Where Facebook Places needs to get it right

For those in the know geolocation networking should be the next big social media wave to ride.  But with Foursquare and nearest rival Gowalla failing to make a mainstream splash, will the launch of Facebook Places be any more successful, or will it drown in obscurity?

Personally, I love the concept of  grabbing my smartphone, meeting friends spontaneously in Starbucks and getting a badge for my social efforts (yes, I did love getting stickers as a child…), but with the recent press focus on the ‘dangers’ of  identity theft from SMN sites, geolocation networking asks a lot of a hesitant user.

Mobile technology has come a long way

Mobile technology has come a long way

Even though most of your personal details are protected, it seems that disclosing your location may just be a stage too far.  Users simply do not want to be “stalked.”

But people who write off geolocation networking at this early stage are forgetting that the social media world is a dynamic one; a few years ago, posting personal videos on Youtube or SMS length messages on Twitter would have seemed equally bizarre and over-familiar.  So it may take a while for geolocation to really catch on – and only once users stop frantically scrabbling for their security settings.

However, although there is great potential for marketeers to use Foursquare for really targeted campaigns, I doubt that geolocation networking will ever truly rock the social sphere.  Foursquare in its current form is plain boring, a blip on a map will never replace the charm of a well placed Twitpic, and delving for your phone for manual check-ins seem somewhat socially awkward on a night out…

Geolocation attempts to strike the impossible balance between privacy and stalking.  And to be honest the technology has a long way to go.  So unless it is somehow able to solve these core problems I doubt Facebook Places will ever be as successful and as widely used as it could be.

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