Why Facebook Changing Places Into Locations Is So Cool

Facebook's transformation of places into location tagging might be more significant than the overhaul of privacy settings, says guest writer Ryan Cohn, chief executive officer of What's Next Marketing.

Facebook announced a series of upcoming changes this week, and while most of the attention was on a revamping of the privacy system, the transformation of places is possibly more significant.

Facebook is phasing out places positioned as a geolocation service in order to focus on tagging posts with location, similar to how Twitter works.

I see six implications of this change, based on the video (embedded beneath this post) that Facebook produced to explain the new changes. Disclaimer: All of these things might change once the features go live.

1. Fewer buttons above the main status update box

The will be three options for posting an update: update status, add photo, ask questions. This replaces the current format showing “share: status, photo, link, video, question.” A comparison of the two appears in the screenshot above.

My assumption is Facebook sees more activity from status updates, photos, and questions, so the site’s trying to build the platform around the most popular features.

I’d also assume merely pasting a link into the update box would provide the equivalent of sharing a link in its current form, a system already integrated into comments.

In the old format, when you click on “add photo,” you’re prompted to select an image or video file. How will people know they can share videos in the new format?

2. Share becomes post

This change reminds me of when Twitter switched from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?”

Other sites using the share plug-in has people accustomed to the phrase “share on Facebook.” Will they all get revised to “post on Facebook?”

The lexicon of social media changes by the day, and is a true product of crowdsourcing.

3. Personal profiles change, but what about business pages and places?

Right now, the same sharing options appear on both personal profiles and businesses’ pages and places.

Do businesses need location tagging? The option makes perfect sense for a celebrity, who could post photos to their page and tag the stadium where they’re performing.

But does a local restaurant need to attach a location to every post? Tagging an event would make perfect sense: “We’re having so much fun” could have the tag “Thursday happy hour.”

4. Will location tagging open up the possibility for event and group tags?

Say you take photos at a professional networking event. Would you want to tag the photos as the page of the networking group, the place where the event took place, or the event listing where everyone who attended RSVPed?

5. More localized Facebook search

Facebook is trying to make search more localized. When you tag a photo with a place, you first have to select the city. This narrows down the actual location.

If Facebook limits the default places search your current location, that could be a boon for local businesses.

6. Privacy limitations finally added for location

The big reason why I use Facebook places sparingly is the limited privacy controls.

I have over 20 friend lists, all with different privacy settings.

Right now, you can’t tailor individual check-ins to different friend lists. But that appears to be changing with the new features. I’m likely to check in more often as a result. Maybe other users will too.

Guest writer Ryan Cohn is chief executive officer of What’s Next Marketing.