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Let's give Facebook Places a Whrrl.

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Perhaps the title of this Gold Nugget is a bad pun. Today we're going to give a brief overview of the new Facebook Places system compared to Whrrl.

Whrrl has a straight forward system showing you immediate suggested things to do on the opening Home page. There's also a easy to use Check In button that, when tapped, will give you a fast, real time listing of places around you.

As people check in and make recommendations, those recommendations are pushed out to anyone else who is within the local area. We've already seen people act upon our recommendations immediately, and then reply back to us with a "did it." The same suggestions will show up on the Home page for people up to about 20 miles away.

Unlike the badges you earn from the other systems which you can use to mark your personal goals, Whrrl give you Influence Points each time you check in and for each recommendation you make. Whrrl's social game is to accumulate more Influence Points faster than your friends.

From the retailer's point of view, your store can become a member of a "Society" of other retailers. Users can join the Society, too, if they check in at your location. Society retailers can make special offers to Society users, and even have different types of specials available to people with more Influence Points within a Society.

In other words, the more a person checks into your store, the better the offer you can give them. Check in once and get nothing, check in twice and get a free bottle of jewelry cleaner, but check in the tenth time and maybe they get a free Pandora bracelet. Get it? These are not just the tech junkies, they are also your regular customers you are giving incentives to come back again. This sounds a lot like those old loyalty cards you would stamp or punch a hole in, and it might be. But Whrrl makes it a fun, socially interactive game with tie-ins to Facebook and Twitter.

We recommend getting involved with Whrrl as a merchant. So far it's a free service, so go do it.

Now what can we say about Facebook Places? Well, very little at this point because it's extremely young, limited, and this Version 1 seems to be totally useless as a means of attracting new customers to your store. That was harsh, but after a week of testing and comparing other stand alone location-based services (LBS) to the Facebook Places add-on, there really is no comparison.

Through Facebook Places, a user is able to locate your store and check in. Their check in is then posted to their personal Facebook Wall. But there's no point system, no badges, no rewards... nothing about this makes it interesting other than to brag to your friends that you went somewhere.

The database of locations in Facebook is seriously lacking. They, like Whrrl, got their database of places from Microsoft's Bing. Huge mistake, since most locations are either missing or incorrectly listed as a corporate name rather than the d.b.a name. Almost every place we wanted to check in to was missing from Facebook. The Add a Place feature lacks the ability to indicate a correct address which causes issues if the GPS in your phone is inaccurate.

According to the Facebook Help pages, it is not possible to create targeted ads or offers for people who check in at your Place. You could target an ad to people who Like the Places Page, but that's on a PC and not available on a cell phone. Again, useless in today's fast moving mobile world.

Another lousy aspect of Facebook Places is that a Places Page will not connect to your standard Business Page, nor can you edit the information on the Places Page. To use an analogy, it's an island surrounded by useless salt water.

Unfortunately, it's here and perhaps 500 million users will try it out through their cell phone and that means you need to follow the Facebook directions on claiming your useless island (your Place).

If you have to create your Place, make sure to match the new Place name to the same name used on your Business Page. Once you've claimed or created your Place, you should check into it every once in a while. The only benefit we found was that your friends will see your name, and the place you checked in to on their cell phone. It's subtle advertising that can build more top of mind awareness.

You might find yourself tempted to get involved with the badge, games and points on the other LBS, but don't get involved with this one. You could easily annoy your friends with FB Places since each check in creates another status post to your wall. For you as a business owner, this creates too much useless chatter and people might unfriend you.

Our recommendation is to willingly go for a Whrrl, but begrudgingly stand on the desert island of Facebook Places.
AT: 08/26/2010 10:55:14 AM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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