any give country. This allows us a central messaging point and we have one person running our FB and Twitter messaging. Now that FB places pages are almost indistinguishable from the FB fan page, we risk all of our franchisees running wild with their places pages. How can we possibly police all of these sites for consistency of brand message?

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    @Amy – Being in the corporate office, you can claim anything you’d like really. It all depends on how centralized your franchise system is, and how much control you give to Franchise Partners (and how many there are). I’ve claimed our affiliate locations on these sites so I can manage and control them (again affiliates have a lot less control than Franchisees. Foursquare recently introduced an updated platform, so you now have a lot more control over what types of specials you run in which locations. You also have a good, unique variety of specials. So maybe you let Franchisees run a particular type of special if they like (they can opt-in or out) and you control setting it all up and admin. duties? Just a thought…

    Also, Facebook just updated their “Search” function recently so it should now distinguish between a brand or page, and a place. At the beginning this was a problem I was worried about, and “diluting” the corporate authority on Facebook. IMO it’s currently still behind Foursquare in terms of effectiveness and (location) branding though, so I’m sure they’ll fix it in time.

  • Leland

    Awesome comment Erick. I liked your simile comparing britain’s history with whats going on with FBP and 4[]. Really well written, thanks.

  • Leland

    I would just like to pitch in that the article didn’t really dig enough into the negatives of the “deals” and “discounts” part of the application… one of the primary ways it brings new customers in.

    The problem is that the type of person pursuing these deals is going to *expect* further deals every time they go somewhere. If you give someone a 50% discount to go somewhere, and then take that away the next time they come… do you think they will come back or just go to the next 50% discount location?

    This is the primary problem with 4[], FBP and the other competitors… they have not created a model that brings in customers that will decide to stick with your business based on it’s merits instead of the discount they are getting from you. For the time being, I would stay away from using these services as a merchant as a primary way of getting new people in the door… you will probably just end up with a net loss from the heavily discounted product, and very little return customers.

    However, as a social sharing and discovery tool, these are pretty good. :)

  • Leland

    I think Facebook is in the position where even if they make some massive mistakes they will not quickly die. When you have as much momentum and market reach as they do now, it’s a long slow process into bankruptcy, if it ever does happen at all. :)

  • Leland

    Yes, but the problem is that many of those reviews are faked by employees of the company. Therefore, reviews by friends and trusted members of the community will be exponentially more valuable and important then reviews by potentially untrustworthy people. Creating a system that focuses on these quality reviews will be more successful.

  • Leland

    I can’t see why someone would want to publish their check-ins to twitter constantly. Aren’t twitter feeds clogged up by random spam enough already? I don’t have 30 minutes of time to sort through all the useless retweets and check in spam from people in my network…

  • Leland

    Have you advised your cliental of the potential pitfalls of the whole discount concept and the real-life quality of customers that sort of marketing brings in through the door?

  • Leland

    Interesting comment about how it is easier to follow up with customers due to the twitter publish feature. I never thought about how that might be useful to the businesses themselves.

  • Leland

    I’m not sure if this is really the best place to ask a question like that Marco.

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    @Leland – great additional points. As you said, it will depend a lot on the brand and what type of customers you’re trying to reach. Although besides driving new customers, you can also run specials that require a group to check-in, frequency based or obviously reward loyalty (i.e. Mayor specials, etc.) The way I look at it, you’re directly engaging the customer with a special but almost more importantly indirectly reaching their social graph. Although you can’t really measure that reach effectively, I think there is some value to indirectly reaching people’s networks (whether it’s just an impression, etc.).

  • http://www.bradleyericsmith.com Brad Smith

    It’s easy and effective! By monitoring your brand keywords, you’ll notice almost immediately when and where people are checking-in. This creates an easy way to follow-up and create a more personalized touch with them, or just to reach out and see if everything went smoothly (customer service-wise). Also, it’s reaching THEIR social graph on Twitter and Facebook. This isn’t very scalable, but it definitely helps.

  • Leland

    Good post Jeremy, In Reply:

    1. I think your insight about most people requiring a connector/maven to get them into the service to begin with is 100% correct. These services are extremely powerful for putting local businesses in 1on1 contact with their customer base. They are also extremely powerful marketing tools… perhaps one of the most powerful thing one can get from using this service is the motivation to really bring their business to the next level. Finally people can directly connect with you and review you… it really lets you show how awesome your business is and the work you put into it.

    2. There is no secret to harnesses WOM communication. It’s simply trust, honesty, transparency and a commitment to returning the communications of customers. A good brand begins and ends with quality of product and service. These services just make it easier to show your quality product/service… and they also expose BAD brands/services.

    3. Effective LBS strategy is one based around one on one communication, a great product/service and smart use of your user base. :)

    I think the real benefit from LBS so far is for letting the quality of your business get out into the open whereas before it was frequently hidden due to the lack of a local platform upon which others could spread the word.

  • Leland

    True. I agree the value of these services does exist. I just think that they need to focus more on keeping customers coming back instead of throwing out massive discounts to pull people in. :)

  • Leland

    I’m pretty sure in this day and age customers are not used to having a brand actually reach out to ensure they are doing well and enjoying the product. Though for many years this sort of follow up has been the key success factor for the best salesmen in the world.

    I suppose these new localized services, twitter, etc… are allowing brands to bring that sort of followup to their customers on a large scale. It’s a good thing. :)

  • http://www.fromdreamstolifestyle.com Patrick

    It’s interesting to see how in-depth and personal information can get in order to drive traffic, build trust, and grow a companies brand. In a sense it can be great free advertising to those that do log into their location based services. As stated the average facebook user has 130 friends and people are more likely to trust recommendations from friends. I’m very curious to see how this location based service is implemented in business over the next year or two.

  • http://crowdbooster.com/ Ricky Yean

    Speaking on behalf of a friend who runs a coffee shop in Palo Alto, he thinks that Facebook is the best platform because it has the broadest appeal. The idea of deals right now sounds great in theory because he is paying users with product to market to their friends, but at the same time being able to tie that back to results is tough, and Facebook currently does not do a good job of offering analytics on deals.

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  • http://twitter.com/Dibbs_ZA Gary de Beer

    Same here in South Africa.

    I don’t know why FB insists on using the delayed rollout of features model. It sucks when they promote some great new feature and then I find I can’t use it! Their definition of “soon” does not seem to be the same as mine ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/Dibbs_ZA Gary de Beer

    There is a relatively new ‘virtual’ LBS called GetGlue.com which attempts to focus on checkins based on a persons current activity. IE watching TV shows, reading books/magazines etc

    Could definitely be leveraged for the activity of blog reading ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/Dibbs_ZA Gary de Beer

    For me the choice of service is at the moment is down to 1 thing. I can’t use FB Places in South Africa yet! So FourSquare it is. (The others barely have any footprint here either)

    But even if I could there would be some other deciding factors.

    1: What do my friends use..
    The most important issue. Social networks don’t work if everybody is on a different one and they don’t connect. I need to use what they use and here the 1st to market will take the cake. Sorry FB and Google Places – Too little Way too late!

    2: Temporal Relevance/Convenience
    On my Android phone the 4[] app runs in the background and posts updates from my friends in the status bar. I usually read these immediately, without actually opening the app at all so I know in real time where everyone is.

    If Facebook did that the activity in my stream would just flood me with useless updates that I just wouldn’t be able to keep up with. I only usually log into FB once a day for a catch-up so old place check-ins don’t have the immediate relevance anymore. FB is just too big now IMO

    3: Targeted Audience
    My 4[] friends list is much smaller than my FB list, as it only includes peeps who I actually meet IRL or keep in touch with regularly. One or 2 are people I voyeristically stalk but nobody is perfect ;-)

    The point is that they singed up for the service because they wanted to share and be shared with.

    This is the main reason I seldom post my 4[] check-ins to FB as I feel those friends (most not even local) would not be interested in those details. And my Twitter followers are even less interested because I am no celebrity with a paparazzi following (I think). I belive my behavior would be the same if I could use FB Places.

    4: Fun
    My 4[] friends and I are often in heated competitions over place mayor-ship and badge collections and the weekly scorecard. This fun aspect is great.
    I even drove across town to go to a club (way too old for that these days) just so I could try to get the Super Swarm badge which I didn’t get in the end anyway; but I had fun trying.

    Ironically the Swarm party was organised via Facebook events but then FB is perfect for that.

    5: Tips & Reviews
    I have posted a couple of Tips and Reviews of my own, but it comes down to point 1 above. Do I believe a review if it was posted a significant (more than a month) time ago. The world changes and service changes so do I judge based on an old review?

  • erickwrites

    Thank you, Leland. :)

  • erickwrites

    It’s kind of like the U.S. economy. It’s built on interconnectivity. Or in political terms, international trade.

  • http://twitter.com/nancymurray Nancy Murray

    Thanks for the demographic info Brad, I think that’s about what I expected.

  • http://www.soerens.com LauraM

    I work at a car dealership as a Marketing Coordinator. I would like to set up our location as a Place on Facebook. I know how to check in at a place, but I do not know how to establish our business as a location. Any suggestions on how to do that?

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  • Leland

    It’s a great way to keep your company afloat even if it’s core isn’t doing well. Plus, a lot of their value comes from their huge user base… when you have that many users, it’s hard to fail spectacularly. :)

  • http://www.seomasterexpert.com/ Swapan Kumar

    very exceptional ideas provide by Ryan. I have just make a member in foursquare. thanks for great share!

  • http://twitter.com/LozzalApp Lozzal Dot Com

    Excellent article Ryan. Thank you. Given these insights we’d be interested to see what you think of our new offering.

    Rather than going the social media route our new product Lozzal (getlozzal.com) encourages you to get out and explore the world around you with friends and family through activity suggestions in response to vague inputs like “I’m bored” or “we’re hungry”. We downplay the “tell the world what you’re doing” angle and instead suggest you spend your time actually DOING things in the real world :) . We’re working with a number of major players in North America and just won 2nd place in Microsoft’s CTIA FastPitch contest.

    Perhaps not perfectly on topic to this site, but we’re still curious for your opinion.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Hi Erick,

    First off, thanks for the comments.

    I couldn’t agree more in saying that the size of your social network means nothing if you have no influence over them. If all of your Facebook friends are 10,000 miles away, your Facebook Places check-ins will mean absolutely nothing to them.

    But I’d argue that most Facebook users are connected to friends/family/co-workers that are within a close geographical proximity. This has always been the nature of Facebook – offline connections taken online. It’s obviously not the case for every user, but I’d say that the majority of users are connected to those within their offline social network. Friends. Co-workers. Classmates.

    I’d also argue that, based on personal experience (no data to back this up), most Foursquare users tend to be largely connected to people they’ve had no offline interactions with.

    You are right in saying that if your Facebook friends list is composed of people who live a million miles away or you haven’t talked to in years, you’re going to have no influence over them. But I believe most Facebook users have much closer connections and a larger influence.

    Thanks again for the debate!

    Ryan

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    No, thank you! Appreciate the nice words.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Have to agree with you here. Unless they do something to REALLY tick people off (can’t even imagine what that would be), they’re going to be around for a long time. People’s whole lives are on Facebook; they’re not just going to abandon it overnight.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Have to agree with you here. The reviews are critical, and anything businesses can do to encourage (positive) reviews along with check-ins will go along way. Particularly as the search engines begin to give more weight to comments within location-based networks.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Agree here. We’ve also seen a lot of agency folk writing reviews for their clients without full disclosure. Really hurts the credibility and long-term potential of our industry.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Hi Douglas,

    Probably should have qualified that a bit more. I based that on our own clients’ experiences. We’ve found that around 10-15% of users publish their check-ins. We’d love if Foursquare would do more to encourage cross-network publishing, but it almost seems like an after-thought now.

    Thanks for the question and comment!

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Wow – that’s great. Have you guys done anything to encourage publishing to Facebook? That seems high compared to some of our client data.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Thanks for the comment Derek. Unfortunately, the Biz Insider study was the only data that appeared to be available. I can only speak to what’s out there and what we’ve seen personally.

    I will say, based on personal experiences, that Facebook check-ins appear to be on the rise. As more and more people use the service and publish their updates, the word will spread and adoption will climb.

    I’ll agree with your statement about check-ins published to Twitter. With our clients, it’s around 10%.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Good point. The LBS-specific networks appear to be dominated by the typical early social media adopter – not by the average Joe. I’ll be curious to see if Joe eventually moves to Foursquare after gaining some experience through Facebook. My gut tells me that they won’t, however.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    This is part of the reason I prefer the Facebook check-in. There’s too much happening on Twitter, and it tends to clog peoples’ feeds. It feels like part of the natural conversation on Facebook.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Good point re: Blackberry. Hadn’t considered that.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Sorry guys – hopefully it’ll be there soon. I was a die-hard Foursquare fan when Places first launched, but have since changed my tune.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Great question. I tried to find some of this data but was unable to locate any good sources. I’ll keep my eyes open.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Great point. Not sure exactly how they’d ever be able to verify, but it’s certainly a sticking point for a lot of our clients.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Very good point about brands being able to respond to check-ins. I imagine Facebook will incorporate this feature in the near future, but you do raise a very good question. Is being able to comment as a brand more important or the quality of the check-in and word of mouth more important to brands?

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    I agree that marketers should be using both. Certainly no reason not to. They’re easy to set up and they’re free.

    However, most brands will likely need to focus on one as to avoid confusing consumers. “Check-in on Facebook OR Foursquare” may be confusing.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Tough question to answer without more info. There’s certainly a ton of consumer interest in LBS, but competition is fierce.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Sure! Go to your phone, load Facebook, then load Facebook Places. Click on the search bar that says “Find or Add a Place”. Should be simple from there.

  • http://mghus.com Ryan Goff

    Thanks for the nice words!!!

  • http://www.extra-assist.com Donna Caissie

    The problem with location-based social media is that unless you’re a brick and mortar company, you can’t really take advantage of location-based media. As a virtual company, people can’t check in to my place, and Google hates me because I don’t have a publishable address, but my business is very real (I pay Uncle Sam, etc.) and active on non-location-based social media. Social media needs to include virtual businesses in their mix.

  • Bcirce

    Donna, I disagree, several of our clients do not have physical locations, and there are plenty of brands that are marketing on Fourquare that do not have physical locations too (see any TV show, network, travel destination, etc).

  • http://flavors.me/douglaswright Doug Wright

    It would be GREAT if there was integration between foursquare and FB Places. Yes, you can publish your foursquare check-ins to your FB Wall but it won’t check you in on Places.

    It’s a funny coincidence but my parents, who are in their early 60′s, just bought themselves iPhones. They used FB Places to check in everywhere they go. And I mean EVERYWHERE. It’s kind of funny, actually. Even though I am surprised they are embracing Places I would bet any amount of money that they will never move to fs, gowalla, etc.

  • http://lighthouseinsights.in/ Prasant Naidu

    Ryan just a thought if i have checked in to a game store via foursquare and publish it on fb, then am i not just flooding the steam of people who might not be interested in games. I use to do this but my experience says that we need to draw a line between different social networks, their reach and powers.
    over to you Ryan :)

  • http://lighthouseinsights.in/ Prasant Naidu

    very true people are understanding that social media doesn’t mean publishing or sharing everything, everywhere. :)

  • Bas

    Hey Leland, could you elaborate on this? What are the pitfalls? What kind of quality customers would this bring?

  • http://profiles.google.com/emmonskr Kevin Emmons

    I think they’re both great and you can use what works for you. However, I don’t see any reason why Foursquare wouldn’t be better for almost everyone. Foursquare can publish check-ins to Facebook and Twitter and be configured on the fly. As fas as I know Facebook is rather islandish with it’s approach and you can set up apps to push but seems rather clunky and not configurable on the spot. Plus the game layer is critical for FS with wining badges as you go. You have to give incentive now a days for things to stick.

    Those seem small and I’d almost ignore it if it weren’t for the other services being based off of FS data, Assisted Serendipity and LocalMind for example. For right now seems like Foursquare is the hands down winner to me. The donation is a feature that could be easily added to Foursquare if it were ever a threat to business model. Both great options though and no need to switch if you’re using one, but if I were talking to a new user, I would personally push them to foursquare.

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  • http://www.onqmarketing.com.au Quentin Aisbett

    Great to see someone putting the question out there. I think despite Facebook’s reach Places is yet to gain control. For this reason I agree that promotions should at this stage trial both platforms.

    If anyone is looking to Foursquare, I have recently posted ’5 Foursquare Ideas to Inspire your Customers’ at http://su.pr/2VUOty

  • http://www.brosix.com/ Brosix

    I think FourSquare has a head start but Facebook Places may blow up because some many people are already on Facebook.

  • Leland

    The main pitfall is that the majority of people coming in the door for a 50%++ discount will never return. They are just hunting the discounts. Basically what this means is the merchant is paying a huge premium to get people in the door, but the people coming in are people that already know they can get a 50%++ discount at the resteraunt next door anyways, and will not be coming back.

    Ends up in pretty much the same # of returning customers, except you drop a whole bunch of money giving away zero profit or worse food/service and potentially even aggrevate your existing clients who, at the same time, are not getting any discount at all.

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  • Michael Baggelin

    Foursquare in Greece adapt new Location Based Services at the local http://4sq.gr. Any business can attract new customers with a Special offer!! Facebook Places is still very young but possibly a competitor…

  • Christian Burne

    Great blog post, Ryan. It inspired me to write some of my thoughts from my perspective (Web Content Management and LBS): http://bit.ly/mhkWpK

    I think there is great potential future in Web Content Management vendors (such as Sitecore, EPiServer, Day, Percussion) integrating LBS systems into their product offering to allow marketers to target customers at the point where they can make a sale similar to how they’ve all tried give marketers tools to broaden their reach into the Social Media space.

  • http://www.TangoWithTimAndSole.com Tim & Sole

    Thanks for this very interesting post. We are doing research about these 2 programs and it’s great to find this article!
    We have a question, though, it looks to us that FB Places and Deals are different features. From our research, Facebook gets a profit if your deal is purchased, whereas it is free to register your business in FB Places, but there’s no way to promote deals for free by only having claimed your Place. The only way your business is being promoted is by people checking in. Please let us know if we are wrong.We were able to see that Foursquare is a free service both for claiming your venue and for offering deals… how do they monetize their services? Thanks!

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  • had

    And what is your opinion about Oust.me – http://oust.me – geolocation gaming platform?

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