While Facebook’s announcement of its Places product continues to roll in, I was struck by Mashable’s Ben Parr when he live blogged, “Facebook is playing a movie discussing the advantages of Facebook Places. They’re discussing check-ins, and much of it sounds like Foursquare.”
And while, Facebook did a nice job of integrating many its location-based “partners” at its announcement (Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp, and MyTown), the language that the mega company used indicates that it is “guns blazing” when it comes to the concept of checking-in: “Maybe one day in 20 years time your children will go to Ocean Beach and their phone thing will start to vibrate and come alive and say ‘this is where your parents had their first kiss and this is the photo their friends took right afterward.’”
But Foursquare still has a few things that continue to make it stand out as the flagship LBSN:
1. Partnerships: Foursquare has built up an abundance of partnerships with media companies and brands that make the act of checking-in that much more rewarding and motivating.
2. Post Check-in Experience: Dennis Crowley’s tenacious focus not on the act of checking-in but what happens after you check-in will help sustain Foursquare’s differentiation.
3. Social Currency: While Facebook is emphasizing the notion of seeing who else is at locations when you check in with Facebook Places, that’s not the primary motivator of why people check in. Foursquare’s built in “social gaming” experience creates an addicting friendly competition.
The results of Hill Holliday’s recent poll on why people check-in to LBSNs underscores point #3: People want to earn social currency which is not something Facebook mentioned in their announcement.
There’s no doubt that tonight’s announcement from Facebook will have a dramatic effect on the social culture of the check-in…but it doesn’t mean that they will own it. If Foursquare plays its cards right, there’s still the potential for it to become as big as Twitter and Facebook.