Mike Elgan: Why Facebook Places is going nowhere

Is the underwhelming rollout of Facebook's Foursquare clone about to be ruined by premature marketing?

Only 30 million people have used Facebook Places, one reportrepresents just 6% of Facebook users. And that's not the number who use it. That's the number who have tried it.

In my own unscientific poll, the majority of people who tried Facebook Places stopped using it. That might explain why Foursquare users, who number just 4 million, check in way more often than Places users do.

When Places first hit, I forced myself to check in both on Foursquare and Places but quickly stopped using Places. After all, Foursquare posted on Facebook just the same. And checking in other people never felt right. So, what's the point of Places?

The problem is that Facebook users don't understand what Places is for. The early-adopter types jumped on Foursquare, and these active users remained loyal, apparently. The reason is that Foursquare feels useful ... and fun.

For people who enjoy chasing badges, Foursquare rewards them with more creative rewards, many of which are the result of partnerships with the likes of Zagat and others. New "Super Duper Swarm" and "Epic Swarm" badges (for 500 and 1,000 user check-ins at a single event, respectively), as well as a just-in-time-for-the-election "I Voted" badge, keeps the service feeling alive and fresh.

And Foursquare is doing better with third-party buy-in. It was on Foursquare, for example, that the first International Space Station check-in took place. And it was via Foursquare that Conan O'Brien chose to offer a "Conan badge" for spotting his annoying promotional blimp.

Companies such as Mazda, Starbucks, the National Hockey League and others are all using Foursquare to launch high-visibility promotions.

Sure, Facebook has announced some deals and partnerships of its own. But they don't have the popular-culture appeal of the Foursquare announcements.

In other words, Facebook Places has no mojo. No juice. No momentum.

In still other words -- from the Facebook biopic The Social Network -- Facebook Places isn't cool.

Why Zuckerberg needs to watch 'The Social Network' again

In Aaron Sorkin's entertaining character assassination of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he accidentally revealed Zuckerberg's visionary side. In the movie, silver-screen Zuck kept holding out on the addition of advertising to Facebook in the face of pressure from partner Eduardo Saverin to monetize.

His idea was that Facebook was growing because it was cool and that advertising would make it uncool before it reached some kind of critical mass. Zuckerberg, fictional or otherwise, was dead right.

That's why a rumored new program makes no sense. An allegedly leaked e-mail obtained by All Facebook

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