Commoditising location – UK tourist agency's Facebook Places app shows the way

If you were wondering how organisations and brands might take advantage of Facebook Places, a new Facebook application from the UK tourist agency VisitBritain provides a good example of things to come.

Developed by Ireland-based Betapond, the Facebook Places application is described as a ‘global guest book’ for tourists to share their experiences of the UK and to recommend attractions to their friends and family. In its first phase, the app, which resides on the LoveUK Facebook page, consists of a leaderboard of the 50 most popular attractions in the UK ranked by the number of Places check-ins, along with tapping into a user’s social graph so that they can see which of their friends have previously visited the attraction.

At launch, the app houses a database of only 150 UK attractions, which VisitBritain says will be added to over the coming months. In theory, any of the estimated 50,000 UK tourist offerings can register themselves with the platform, providing the opportunity to market their wares to Facebook users who visit the UK, apparently all 250,000 of them per-day.

However, what’s perhaps most interesting about the VisitBritain Facebook Places app, isn’t the functionality itself, which by the tourist agency’s own admission, is currently fairly limited, but the low overheads of rolling out such an offering. Places is clearly commoditising location-based functionality in the same way that Facebook has pretty much done for any app or service that wants to build on top of a user’s social graph. And, just in the same way as social, Facebook could be destined to own the location layer too.

On that note, Justin Reid, Head of Digital and Social for VisitBritain, comments: “Facebook Places offers us a smart and cost effective way of engaging directly with overseas tourists. We will be working closely with all tourist destinations to show them how they can market themselves on the platform and create viral recommendations.”