Personally, I don’t hold much truck with Facebook on a social level (maybe I shouldn’t say that considering that technology, digital and social media is my day job!) and I prefer LinkedIn for business networking and Twitter for status updates and to quick-share information.
And when I am mobile, on the go? SMS and again Twitter. Maybe because Facebook is too feature-rich, maybe I am distrustful of Zuckerberg and co with their frankly poor privacy record. It’s quite apparent that I am in an minority of the mobile-internet-using world, as the BBC reported back in February that Facebook accounts for nearly half the time spent on mobile internet in the UK, equating to 2.2 billion browsing minutes in December 2009 alone. That is a great number of lols and a huge number of inane updates about what people had for breakfast.
These musing were triggered by Facebook’s launch of it’s location-based services (with the moniker of Facebook Places) this week. Now, these types of services are not new, the most popular such as Foursquare, Gowalla (both of whom have teamed up with Facebook), Britekite, or Google’s Latitiude offer a variety of location-based social features from identifying where your friends are (Britekite and Latitude), to “checking-in” at shops, bars, places of work and other communal areas to show that you have frequented them (Gowalla, Foursquare). In fact, this has become popular with the consumer marketing brigade to offer benefits to those who check-in frequently at a store (Starbucks being the most high-profile).
So what can Facebook offer that these other services can’t? The obvious answer is that it brings location-based services to the mainstream, and offers a combination of services including those offered by the services mentioned above. In addition, Facebook are publishing an API for Facebook Places, which throws up some interesting uses of the service in the healthcare sector. There’s a ‘Read API’ for reading check-ins and learning more about check-in pages. There’s a ‘Search and Write API’ for making check-ins and searching through them.
And for the healthcare industry? If we can overcome and manage the obvious privacy issues, if the Facebook Places features take off, would it allow clinics, hospitals, surgeries and pharmacies to promote their services to patients in the local area, possibly encourage patients to attend their appointment and remind them where to pick up their prescription?
I think there is potential. Let’s see if it catches on…