Checking In: Facebook Places Demystified

Chris HolmokChecking in… It’s not just for hotels anymore. It’s for gyms, coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and even your own house. Facebook introduce Facebook Places a few weeks ago allowing users to check into their current locations from Facebook. Some people think they may be late to the game, but there is no denying that with their gigantic user base it could be a game changer.


Well by definition, it is the notification of your location usually via a GPS enabled mobile device through a social service. That probably didn’t help. So let’s start back at the beginning.

Ten years ago Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert came up with a SMS text based service called “Dodgeball.” It allowed people to alert their friends of where they are, and based on what they submitted, it would let you know of other places and people you might find interesting. It went really well and they were acquired by Google in 2005. Google eventually used the idea to create Google Latitude and killed off “Dodgeball” in 2009.

Around 2007 Crowley and Rainert left Google to form “FourSquare” They extended the idea of location sharing and added game elements to it. Players can earn points and win badges by checking in to certain venues in certain cities. You can become a mayor of a venue based on the frequency that you check in.

With Foursquare’s 3 million users, and at least a dozen copy-cat services (including Google Latitude and Facebook Places) they have created a new marketing platform called: Geo-Marketing. Some pretty big players are picking it up. A few months ago Starbucks offered the “Barista Badge.” When players became a mayor of a particular store, they get a $1 off coupon for a Frappuccino.

This is another great platform for marketers. It has a gaming attribute so it keeps customers engaged, it rewards loyalty, and best of all it gets them through the doors of venues. Whether it’s a store or a restaurant or gym, it plain and simply puts butts in seats.

So what is this checking in? What location-based social networking? It is social networking in the brick and mortar world. It’s a game that rewards users for going places and helps them find new places. It’s a new marketing platform that rewards loyalty, and gets people through your doors.

To find out about howother people are using Foursquare, check out these links:

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