Will Facebook Places pay off for location-based companies?

Just weeks after Facebook announced its new location check-in feature dubbed Facebook Places, several companies have emerged claiming themselves as the first to leverage the features new set of user data. While each company is using the new service slightly differently, it’s not surprising that they want to tap into Facebook’s growing user base.

One company, Placepop, is looking to give Facebook users insight into their own check-ins as well as their friends. The new Facebook application also shows trending check-ins, similar to topics on Twitter. As of right now, the top three trending check-in locations are all in California, including AT&T Park (where the San Francisco Giants play), Facebook HQ and Hollywood Bowl (a place for concerts).

Another, Scvngr, a mobile game company that gives users challenges after they check-in, yesterday announced its own integration with Facebook Places in an attempt to increase its users, according to All Facebook. Ideally, more users may mean more interest from  the businesses and organizations that pay to have their customers and employees play the game.

Finally, Booyah, a location-based gaming company, recently announced the launch of InCrowd, an iPhone application that lets users interact with friends and share posts in real-time in real-world locations.

There is no doubt that these companies are looking to cash in on a large Facebook user base, but I’m skeptical on how many of those Facebook users have actually used Places, or are even interested. A recent article in the New York Times highlights a Forrester Research report which notes that just 4 percent of all Americans have even tried a location-based service and only 1 percent use them on a weekly basis.

Will Facebook be the catalyst to get more consumers participating more in location-based services and check-ins? Maybe, though there’s evidence that Facebook users may have some fear and confusion over privacy, an ongoing issue for the social networking site.

(Disclosure: I’m working on a location-based startup idea of my own.)


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