What Facebook 'Places' Means for Marketers and Developers

No Ad Units Yet, but From Pages to Apps, Opportunities Abound

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Mike Lazerow
Mike Lazerow
If you're like me you probably watched and are digesting the Facebook Places announcement. I've had some time to check it out and to read the documentation and what follows is a brief perspective from my point of view.

What is it?
For those of you who have checked out services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and BlockChalk, the idea, concept and implementation will be very familiar. You can create and check in to places. You can see where your friends are. You can find new places, etc. There's not much new here from an idea perspective. Facebook is getting into the market and they are starting by giving us all of the same stuff we're already used to and little that's new.

Why is it important?
Because Foursquare and Gowalla combined have just a few million users. Facebook has north of half a billion. When Facebook gets into a market, they bring everyone. Literally, everyone.

So that said, let's talk about what it offers for marketers and developers.

Currently the API is limited to read access only. This means we can read information about places and we can ask users via an extended permission if we can read information about the places they are checking in to. We can't currently create places or check people in to things via the API. This is what's called a "write" API and Mark Zuckerberg said this is still a few weeks away.

Facebook Pages
Pages are what excite me the most. Every place that gets created will also get a standard Facebook-type of page that we're all used to. Many brands, especially in retail and tourism/hospitality, are creating Facebook Pages for each of their locations, branches, etc. Now, those pages could be the actual "places" pages that are generated from this new product. I believe that this is what will happen and companies that jump on board early will see huge benefits of moving fast. We saw this with the "Page" product launch in March 2009 and the "Like" launch in April 2010.

Facebook provided some information for "claiming" a Place Page as your own and creating a real page out of it. Currently this seems like something that is still in the works. When a "place" is created it is not technically a page yet. The owner of that Place has to come and "claim" the Page. Officially, Facebook says, "Places can only be claimed by official representatives. Verifying a Place claim requires uploading some kind of official document, such as a local business license or Better Business Bureau accreditation."

There's absolutely an opportunity here for new Facebook apps, or "tabs," on your Facebook page. Initially developers could probably easily build an app that reads in a specific "location" and displays all of the people who have checked in. There's likely much more developers can do here, especially once the write API is opened up.

That's all I have for now, but this should get the discussion started. Also, if you didn't get a chance to watch the presentation and would like to take a look you can view a replay here. In addition, Facebook has updated its help section to include a FAQ specifically aimed at advertisers looking for information on Places. You can find that here.

Michael Lazerow is CEO of Buddy Media, whose Facebook management system is used by global brands and agencies. He founded Golf.com and sold it to Time Inc, and U-Wire, which was sold to CBS. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/lazerow.
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