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Are you going Places?

Facebook’s new location-based service offers opportunities for IFAs

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Last week, Facebook Places went live in the UK. Within the first hour or so, people could been seen “checking in” at Tesco, Waterloo Station, Starbucks and places of work. Thanks to the immediacy of Twitter, one or two IFAs picked up on it and have used the new service.

Some commentators are asking if the mighty Facebook will finish off existing location-based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and others.

I do not think this will happen. Choice is good and these established services provide other features which Facebook is not yet offering. For example, Gowalla and Brightkite give you the ability to upload photos. This makes the whole location-based networking activity more valuable and interesting – and particularly if a business, store or business premise incentivises you to include a photo as part of your check-in.

But will IFAs and financial brands take advantage of this new technology?

As we have already seen, some have already done so within the first hour after launch but most will think it frivolous and not be able to see any useful application in their businesses. Time to open minds.

It was only a year ago when most IFAs were saying that Twitter is a waste of time but we now have over 900 IFAs on IFA Life who use Twitter.

In the great scheme of things, that is not a huge number but it is growing fast every day as IFAs discover that Twitter is not just about marketing.

The problem, however, is not the use of these tools but the strategy behind it – or rather the lack of strategy.

Without strategy, any benefit that you get out of their use will be accidental at best. Just imagine what you could achieve if you really took time to plan how you will use these tools as part of a fully integrated marketing plan.

Location-based networking is still in its early days but there are already benefits emerging. Here are a few ideas.

Impromptu meetings
When you attend any event, venue or large gathering, you will be able to see who else is there. When you discover that a good friend is there, the chances are you will want to meet up or send them a message. I have done this several times and, apart from the social aspects, we all know that some of the best networking is done at impromptu meetings.

Recommendations and reviews
You can leave messages, tips and recommendations for people who check in at the same places as you. I am seeing this happening at restaurants. It is also useful when visiting hotels.

Events
There is nothing quite like the sense of community when you attend an event, whether it is a concert, a conference or a seminar. The virtual layer that location-based networking adds on top creates an exciting extra dimension.

Rewards
The most popular way that location-based networking is being used is by offering rewards to people. Business owners offer discounts to people who have checked in regularly. This is probably how these tools will be used most.

One of the reasons why these tools will become so popular is because they are based on mobile app technology.

Despite concerns about privacy and broadcasting your whereabouts to the world, people will still use these tools in their millions, making the marketing opportunities enormous.

The world of financial services has much to gain from it – not least as a new way to make it look more appealing, more attractive and more relevant to internet-savvy consumers. We are only limited by our imagination and lack of strategy.

Philip Calvert is founder of IFA Life

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