Changing Up the Location Game: Why It’s Worth Checking-In on Facebook Places, Too

Following our update on Foursquare’s latest features last week, it’s timely that we check back in on Facebook Places as well. Even though Business Insider recently reported that the number of Foursquare users has doubled since Facebook Places launched last August, there’s still plenty of reason to keep an eye on the social networking Goliath. With the largest base of users, who are now checking in globally, it’s clear that Facebook’s location-based service is still a major player to watch. And recently, new statistics and features provide further light on the role Facebook Places is setting up to hold.

Facebook Places

Local Businesses Prefer Facebook Places

To be expected, places with the highest check-ins on Facebook and other location-based services are the ones that receive mass traffic, especially transport hubs. A top Facebook statistics portal, Socialbakers.com, shared last week that Los Angeles International Airport is the site with the most check-ins on Facebook worldwide (more than 200,000 to date). However, widespread adoption of location-based services will also be impacted by the perspective of local business owners. How are the businesses people visit everyday engaging with their customers? A survey from February suggests Facebook Places may already be a clear leader.

As reported by the Financial Times, a survey conducted by MerchantCircle shows that Facebook Places may already be the preferred location-based service for local businesses. Describing itself as the largest social network of local business owners in the U.S., MerchantCircle found that more of its members are using Facebook Places than either Foursquare, Groupon, Living Social or Gowalla. The responses suggest that 32 percent of MerchantCircle’s 1.6 million members are currently promoting their businesses through Facebook Places, and another 12 percent plan to use it soon.

There are a couple factors that may contribute to the appeal of Facebook Places for local businesses. Places presents less of a learning curve. Businesses can easily claim their location on Places and merge this with an existing Facebook Page (although there appears to be some complaints and kinks still to work out on this). The addition of Facebook Deals last November gives businesses the ability to control their own social media coupons. This provides a way to avoid the significant cut taken by sites like Groupon, a factor that may contribute to overall distaste for the social deal site from businesses the Wall Street Journal has reported that 40 percent of those who have run a daily deal campaign on Groupon say they would not do it again.

And while Foursquare’s users may check in more frequently, Facebook’s still significantly larger user base means efforts on Places have the potential for greater reach. In October, Business Insider revealed that at least 30 million Facebook users had tried the Places feature. With around 130 friends for the average user according to Facebook, that scope is immense. And as more than 200 million users regularly access Facebook via mobile devices worldwide, the number of people using Places is certain to be growing.

How Important is Check-In Frequency?

The statistics show that Foursquare users are the check-in regulars. Incentives of badges, mayorships and rewards, along with the gaming angle of the platform, help motivate those streams of check-ins every morning at the gym, office and coffee shop, filling Twitter feeds. But because they are less routine, check-ins on Places shouldn’t be viewed as less valuable. They stem from a different mentality.

When someone shares their location on Facebook, it’s often meant to be personal, in the same way a status update is posted and shared with friends. The locations people choose to share become a reflection of who they are. So, even if users don’t check-in to every restaurant they visit in the week, when they do choose to tell friends where they are, the result may be more authentic and impactful.

New Features Continue to Expand the Possibilities

If you’re still not convinced of Facebook Places key role, here are a few of the latest developments that Inside Facebook has reported in March alone:

How have you used Facebook Places, and what do you see for its role in the future of location-based word of mouth?

Image courtesy of Facebook Places Facebook Fan Page