Facebook adds location functionality with Facebook Places

Applications using the ability of smartphones and other mobile devices to pinpoint your precise location at any time have been a key topic for discussion amongst digital marketers over the last year or so, and were also something I covered in my Digital Fundraising Hot Topics Session at this summer’s Institute of Fundraising National Convention here in London (check-out from slide 52 onwards).

Up to now, a lot of the location-based application chatter has focused on the new breed of specifically designed location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla. However, it was only a matter of time before the global market leader in social networking responded. Hence, last week we saw the launch of Facebook Places – an extension to existing Facebook functionality that will enable smartphone wielding Facebookers to share their location with their Friends, be alerted when Friends are close by, check-in to specific locations, and share details of good places with others in their social network. For an introduction try the Facebook video above or this Mashable post. This new functionality was initially only available to US users, but is to be rolled-out to other countries over the coming months – going live in the UK on 17/09/10..

Naturally, the potential for Facebook’s 500 million-plus users to openly share their location as they travel around has only added to the already rising tide of privacy concerns related to social networking. However, despite such concerns (and the resulting advice to social network users to take more care over using profile settings so as to better manage their privacy), with Facebook now in the game there seems no doubt that the application of location-based functionality will now grow even faster than before. Indeed, Foursquare actually reported record numbers of sign-ups in the wake of Facebook Places being launched.

This addition to the ways in which social network users can connect with their friends – and brands can connect with social network users – is still a very new aspect of digital marketing. So it isn’t something that every marketer and fundraiser needs to be worried about having in their digital programme right now. However, case studies from smartphone-based treasure hunts to Foursquare-based campaigning are already starting to show how the technology might be used to create new ways to engage with consumers or supporters and it is certainly something you should be keeping an eye on to see how it might be usefully integrated with your digital communications over the next couple of years.

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