5 Initial Thoughts on Facebook Places

My guess is that I’ll be 50% wrong about what I’m about to say in this post… In baseball that’s a fantastic batting average. In surgery… not so much.

In case you didn’t hear, Facebook made it’s foray into the world of location-based services yesterday with it’s announcement of Places. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s pretty straightforward. To checkin, you must use the most recent version of the Facebook iPhone app or the iTouch mobile site for Facebook. Although I’ve discussed the potential negative impact Facebook could have on existing location-based service providers like FourSquare, Gowalla and Whrrl, I’m going to change my tune a little (this is where the 50% wrong part could come into play).

To that end, here are my five initial thoughts about Facebook Places (hat tip to friend and fellow LBS enthusiast, Mike Schneider, for helping push my thinking on this front):

  1. Facebook ‘likes’ boring - I had an epiphany yesterday after ReadWriteWeb’s coverage of the Places announcement yesterday. Facebook doesn’t want to crush the players in the location-based field, it wants to provide the scale and infrastructure that they’ve been sorely lacking. Most telling was RWW’s interview with former Facebook engineer, Yishan Wong, who theorized, “My guess is that Facebook’s product tries to commoditize the ‘boring’ parts of location while providing a platform for the ‘real’ location-oriented companies (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah, Yelp) to build real products off of. Based on what I’ve heard from various sources, companies like Foursquare find the ‘venue management’ business to be quite tedious and not the real source of differentiating value… so commoditizing this aspect of their business doesn’t threaten their core value proposition.
  2. Businesses will seize the opportunity – It took all of 24 hours before all-in-one checkin rewards  site, Topguest, announced that it was including Facebook Places in its service. It won’t take long before others follow suit. The potential access to 500 million members/eyeballs/customers will do that.
  3. Places appeals to the masses, not the early adopters – Mike Schneider and I were going back and forth earlier on Twitter about how disappointed he was in the lack of innovation on Places. My Quick’n’Dirty podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I had a similar conversation yesterday on our weekly show. My take is that Facebook intentionally didn’t include any sexy new features for two reasons a) they want to appeal to the masses so keeping the UI and functionality as simple as possible was essential and b) if bullet number one above is correct, Facebook wants other LBS players to do the innovating while it does its LBS platform thing.
  4. Facebook will make a killing in geo-targeted ad revenue IF Places takes off – I may hate ads, but the more relevant and geo-focused they are, the more inclined I will be to react to them. Check out eMarketer’s post yesterday for more details on this topic including forecasts.
  5. Places will create a privacy nightmare for Facebook – I bet you thought I was going to yadda yadda over this one. Nope. This is the thing that could make or break Places. The major sticking point being the ability to check people into a location. While I personally like this feature in theory (and it is unique to Facebook as far as I can tell), this will cause plenty of problems down the road. It will only take 1-2 times of someone being checked into a location that you either don’t want to be checked into or weren’t actually at… but by the time your friend/parent/significant other sees the update, it will be too late.
How about you? I’m sure I’ll get some push back on some of my predictions. But you know me, I welcome the discussion!

Overheard: I Survived SXSW ’09 and Lived To Talk About It (part 2)

Here’s the thing about SXSW. It’s just too great an experience to contain in one wrap up post. Last week, I wrote the first installment of my SXSX experience summary which gave six of my highlights from the event. Now it’s onto the second post about the event also known as “geek spring break”:

Time to Give Back

Photo Credit: Wm. Marc Salsberry
It was by complete coincidence that I bumped into new friend, Sydney Owen, at the Mashable party that we sponsored last week during SXSW. I was making my way through the crowd and she grabbed me and said, “hey, can I do a quick video interview with you?” Little did Sydney know that I love to talk (in spite of 
my lack of voice that night) and so two minutes later, she was asking me what advice I would give to someone just getting out of college getting started in PR.
My answer is here but that’s not the point of this post. It’s
 the fact that after a few back and forth exchanges on Twitter/e-mail, between Sydney and me that she aske if I would mentor her based on our similar way of thinking. I thought about this for about five minutes before agreeing. My rationale was, I’ve had so many people dedicate time to me and help me along, how could I not give back to her?
Now in fairness, I’m not sure I’d agree to mentor just anyone but I loved Sydney’s “go get ‘em” attitude. I also appreciated the fact that she seems to live and breathe the
 socialsphere. That combo made me realize that she’s got the potential to do something big!
To get us started, Sydney asked if I would answer a few questions for her. Rather than trapping them in an e-mail, I thought it might be nice to share in the event that other “mentors” and “mentees” are looking for a way to get started. Here goes:

What is your background?

The lightning fast version of my story is that I started working at a small ad agency (10 people) in 1994. I was the chief cook and bottle washer and learned how to write copy, layout ads/brochures, write HTML, create direct mail programs and service clients. That job prepared me well for the 9+ years I spent at Fidelity Investements — 4 years in their in-house agency and 5 years in marketing. During my time at Fidelity, I focused on web development, online advertising, e-mail and search marketing, and partnership development. Since then I’ve led marketing and social media efforts at Mzinga and now Powered. This experience doing traditional marketing/advertising has helped me better undestand how to get the most out of social media and online community.

Where did you get your first job? And how?

Oops, I guess I kind of answered that above. If you really want to know about my “first-first” job, it was cutting the fairways and rough at a local golf course. I’ve also worked at a video store, washed dishes, done landscaping and caddied at the Brookline Country Club. During grad school at Georgetown, I worked in that the law school as an office manager (yup, I’ve done my share of grunt work over the years).

What is the best thing about Powered? The worst?

There were four things that attracted me to Powered when I first got the call from their recruiter back in September of 2008:
  1. Ken Nicolson, Powered’s CEO (and my boss) is just a really smart, caring, savvy guy. Our first conversation was two hours long and it felt like it was 15 minutes.
  2. The team — we have a great set of execs AND extended team. They all work hard, play hard and truly get “social.”
  3. Our customers – we have some great customers at Powered. Sony, in particular, is one of my favorites because they are willing to talk publicly about their results (any marketers dream).
  4. The company is located in Austin (great city) and backed by Austin Ventures (great venture capital firm).
In all honesty, there really isn’t anything I don’t like about Powered. If I had to pick something, it’s the fact that we don’t sell $.99 hamburgers so the current economy has made new sales a little tricky. We’re still holding our own, however, so we’re happy that we can weather this economic storm and live to fight another day as things recover.
On my end, next steps are to review Sydney’s resume (“make it bleed” she tells me) and then pass her along to any folks I think might be interesting. Given how impressed I’ve been with her so far, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

UPDATED 3/23 @ 12:15 PM – And she’s a good editor… ["breath" now fixed to "breathe."] LOL

Experts in the Industry: Leslie Poston (13 of 45)

Leslie Poston, Founder, Uptown Uncorked and guest writer for Mashable.com is better known in some circles as Geechee Girl (I first met her on Twitter so I still call her that in person vs. Leslie). She’s smart, funny and aparently doesn’t like contrived holidays. She’s also a really good writer.

So here’s how she answered the 5 questions in the Expert Interviews: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series;
In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a writer, editor, speaker, business development trainer and social media guide with a passion for learning as much as possible, sharing as much knowledge as I have, and facilitating as many useful and good real world connections through social and new media as I can.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Completely by accident! One day I decided to take my psychology education and use it with my writing and business development experience to see what I could do for the people and businesses around me, and a new aspect of my career was born. I’ve never looked back – I love the dual nature of my work. By continuing to write and also to offer assistance and help bridging gaps, seeking paths to social leverage and finding connections however I can to the people and companies who need me, I am never bored. I love that aspect of this business.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
It’s a tough call, but I’d have to say TipJoy. Twitter is certainly the easy answer, but I think their continued influx of cash and buyout offers would see them through most crises. I think TipJoy has made giving back to the community easy. They have put in practice one of the biggest things I advocate – taking online social leverage and turning it into real world change. I would hope they would use the money in part to develop and secure their business against the economic flux that is happening and also share it around to some of the charities they help 
through microdonations.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Jimmy Carter. I was too young to remember the details of his presidency, though I clearly remember my parents’ over all sense of disillusionment about it. However, history has shown us that he had his strengths in office in spite of the flaws (I think that is true of the majority of 
presidents, no matter how ideology differs). Even more important to me is how he leveraged his clout and position after leaving office to create a lasting legacy of hope and help to people right here at home who needed it, in ways both big and small, including his work with Habitat for Humanity. That rings true for me.
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I would not personally join a toothpaste community. I rarely find myself passionate about inanimate objects. However, I know plenty of people who would, and I think you could advocate for it from the toothpaste company’s perspective with a straight face. People care about the products they buy and often anthropomorphize them, so a toothpaste community might make sense for a larger number of people than you’d expect. The same goes for any product or action in common use but not “attached” conceptually to one brand yet in the way Xerox, Google and Kleenex are.
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Whatever your reason for being in this social media space – customer, business, politics, social good, fun, or other – remember that your wants, desires, dreams and rules only apply to you. The beauty of this vast new frontier is how individual it is, how a la carte. Do your best to be courteous, polite and respectful, just as you would if you were meeting us in person. Don’t worry so much about rules! Rules limit growth in this untested space. Try hard not to antagonize people and companies just to get attention – that reflects poorly on you, yes, but also on the rest of us here. Your actions are public. Not everything can be kumbaya and lollipops all the time, but everything good can certainly come from all of us being aware that our words and deeds affect the whole pond. More than anything, have fun. We are entering a new age where fun, new ideas and enthusiasm in work is OK – embrace it, and make sure the person next to you is having fun and finding their dreams too.