A new location network just checked in to town… Places

This is an article by David Clare.
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Everyone knows what Facebook is. For many students, they have been using the social network site for years, ever since they decided to ditch MySpace and move onto what was then ‘the next big thing’. Now Facebook is determined to stay as the biggest thing in social media, by keeping up with the game.

Facebook began as a networking site for college students, created by the now 35th richest man in the world – Mark Zuckerberg. If the site had stayed closed off to the public, the site would not have been such a success, and he would not be able to donate $100m of his own stock without flinching. It is the mainstream user-ship that has aided in it’s success.

To demonstrate the overwhelming size of Facebook, the best way is to use the much overused comparison to the sizes of countries. That is, if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd most populated in the world, with over 500 million users. Pretty big.

The size of Facebook means that it has more than enough power to take on any social network, and the latest is Foursquare.

Foursquare is one of many location focused social networks. There are many about but the real kings of this niche are Foursquare and Gowalla, with Foursquare being the most popular overall.

Foursquare is all about checking-in. You check-in somewhere to let you friends know where you are, they can then see if you are in a nearby location – resulting in spontaneous meet-ups. Fun, engaging and on that rare occasion actually quite useful.

This has been good for PRs too. Firstly, PRs are some of the most social people around, meaning they are early adopters of any new social network, and one that promotes meet-ups adds excellent value to them. However, in the end, the most important concern of PRs is the client.


PRs have been able to use Foursquare mainly for special offers, with free coffees, discounts and sometimes some pretty exclusive deals or content for ‘mayors’ of certain venues. This is great for both the client and the customer.

With the success of Foursquare, Facebook has now decided to enter the location based social network ring. They have introduced Facebook Places – Facebook’s answer to Foursquare and Gowalla.

Places is actually pretty simple at the moment, there are no offers, there are no badges or incentives for checking in… but there are some differences that are added value to what Foursquare has to offer. Of course, the main thing is the Facebook integration.

Places shows who has checked in nearby, which of your friends are there too, and most importantly allows users to tag others in as well. The issue with Foursquare is unless you roll in a crowd of tech geeks, it is likely your friends were not checking in too (not a problem for me, more chance of becoming mayor!) But with Facebook Places, it just takes one person to check everyone in – and this is good for businesses.

I am going to ignore the privacy and security issues here, that is for you to check up on your own – so long as you don’t want your friends checking you into here, there and everywhere…

What is means for PR

Foursquare has been quite useful for retailers especially, being able to know who your biggest fans are and rewarding loyalty. However the problem with Foursquare is the user base, since they ‘only’ have 3 million users. (It may be important to note that Foursquare still manages to generate 1 million checkins per day – it is the network for people who are serious about their social location).

So if Places has a potential user base of 500 million users, it is definitely going to get the public relations industry’s attention. It is another opportunity to create relationships with customers, and even would be customers. It is also an opportunity to manage what people are saying about you – it is better to be aware of checkins with the status ‘this place is terrible’ than to be completely oblivious. It even gives the opportunity to message the person back and offer a response.

There are a huge range of opportunities with Places, too many to write into an article, and something better left to a brain storming session. However, it is important for us all to be aware of these new opportunities, and to dive right in to better understand these new networks – especially one that is part of Facebook.


  1. It’s crazy to think that without being particularly original, the shear size and popularity of Facebook can squash innovative networking ideas by simply copying or being very similar. Of course, it doesn’t always work (remember “celebrities on Facebook” to try and steal Twitter’s thunder….?). Next on the list, email!

    Great article!

  2. I’m looking forward to seeing how email works out for them. Personally, I just can’t see Facebook as my main stop for the internet. Emails deserves a piece of software, and Mail is perfect for me.
    Also, with browsers like RockMelt, there is no need to even visit the site!

  3. Facebook is turning into a monopoly on the internet! While it is convenient to have access to so many features in one location, sometimes I find myself itching to browse to other pages just for a change of cyber-scenery. I really hope the “little” guys like Foursquare and Gowolla can stick it out. Location based networking is not something I’ve taken part in as of yet, but it is a great idea with many benefits to PR professionals. I look forward to seeing how this plays out down the road.


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