Facebook Places vs. Foursquare: Who has the business edge?

Places duplicates most of Foursquare's raison d'etre, but Foursquare could stay relevant by serving businesses better.

Facebook's unveiling of Facebook Places is an obvious banshee cry to Foursquare and other location-based check-in services. As with those services, Facebook Places allows users to share their location and discover new hot spots by following the stops of people in their network.

While the folks at Facebook haven't confirmed how Facebook Places might eventually integrate with Facebook's business pages, this is undoubtedly in the works and once it happens the implications are obvious -- companies will have an easy opportunity to market and promote their services on the most popular and powerful social media platform.

That's not to say Foursquare should just take down its shingle. The service has excelled as a way for businesses small and large to build customer loyalty through its fostering of spirited competition among consumers through it's Mayor badge. But it's going to take more than a basic reward system of points, badges and coveted Mayorships to stay in the game. Foursquare is going to need to build more alliances with businesses the way it has with Starbucks, which has taken advantage of the service to drive customers with special discounts.

Also, Foursquare currently has a slight edge in its real-time stats feature that logs such information as the most recent customers, the frequency of their visits, gender breakdown and the tips visitors have left. (By contrast, Facebook Places currently only shows who has checked into a location.) A business - and its competitors -- could glean valuable intel from this data if Foursquare did more to make it visible.

Ultimately, however, no strategy will likely be enough to fend off obsolescence. Once Facebook Places incorporates enough Foursquare-like features -- and it will -- Foursquare users will start abandoning the service in droves to take advantage of the expansive network they've already built on Facebook and the ease of managing multiple services from one social networking platform. Then there are those folks who have never previously used a location-based check-in service who will undoubtedly get in the game through Facebook Places.

Companies, in turn, will be unable to resist the lure of the millions of embedded and engaged users Facebook offers - leverage Foursquare has no hope of competing with.

Until Facebook Places expands its feature set, Foursquare could remain the go-to location-based check-in service for many users, largely thanks to its integration with Facebook. But Foursquare's days are numbered. Savvy businesses will claim their Place on Facebook Places today, and never look back.

Contact Michael Ansaldo via Twitter.

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Michael Ansaldo

PC World (US online)
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