Judging by my Facebook friends — mostly normal people in their late 20s, not social media geeks — Facebook Places is off to a very slow start.
Places is, if you recall, Facebook’s attempt at a Foursquare-like “check-in” service, which launched about a month ago. Facebook wants location data to challenge Foursquare, after the two sides couldn’t agree on an acquisition, and also because it wants to challenge Yelp and Google in local advertising.
But so far, my friends — most of whom had Facebook in college, and are squarely within Facebook’s target audience — aren’t using it much.
Of my 977 Facebook friends — people I actually know, not Internet strangers — 509, or more than half, have activated Facebook for iPhone, so they’re eligible to use Facebook Places.
But of those 509, just four have used Facebook Places to “check in” over the past 24 hours — less than 1%. Sunday’s Facebook Places activity was higher, but still tiny — 10 people, or 2% of my iPhone-activated friends checked in.
For comparison, nine of my 161 Foursquare friends have checked in during the last hour — about 6%. And 50 have checked in during the last 24 hours, or almost half. (But these are different friend groups, using multiple mobile platforms, so this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.)
I know why I haven’t been using Facebook Places: Because my non-nerd friends yelled at me for junking up their Facebook news feeds when it first launched, and because Foursquare is still a better, more fully featured experience.
But to better understand, I asked a few friends why they weren’t using it, either. Here’s what they said:
- Already using Foursquare. “I already am all in on foursquare. no reason for two.” “Telling my friends where I am is an add-on of locational services, not the main feature. Foursquare is a well organised database of my life. … Plus, thanks to Foursquare, I got free fries … the other night.”
- Don’t want to annoy people. “when i use foursquare i don’t post to fb unless it find it particularly interesting.” “i find it annoying when people check in a lot.”
- Privacy. “i don’t want everyone to know where i am all the time” “and i didnt like that other people could check me in. so off it went” “If you want to know where I am, call me.”
- Can’t opt certain people in or out. “Facebook ‘friends’ are a broader list of people — much more selective with Foursquare or other location-based services.”
- Avoiding social obligations. “what if i want to lie and say i’m going home for the night? but I’m actually going to dinner? and someone says they’re with me somewhere? BUSTED?”
- No interest. “I have it disabled. I haven’t really had time to play with it but my gut reaction is that people don’t need to know where i am and if I wanted them too, I’d post a status update” “Still wondering why I should care.”
- Don’t have iPhones. This will obviously be fixed as Facebook rolls Places out for more platforms, such as BlackBerry and Android.
It may be that my friends are already too old for a service like Facebook Places. (I’m in denial about this possibility.) Maybe this is for today’s teens. Or maybe it’s for people who don’t live in New York or San Francisco or LA or Chicago, but for people who live in Iowa or Utah.
But so far, at least among my peers, there just doesn’t seem to be much interest in Facebook Places. Perhaps as it continues to expand, and as people get more comfortable with the idea, and as it adds more features, it will become more accepted.
But I’m not encouraged by the early activity, and I’ve found the service pretty useless myself.
Are your friends using Facebook Places? Why or why not?
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