Foursquare Vs. Facebook Places – Checking In?

by | Mar 30, 2011 | Fun Stuff, Social Media

So you’re on Facebook and you’ve taken the plunge and even signed up for a Twitter account.  You’re feeling good about yourself that you’re finally all caught up with this “social media” craze.  But then you start to see your online friends “checking in”.  You see “Places” in your iPhone Facebook app.  Should you be doing it?  Are there security and privacy concerns?  What does it all mean?

The two main players in this location based social media are Foursquare and Facebook PlacesNote there are location based services in just about every application you’re using these days from Twitter to Flickr but this post is focusing on these two “big” players.

First… a description of the services directly from the source.

Facebook Places –

Places.  Who.  What.  When.  And now Where.
Share Where You Are
Connect With Friends Nearby
New: Find Local Deals

Foursquare –

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By checking in via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues that they want to visit and surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues. Merchants and brands leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences.

That’s all well and good but what does it really mean?

With both services, you’re essentially telling people where you are.  In addition to your status update (Man… the post office is BUSY today!) your followers can now see which particular post office you’re at.  The idea here is friends/followers can follow one another, see where they are and these services will facilitate (get this) actually meeting up with one another!

What To Know – Facebook Places Vs. Foursquare

  • Some folks choose one or the other but you don’t necessarily need to.  There’s nothing that technically precludes you from using both.
  • Foursquare is more “fun”. That’s not to say I’m necessarily endorsing Foursquare, but the platform itself (specifically on the iPhone) is built for entertainment.  Each “check in” earns you points and the application keeps track of a weekly “leader board” of your friends.  You don’t actually win anything but it’s kind of interesting to see who’s at the top of the leader board.
  • Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges! – Foursquare utilizes the concept of “badges” as part of their checking process.  Examples of these badges include one for your first check in, milestones (25 check ins), consistency (4 nights in a row), etc.  A full list of badges can be found here.  Again, you’re not actually gaining anything by getting these.  Think of it as an “achievement” in a video game world.
  • Mayors – each Foursquare property has a mayor.  These are captured by being the user that has the most check ins over the last 60 days.  Many places will have a prize for their mayor.  The nachos pictured here were a free gift for me being the mayor at my local Buffalo Wild Wings – a free appetizer!
  • Coupons/Deals – both Foursquare and Facebook Places offer venues the opportunity to offer coupons and deals for check ins.  A SUPER cool option.
  • See if your friends are where you are – both platforms will tell you if your friends are around.  This is really a neat feature especially if you didn’t know they were going to be there.  A great way to catch up (or avoid) some folks.
  • Integration – Facebook Places integrates seamlessly with your Facebook feed as it should – it’s the same system.  Foursquare can be linked with your Facebook page and you can choose whether to post to your linked account on each check in.
  • Ease of use – personally I think Foursquare is a bit easier to use but that’s most likely due to the fact that I’ve been using it longer.  That said, Facebook makes finding a venue rather easy (though it’s kind of hidden in the iPhone app).
  • Analytics – a HUGE upside for Facebook Places is actually not for you… its for the place.  When you check in using Facebook Places you’re giving that venue a ton of information about yourself.  Age, sex, etc.  This isn’t because you’re sharing that directly with the place, but it’s because you’ve already shared it with Facebook to begin with.
  • Privacy – that leads us to privacy.  In general, if you’re worried about people knowing where you are and who you’re with, I think it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t be using EITHER of these products.  A good rule of thumb that I always use – assume that anything you put online (regardless of privacy settings) is visible by EVERYONE.  That’s clearly not the case, but if you run under that assumption you won’t have to worry about specific privacy settings.

As with any social media tools you should understand what you’re doing.  Understand what you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with.  As for which platform is being used, its difficult to say as neither provides usage numbers.  I can say that I asked my Twitter followers and the overwhelming majority chimed in that they were in the Foursquare camp.  If you’ve got questions feel free to contact us… we’d love to help.  Either way have fun checking in!