The Future of Location Based Social Networks
Last week Facebook launched Places, its new feature for geolocalization.
As they set foot on a field previously lead by Foursquare and Gowalla, Facebook will take LSBNs to the mass. Although the previous two have seen a massive increase of their userbase, this is nothing to compare to Facebook’s.
So now 500 Millions users can check-in places. Great. But then what ?
Most of the LSBNs are based on referencing places in which you may check-in, and eventually find tips provided by other people visiting the same places.
These networks are more “I-know-the-place” oriented rather than having a “discover-new-places” focus.
Users will usually fire-up their application in order to check into a venue they are located in instead of trying to find a place nearby. For that purpose, they will use other applications (AroundMe, Google Maps, Yelp…).
LSBNs will find their true potential once they become a social guide to the city. And actually, a social guide to all cities, all villages, all places. The content will be user generated, and will allow:
- Users to discover new places, get information, rate a venue, provide a feedback available to everyone. Users will also be able to search in realtime for an event taking place in the city or nearby, get coupons or sales for specific places, and even get a notification once they are near a location selling the product they are looking for.
- Providers will be able to advertize their products, sales, link their online catalogues – or menus for restaurants and bars – with the venues (geolocation based shopping/product listing/notification of product availability). Users will be able to subscribe to content pushed by a venue (e.g. sales, happy hour).
Geolocation has become a hot trend since a few years, and many exciting products have seen the light, leveraging the full potential unleached by embedded GPS in Smartphones, from standard route assistant to augmented reality.
LSBNs have been more focused on the social aspect completely setting aside the content part, thus having little interest, but playing the game of “check-ins” and collecting awards. This is one main reason why Forrester suggested that marketers still wait before engaging into these channels.
Facebook has now gathered all the ingredients for the new era of LSBNs. It has the users, it has the content, it has the Pages and now it has the Places. All it needs is linking-it-all.
Foursquare and Gowalla should very soon partner with content and reference providers, and should engage their users for documenting the venues, in which case, they have a chance to catch-up to Facebook.