There is no doubt that social location is one of the hottest topics of discussion and speculation. Given their reach, stickiness and social ubiquity, it’s clear that Facebook will embrace location in a big way – and not just with check-ins. While the basic features will likely let Facebook users opt-in to share their location automatically in their status updates, there are a world of other possibilities for location to enhance the user experience, and generate new ways for marketers to engage with their customers.
We are excited by Facebook opening location because it validates the power of place and time as new additions to the social graph. By opening location to potentially millions of consumers and thousands of developers, we can expect to see greater awareness of the marketing potential of geo-location, as well as the complexity of managing and monetizing the new sources of location data. We also anticipate that it will take dialog in the location ecosystem in a new direction around how to manage the scale problems of location with open, collaborative tools and new data sources.
Here are a few of the ways we envision Facebook could leverage location – and maybe this will trigger a few others from you (which you can post at the end of this piece):
Declared Location: By creating a validated check-in, Facebook can use the declared location of their users to make whatever content is shown to a user relevant based on place and time (geo-relevance of a news feed, for example), which could also dramatically improve the ad experience. If Facebook knows the places you like in the real world, think of how that data can be used by marketers to improve the relevancy of a marketing program. What about location-based advertising or triggering opt-in marketing based on a users location and their brand preferences? Add the ability to broadcast location to friends, and Facebook becomes a service that both consumers and brands can find valuable.
Facebook Events: Give users the ability to organise events in the physical world using Facebook, and share that with their friends… you think maybe brands will want to sponsor those events in tandem with their other efforts across Facebook? Think Lululemon sponsors Yoga on the Green in Central Park…
SMBs: Facebook has millions of corporate and Small and Medium Business users – offering an amazing opportunity to connect their users with really relevant offerings around them. They could enable an offering like Google Places, with retail companies and SMBs able to buy advertising targeted to users in proximity to their location(s). This would require some new self-service functionality to the platform, including the ability for businesses to upload their locations, geo-code, and enter and target their ads based on additional location criterion. Think of the new analytics potential for marketers – overlaying demographic and lifestyle data with anonymized location data about where a brand’s consumers are spending time in the physical world – no doubt that the Gap or Ralph Lauren would find that valuable.
A CRM portal for business could enable them to respond to fans, input offers, manage multiple locations and add menus or inventory. A portal could make it easy to map check-ins and tweets from all services directly into Facebook’s Place Profile. It could also enable integrations like OpenTable reservations directly from the PlacePage.
Mobile positioning: Facebook also has millions of mobile users. Imagine how much more effective the Facebook SMBs advertising would be if it could reach the Facebook Mobile user when they are close by, instead of sitting in front of their computer? This use case would be vastly improved if, instead of getting ads at random just based on physical proximity, Facebook mobile users could opt-in to specific marketing programs for the brands they like?
Place-tagging and streaming: While geo-tagging your Facebook photos is available through Flickr, what if updates could themselves be geo-tagged? “Place Tagging” for Place Profile photos, from mobile and PC, that presents locations that can be associated to a photo of place as you can with friends today. A “Nearby Events” feed could also be tied to each Place Profile. Advertisers could attach their message to these streams of real-time content using place and time to increase the relevance.
Social location graph: Friends or experiences could be recommended based on a local social graph. If a user is in a new city, recommended friends or places could pop-up. Syndicated Yelp, Citysearch and professional reviews along with Facebook user reviews could be used to improve recommendations.
These are just a few of the endless possibilities, provided consumers can opt-in and easily control the sharing of their location information. What are your ideas for Facebook about what to do with location?
Alistair Goodman is CEO of Placecast, a location-based advertising, marketing, and content management firm.