There has be all manner of speculation and rumour circulating over the last week or so about how exactly Facebook is going to approach the whole ‘location’ issue after seemingly shutting down its Places and Deals sites.
But much of the evidence suggests Facebook is even more focused on location now that it has been to date.
As I’ve already suggested, the latest feature updates Facebook rolled out recently actually puts location in a more prominent position; right in front of every user, every time they post a status update. And Facebook has been very clear that ‘check-in deals’ won’t be disappearing anytime soon either.
So why all the mixed messages? It seems clear to me that Facebook has realised that using location as a standalone product just won’t work. If it seeks to integrate location more into the fabric of the entire platform I think it stands to gain in a big way.
Here are five reasons why Facebook should care about location:
Facebook has already done the hard work. Whereas services like Foursquare and Gowalla have struggled to attract users, Facebook is in the enviable position of having nearly a billion of them.
Despite Foursquare’s fairly impressive rise, we are already seeing signs that Facebook check-ins are becoming more popular and more effective for brands.
What’s in it for me?
I’ve often felt that one of the biggest barriers to location services was the ‘what’s in it for me’ argument. Why should I check-in on Foursquare or Facebook Places?
For many of us ‘tech early adopters’ it has become second nature, but few of us achieve real benefit from it on a consistent basis.
Now, I realise part of the reason for this is that services like Foursquare are still fledgling, but by integrating ‘check-ins’ into Facebook status updates (much like Twitter has for some time), ‘check ins’ require no thought whatsoever, leaving Facebook with a ton of location data to play with.
That’s right, many of the new features Facebook has rolled out are supposedly there to help users protect their privacy, but many are also there to help Facebook in the future too.
Location still remains the nirvana for social businesses like Facebook. You only need to look at the massive success of Groupon and the relative success of Foursquare (perhaps not in user numbers but when it comes to the commercial deals that have been set up using the platform, demonstrating a clear hunger for this type of functionality) to see there is something there.
Businesses want access to Facebook users, but traditional advertising is less and less effective. I don’t think there will be any shortage of businesses who would be eager to jump on this bandwagon.
Money, money, money
And this all means one thing: money! Facebook has a great opportunity to tap into this trend namely because it has the users to make it take-off and also to get businesses weak at the knees with anticipation.
Let’s not forget that Facebook itself is still frantically searching for new money-making strands. This could be it.
If you need any further justification for the importance of location-based services, just look at the mobile revolution.
If I had a pound for every time someone mentioned the importance of mobile… But it’s true, GPS-enabled mobile devices are everywhere and, what this means and what no single company has really tapped into yet, is that these devices brings the social web into the real-world.
Imagine a Groupon-meets-Foursquare-thingy? It would be very powerful and Facebook could do this relatively easily and quickly.