Facebook (re)Places: What it means for Foursquare and Gowalla

Simon Mainwaring / Brands / 4 years ago

Yesterday Facebook announced its much anticipated entry into the location based services. Unlike Google Places which is a search tool, Facebook Places is a check-in service focused on social interaction. You simply use your phone to tell people where you are, who you are with and find out others nearby. This then can also be broadcast on their Facebook page.

The integration of a check-in service to the already dominant roster of services that Facebook offers is a boon for users and further solidifies Facebook’s hold on its community and their interaction (not to mention social supremacy over Google). Yes, it raises privacy issues (again), especially when a friend checks-in for you without your permission, but my focus is what it means form the (former) leaders in the marketplace, Foursquare and Gowalla.

From a branding pointing of view, there is one place that Foursquare and Gowalla do not want to be – in Facebook’s shadow. While Holger Luedorf of Foursquare claimed that Facebook’s entry into the space validated the market, and Chris Cox of Facebook attested to the power of location-based tools when married to the memories stored on Facebook, there is little doubt that this is the long goodbye for any other player in the field.

Yes, Foursquare or Gowalla did a stellar job of defining and carving out the marketplace. Along with Yelp and Booyah, they even came to an agreement with Facebook that you’ll be able to check-in and publish data to your Facebook feed. But the writing is on the wall for all of them and here’s why.

Leaving aside the vast advantage in numbers that Facebook holds, none of the other players created a unique offering or distinct brand personality. It’s that personality that engenders brand loyalty and forces late comers like Facebook to the field to fight for supremacy. But as it stands, Foursquare and Gowalla simply offer similar products and services without the added benefits of Facebook.

This serves as a sobering reminder that social media tools are not an end in themselves. They are best characterized as technology in the service of day-trading in social emotion. Technology companies must establish themselves as clearly defined brands with compelling personalities and voices to take root within the social ecosystem. It’s the difference between someone ‘using’ Foursquare and ‘loving’ Foursquare. Or, at least, feeling sad as we say goodbye.

Do you agree Foursquare and Gowalla were faceless? Or do you think they will survive?

16 Comments

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  1. Katie Morse says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. For one, I've used Foursquare for well over a year now and really like it. My friends use it, so I use it (if they didn't, I'd have no reason to use it IMHO). I also have a different network on Foursquare than I do on Facebook. That really relates back to how I use Facebook, which is obviously up to each individual.

    I don't think that Foursquare or Gowalla have done an exceptional job of building a strong brand presence, but that doesn't mean that I'll stop using Foursquare for Facebook just because Facebook launched Places. To me, the point will always be this: I'll use the app that my friends use.

    For me it's way more about functionality than brand.

    Katie
    Community Manager | Radian6
    @misskatiemo

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    5. Hi everyone!

      It’s the last day of the launch week for We First, and we really need your support today, because with a little help, we’re hoping to reach the bestseller lists next week. So, if you haven’t already, please order your copy of We First today by clicking this Amazon link: http://amzn.to/mMKMK8.

      If you have ordered a copy, THANKS! We’d love for you to please share this link with your friends and communities.

      There are many benefits to buying this book today:
      1. If you’re part of a company, you will learn how to use social technology to drive profits.
      2. If you’re a concerned consumer, you will learn how to use social media to have a positive impact.
      3. And, everyone will learn how to use social media to build a world we want to live in.

      Order today, and you will receive 3 additional FREE GIFTS on the future of branding, advertising and socially responsible shopping.

      We can’t thank you enough for your support, it means a lot.

      ==============================================
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    6. Hi Everyone!

      I can’t believe this is the last day of the launch week for We First. I started working on the book 4 years ago, and I’ve been really encouraged by the response of companies about the greater role they can now play in scaling positive change. I wanted to ask your help one last time on this last day of the launch week of the book. 

      My hope is to make this conversation one of the most important issues for business today. That’s why I would so appreciate if you order a copy or even better yet copies of We First today. This way, the sales can contribute to the best seller lists that will then keep this conversation top of mind with an even broader audience. 

      So, thanks for your support this week, thanks for your patience on all of our emails and thanks for helping us over this final hurdle by ordering your copy today. Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/mMKMK8.  And remember, 10% of all proceeds from the purchases of We First will be donated to ‘Girl up,’ a campaign of the United Nations Foundation.

      We so appreciate your support, it means a lot. 

      – Simon Mainwaring

      ==============================================
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      We First Hits the Bestseller Lists

      I wanted to thank everyone for their support in the launch of We First. We
      are so excited that the message is resonating and that it is contributing to
      the conversation that is changing the role of brands and the private sector.
      Here’s how We First fared on the bestseller lists:

      #4 on the New York Times Advice/How To bestseller list

      #5 on the New York Time Hardcover Business bestseller list

      #2 on the Wall Street Journal Business bestseller list

      #4 on the USA Today bestseller list
      …as well as being a #1 bestseller on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

      Finally, last week, Amazon named We First as one of the Top Ten Business
      Books of 2011 so far.

      This would not have been possible without all your support and from everyone
      here at We First, a huge thank you.

      _We First on Non-profits:_ One of the themes that We First explores is how
      non-profits can become more effective marketers to help further the
      important work they do. Here are a few thoughts on some of the challenges
      that non-profits face.

      Understandably, social media has been hailed by many non-profits as a
      critical tool to help them fund-raise and do their valuable work more
      effectively. Success stories like fund-raising for victims of the Haiti
      earthquake and Japanese tsunami victims are proof of the ease with which
      non-profits can now make people aware of a crisis and allow them to
      contribute to the urgent needs of others. But there can also be a downside,
      one that non-profits must be aware of if they hope to leverage social media
      to their advantage.

      The ability of a non-profit to use social media to build a dialogue with its
      community forces it to define itself in ways that often weren’t necessary
      before. The fact that non-profits can now market to consumers in ways
      normally reserved for for-profit brands means that they must become more
      effective marketers. These new expectations include the following:

      _1. SELF DEFINITION:_ All non-profits do incredibly meaningful work but to
      be most effective as marketers they need to define themselves within the
      cause category that they work in. There needs to be a unique point of view
      on the cause itself so that one non-profit can distinguish itself from
      others working in the same cause category.

      _2. ENGAGEMENT:_ One of the great challenges for non-profits is the constant
      need to fund-raise. Yet with staffing and resources spread often spread so
      thin, it’s difficult to have enough employees to engage with your community
      on an real-time basis as well as do the meaningful work that’s required in
      the field. Yet this is necessary if a non-profit hopes to sustain an active
      and engaged online community.

      _3. REPOSITIONING:_ Non-profits benefit greatly from partnerships with
      for-profit companies, but for that to happen non-profits must to be able to
      make their case as to the value of the partnership to the for-profit brand.
      Too often, non-profits pitch themselves on the basis of the cause that they
      are supporting alone. But as with any pitch situation, the offering must be
      framed in terms of the needs of your potential client – in this case the
      for-profit brand.

      _4. CREATIVITY:_ Donor fatigue is an enormous challenge for non-profits at
      any time, especially after a series of natural disasters as we just saw with
      Haiti, Pakistan, and Japan. While social media gives non-profits the ability
      to engage with their community more easily, they must become more creative
      in their strategies and messaging to sustain their interest and support
      through a series of natural disasters.

      _5. TECHNOLOGY:_ It’s hard enough for a for-profit company to keep pace with
      the marketplace with all the resources that it possesses. It’s even more
      difficult for a non-profit with its limited resources. Yet the non-profit
      world must become increasingly tech-savvy so that they know how their
      donor-base is relating with each other and what tools are most appropriate
      to help them reach their goals.

      The challenges that social media presents to non-profits are as daunting as
      they are for for-profit companies. The ability to connect with people so
      easily brings with it the expectation of constant engagement and sustained
      results. As such, it’s critical for non-profits to add to their skill sets
      and become effective storytellers fascinated with emerging technologies. We
      First was written to help non-profits do this by laying out a step-by-step
      action plan for how brands use social media to build their communities,
      drive their fund-raising, and help build a better world.

      _Featured reviews of We First:_
      [2]Social Media Drives Social Change and the We First Community
      Links:
      2.

      By Melissa Rowley
      [3]Book: We First: How Brands & Consumers Use Social Media To Build A Better
      World
      Links:
      3. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-230-11026-7?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      By Beth Kanter

      _Featured guest posts:_
      [4]Four reasons we must re-engineer market capitalism [5]10 actions
      consumers can take to reinvent capitalism
      Links:
      4.
      5. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-230-11026-7?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      A struggling economy, a world in crisis and new social technology has left
      brands scrambling for profits and consumers desperate for change. What if we
      could achieve both? What if brands and consumers could partner using social
      media to build communities, profits and a better world? That’s the promise
      of a We First world.
      [6]Twitter4 [7]facebook [8]Linked in [9]YOU TUBE
      Simon Mainwaring is an author, blogger, speaker and founder and CEO of We
      First, a social branding consultancy. A former Nike creative at Wieden &
      Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy,
      he is a member of the GMI Digital Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the
      Center for Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School, AdAge’s Power150 and is
      an Expert Blogger for _Fast Company_.
      Links:
      6. http://twitter.com/simonmainwaring?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      7. http://www.facebook.com/wefirst?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      8. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/We-First-3717514?mostPopular=&gid=3717514&utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      9. http://www.youtube.com/WeFirstTV?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d32cacc983-We_First_Newsletter_July_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      Did someone forward this to you?
      [10]Subscribe here.
      Links:
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      Don’t want to receive these emails anymore? Bummer, but you can
      [11]unsubscribe instantly.
      [12]Become a fan on Facebook | [13]Follow We First on Twitter | [14]Connect
      with We First on Linked In
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      email
      Copyright © 2011 We First
      Links:
      11. http://wefirstbranding.us2.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=c2c11b3d1aa1cbebf73b8730a&id=2070b1166e&e=5633ee82f2&c=d32cacc983
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      We First Hits the Bestseller Lists

      I wanted to thank everyone for their support in the launch of We First. We are so excited that the message is resonating and that it is contributing to the conversation that is changing the role of brands and the private sector. Here’s how We First fared on the bestseller lists:

      #4 on the New York Times Advice/How To bestseller list

      #5 on the New York Time Hardcover Business bestseller list

      #2 on the Wall Street Journal Business bestseller list

      #4 on the USA Today bestseller list
      …as well as being a #1 bestseller on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

      Finally, last week, Amazon named We First as one of the Top Ten Business Books of 2011 so far.

      This would not have been possible without all your support and from everyone
      here at We First, a huge thank you.

      _We First on Non-profits:_ One of the themes that We First explores is how
      non-profits can become more effective marketers to help further the
      important work they do. Here are a few thoughts on some of the challenges
      that non-profits face.

      Understandably, social media has been hailed by many non-profits as a
      critical tool to help them fund-raise and do their valuable work more
      effectively. Success stories like fund-raising for victims of the Haiti
      earthquake and Japanese tsunami victims are proof of the ease with which
      non-profits can now make people aware of a crisis and allow them to
      contribute to the urgent needs of others. But there can also be a downside,
      one that non-profits must be aware of if they hope to leverage social media
      to their advantage.

      The ability of a non-profit to use social media to build a dialogue with its
      community forces it to define itself in ways that often weren’t necessary
      before. The fact that non-profits can now market to consumers in ways
      normally reserved for for-profit brands means that they must become more
      effective marketers. These new expectations include the following:

      _1. SELF DEFINITION:_ All non-profits do incredibly meaningful work but to
      be most effective as marketers they need to define themselves within the
      cause category that they work in. There needs to be a unique point of view
      on the cause itself so that one non-profit can distinguish itself from
      others working in the same cause category.

      _2. ENGAGEMENT:_ One of the great challenges for non-profits is the constant
      need to fund-raise. Yet with staffing and resources spread often spread so
      thin, it’s difficult to have enough employees to engage with your community
      on an real-time basis as well as do the meaningful work that’s required in
      the field. Yet this is necessary if a non-profit hopes to sustain an active
      and engaged online community.

      _3. REPOSITIONING:_ Non-profits benefit greatly from partnerships with
      for-profit companies, but for that to happen non-profits must to be able to
      make their case as to the value of the partnership to the for-profit brand.
      Too often, non-profits pitch themselves on the basis of the cause that they
      are supporting alone. But as with any pitch situation, the offering must be
      framed in terms of the needs of your potential client – in this case the
      for-profit brand.

      _4. CREATIVITY:_ Donor fatigue is an enormous challenge for non-profits at
      any time, especially after a series of natural disasters as we just saw with
      Haiti, Pakistan, and Japan. While social media gives non-profits the ability
      to engage with their community more easily, they must become more creative
      in their strategies and messaging to sustain their interest and support
      through a series of natural disasters.

      _5. TECHNOLOGY:_ It’s hard enough for a for-profit company to keep pace with
      the marketplace with all the resources that it possesses. It’s even more
      difficult for a non-profit with its limited resources. Yet the non-profit
      world must become increasingly tech-savvy so that they know how their
      donor-base is relating with each other and what tools are most appropriate
      to help them reach their goals.

      The challenges that social media presents to non-profits are as daunting as
      they are for for-profit companies. The ability to connect with people so
      easily brings with it the expectation of constant engagement and sustained
      results. As such, it’s critical for non-profits to add to their skill sets
      and become effective storytellers fascinated with emerging technologies. We
      First was written to help non-profits do this by laying out a step-by-step
      action plan for how brands use social media to build their communities,
      drive their fund-raising, and help build a better world.

      _Featured reviews of We First:_
      [2]Social Media Drives Social Change and the We First Community
      Links:
      2.

      By Melissa Rowley
      [3]Book: We First: How Brands & Consumers Use Social Media To Build A Better
      World
      Links:
      3. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-230-11026-7?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      By Beth Kanter

      _Featured guest posts:_
      [4]Four reasons we must re-engineer market capitalism [5]10 actions
      consumers can take to reinvent capitalism
      Links:
      4.
      5. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-230-11026-7?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      A struggling economy, a world in crisis and new social technology has left
      brands scrambling for profits and consumers desperate for change. What if we
      could achieve both? What if brands and consumers could partner using social
      media to build communities, profits and a better world? That’s the promise
      of a We First world.
      [6]Twitter4 [7]facebook [8]Linked in [9]YOU TUBE
      Simon Mainwaring is an author, blogger, speaker and founder and CEO of We
      First, a social branding consultancy. A former Nike creative at Wieden &
      Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy,
      he is a member of the GMI Digital Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the
      Center for Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School, AdAge’s Power150 and is
      an Expert Blogger for _Fast Company_.
      Links:
      6. http://twitter.com/simonmainwaring?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      7. http://www.facebook.com/wefirst?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      8. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/We-First-3717514?mostPopular=&gid=3717514&utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email
      9. http://www.youtube.com/WeFirstTV?utm_source=We+First+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dda31996e4-We_First_Newsletter_August_15_20117_15_2011&utm_medium=email

      Did someone forward this to you?
      [10]Subscribe here.
      Links:
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      Don’t want to receive these emails anymore? Bummer, but you can
      [11]unsubscribe instantly.
      [12]Become a fan on Facebook | [13]Follow We First on Twitter | [14]Connect
      with We First on Linked In
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      email
      Copyright © 2011 We First
      Links:
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    9. =======================================
      To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below: http://www.facebook.com/r.php?re=d6437aa9306daaaaf1f9d46903bdc196&mid=4fec3eeG5af3a01b48e1G0G46 =======================================

      Hi,

      The following person invited you to be their friend on Facebook:

      Simon Mainwaring (Invite sent: May 11, 2011)

      Facebook is a great place to keep in touch with friends, post photos, videos and create events. But first you need to join! Sign up today to create a profile and connect with the people you know.
      Thanks,
      The Facebook Team

      To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below: http://www.facebook.com/r.php?re=d6437aa9306daaaaf1f9d46903bdc196&mid=4fec3eeG5af3a01b48e1G0G46
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      Hi,

      The following person invited you to be their friend on Facebook:

      Simon Mainwaring (Invite sent: May 11, 2011)

      Facebook is a great place to keep in touch with friends, post photos, videos and create events. But first you need to join! Sign up today to create a profile and connect with the people you know.
      Thanks,
      The Facebook Team

      To sign up for Facebook, follow the link below: http://www.facebook.com/r.php?re=91d326ab14a2781bc491ab7b3b8ede4f&mid=51366d2G5af3a01b48e1G0G46
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  2. Thanks, Katie. I totally understand. it's hard to distinguish whether you
    enjoy the connection that the LBS tool enables or your experience of the
    brand itself. I just wish they had more clearly defined personalities so
    that their brands were a known quantity rather than an expression of new
    technology. They may yet survive but I fear Facebook will understandably
    overwhelm them. Thanks, Simon

    Blog: http://www.simonmainwaring.com
    Website: http://www.mainwaringcreative.com
    Direct: +1 310 210 8177
    Email: simon@mainwaringcreative.com

    <http://www.mainwaringcreative.com>
    Let's connect: <http://www.linkedin.com/in/simonmainwaring>
    LinkedIn<http://www.linkedin.com/in/simonmainwaring&gt;
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    Facebook<http://www.facebook.com/simonmainwaring&gt;
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    Twitter<http://www.twitter.com/simonmainwaring&gt;
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  3. Hi Simon, I think FB's move will be a very substantial challenge to Foursquare and Gowalla and hopefully they will respond by redefining their purpose (or, arguably, even defining it in the first place). Where I might take issue with you is that you seem to see FB as the default platform for one's social presence that all other need to displace.
    I see it much more as a pallette of platforms with each having a different place in my life. It's a personal view of course but FB for me is a really trivial place that's all about certain, quite limited and rather distant aspects of my past and so it's largely somehere to go when I'm in the mood for looking back. Twitter is much more immediate and valuable and really concerned with what might happen next.
    I have found Foursquare no use at all so far, but have been watching to see how brands apply it. I hope that brands do not now give up on it and Gowalla and focus location based applications exclusively on FB. I hhink they would be excluding huge numbers of consumers. Yes there may be 500m FB accounts but a) that certainly ain't 500m people and b) that's a tiny fraction of any given market.

  4. Thanks, Nigel. I take your point. I don't think FB can compete with the immediacy of twitter and each holds a place in our lives. I think the advantage FB has is simply numbers right now. I think brands will continue to support LBS because they make so much sense for real time offers/incentives. But like people, they will probably default to the simplest way to consolidates their efforts and reach the most people and FB's brand is just so strong. You're right, its not 500m people and no one stays dominant forever but I question whether Foursquare and Gowallla can survive in Facebook's shadow. If nothing else, its a great lesson in the need to clearly define a brand so that your users come to your support. Thanks for the great feedback, simon

  5. Disneyrollergirl says:

    I also joined Foursquare to find out what the potential was to brands. When I'm explaining it to others, they do give me a kind of 'what's the point' look but I figured it was early days and it had lots of potential so stick with it. The useful part to me is the map that comes up when you check in to a place, if I'm on my way somewhere but am a bit lost, I use the map to get me there. And I use the tips as I like having insidery knowledge. But I find sometimes it only shows 1 tip or no tips. If this feature was better designer it could have more value. I'm hoping Foursquare has some extra features up its sleeve to trounce Facebook. If not, it could become second fiddle. Having said that, Facebook is so mainstream now, some brands could use Foursquare as the 'cool' version for those who see themselves as 'beyond Facebook'. It's up to Foursquare to give us a reason to stay.

  6. Thanks and yes, I agree that extra features would be a way for Foursquare to distinguish itself and force Facebook to work a little harder in this space. You make a good point though, maybe Foursquare as a function of its size could add an extra cool factor to Facebook. Like you I'll see what they do but the onus in on the brand to step up because consumers will always move to the most dominant and effective brand in the space. Thanks so much, Simon