Facebook Places, Privacy and Bowling

Facebook Places launched last week. It has been dubbed a competitor to Foursquare and other location-based services, a compliment to existing Facebook features and another means for “over-sharers” to continue to broadcast their nonsense. PC World describes Facebook Places as “an obvious banshee cry to Foursquare and other location-based check-in services.”

Facebook’s purpose is to create a vehicle for sharing. Not just for you to share and broadcast about you, but to enable others you’re connected with to share their content. The main advantage in any of this share is the idea that connections (i.e. users) can experience each other’s shared content without being in physical proximity to one another. Facebook Places brings another level of location-free sharing: by actually enabling the sharing of physical locations.

There are some privacy concerns about friends tagging friends in posts and with the launch of Facebook Places, concerns arise around tagging. If you actually watch the video I linked a bit earlier, listen to the scenario the ABC’s Linsey Davis says:

Let’s say I happen to tell my boyfriend I’m working late tonight. And then I go out to the bar with some friends of mine. Someone someone unbeknownst to me can say ‘Hey guess what, Linsey Davis is at this bar.’

Let me digress for a moment: I will accept that different social networks allow an individual to reinvent themselves, their persona, personality etc. But one fact remains true throughout life: lying and deceit is bad and there are repercussions for involvement in bad things.

In Linsey’s scenario, and in may other nay-sayers about Facebook places, the idea that I can tag you in a check-in is something you may not consent to, you don’t want your boyfriend finding out you aren’t working late or that after working late you went to a bar. Sorry Linsey: fact of the matter is independent of Facebook people have the ability to see you at the bar, to call up your boyfriend and tell him where you are and who you’re with. If you step outside your home people can see you. Maybe later in the day, maybe later in the week, someone may say “hey have you seen [you] lately?” and the response may be “yeah I saw them outside of their home yesterday.” It may not seem like it but this is the same sharing interaction as Facebook Places.

Still, people will inevitably complain about privacy concerns and being automatically opted-in to such functionality. You know the real way to solve your Facebook privacy concerns regarding Facebook Places: talk to the person who is an arm’s-length from you, checking in and tagging you. It’s not Facebook’s fault if someone tags you and it is by bar easier to talk to someone you trust. By the way, someone has to be a friend of yours on Facebook in order for them to tag you, so it’s not like it’s some random paparazzi following you around reporting on your location. And communication with your friend(s) is far better than to gripe at Facebook about their privacy settings.

Enough on the negativity, how can you benefit from Facebook Places? Compared to other location based networks, Facebook Places lets you share your check-ins with your Facebook network. (Advantage over a group like Foursquare, who requires one-to-one friend invites/acceptance.) Claiming Facebook Places (as a business owner) is pretty simple, takes maybe a few hours for Facebook to send you a confirmation to then administer your Facebook Place. There’s even an API to allow read and writing to Facebook Places, which can be pulled just like all other Open Graph data. You’ll get to create promotions for your Facebook Places, similar to the game-like promotion activity offered by Foursquare.

But most importantly, I would wager that for small businesses that have a tight or non-existent budget for marketing, Facebook Places allows for them to have a mobile presence aside from a website or Facebook Business Page. I personally am still waiting for more local businesses (especially my clients) to jump on the idea that they don’t need a website, they just need a perfected Facebook Business Page and (now) a strong Facebook Places page.

Facebook is currently rolling out Places to the US markets, there are a few threads about it’s progress – it seems the west coast (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, et al) have already been deployed. I would estimate international availability for Facebook Places to be near the middle-to-end of September.

What I’m interested in now is how will non-brick-and-mortar businesses benefit from Facebook Places? Moreover: how does any business that doesn’t have a storefront or physical space to take advantage of location based services? My immediate reaction is: get out into your local community and make a temporary location centered around an event. Good example: if you are a business in Denver, Colorado go throw a party at Lucky Strike, create a check-in location (on Foursquare, etc) for the “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc. Party Hosted by Lucky Strike.” Check-ins warrant a free drink or hour of bowling care of “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc.” and any achievements earned by users get some kind of promotion. Keep in mind: using Facebook Places does mean your users will automatically have the visibility to their network – which means your brand will have visibility to their network – but don’t neglect other location-based services. Foursquare lets you create your own places, too – you can play location-based services against each other by promoting each one for different/same events. For our example: free drinks if you check-in via Facebook Places, free hour of Bowling if you check into the party via Foursquare, etc. As it turns out, claiming a Facebook Place is easy, if you have a ton of business documentation. Yielding Facebook Places as a great local business directory and Foursquare a great ad-hoc (and event-based) location based service for business.

Facebook: Adding the ‘Like’ Button

So at some point I will give a general ‘why social media and why you should care’ story, but let’s not waste time with that now. Let’s get right into the thick of things. Have a WordPress blog or WordPress-powered website? Want to add a ‘like’ button? Ok, let’s get down to business. The first thing you’ll want to do is change the namespace of your HTML document. Get into the header.php file of your theme. Typically located in /wp-content/themes/[themename]/header.php – You’ll find these lines of code right at the top of this file. We want to change the attributes of the HTML tag.

<?php
/**
 *
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage DeptofAwesome
 */
?>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" <?php language_attributes(); ?> >
We’ll want to change the xmlns (XML Name Space) of our HTML document. Note that changing the header.php file will update all pages that use this include file will be affected. We want to add the Open Graph protocol and the Facebook protocol like this:
<?php
/**
 *
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage DeptofAwesome
 */
?>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"
     xmlns:og="http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/"
     xmlns:fb="http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml"
     <?php language_attributes(); ?> >
Adding the following code attributes to your <html> tag allows for Open Graph and Facebook objects to work on your site:

xmlns:og="http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/"
xmlns:fb="http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml"
Now to add the ‘Like’ button to your posts. The button is based on a page’s URL. If you have a blog that’s showing multiple posts, we just have to define the button to pull the URL for each post. A simple and standard button code looks like this:
<?php
/**
 *
 */
?>

<fb:like href="yourlinkhere" show_faces="false"
     width="300" font="arial"></fb:like>
There are additional configuration options, little tweaks to the button to try and match the motif of your design, but we’re just keeping things simple for now. You’ll want to now go into your main index template found in /wp-content/themes/[themename]/index.php – there’s a tag that’ll have a class of id named ‘postmetadata’ that we care about. In this example, the post meta data (tags, links, comment count, etc) are all contained in a custom function called ‘othergoodness’ – which we can ignore for now. Add your ‘Like’ button code within the tag labeled ‘postmetadata’ and immediately after all other functions are called (you can change placement later). It should look something like this:

<p class="postmetadata">
  <?php othergoodness(); ?>
  <fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
</p>
Note there are a few extra parameters for this example, just trying to show a little more detail and how you can control some display elements.

Our link, defined by the href attribute, utilizes the permanent link for that particular post. So on a page of 3 posts, each post has unique meta data and a unique link associated with it, we are piggy-backing on that predefined info by calling the_permalink() function for our link.
You’ll also want to add the like button to your single-post and page templates. You can use the same code snippet from your main index template on both of those pages. I recommend you place the code near your comments-template declaration. If you have comments turned off within WordPress, still add your like button near where the comments would be. In our example, the single post page, typically found at /wp-content/themes/[themename]/single.php becomes:

<fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
     <?php comments_template(); ?>
Adding the button to a page will work the same way. Find your page template and drop the same code. Page template is typically at /wp-content/themes/[themename]/page.php – and you can place it just before the comments template again. I add it after any admin-specific functionality that’d be relevant to post content to keep interaction elements (likes, comments, etc) separate when visually editing the front-end of the site.

<?php edit_post_link('Edit this entry.','<p>','</p>'); ?>
<fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
     <?php comments_template(); ?>
And that’s pretty much it, now the Facebook ‘Like’ button will be on all of your relevant pages and posts. The ‘fb:like’ tag works like any other ‘a’ tag where you can add it to just about anything.
The key to everything with the like button is the URL. What we learned here was how to just go in, drop some open graph and FBML code to dynamically pull the URL per-post or per-page so you don’t have to worry about it. On static sites, naturally you’ll have to add the button to every page with the appropriate URL. There are other methods to add meta data and social interaction to pages and posts, but we can cover that at a later date.
Due to goofy glitches, I cannot add the code within this post (hence the images) I have, however, put together each snippet into a text file, which you can grab here. Use the code at your own risk, etc – feel free to post comments or questions here or in the forums if you get stuck.