Places.  As of a few days ago, it has a new meaning for a lot of people.  If you have a smart phone and are accessing Facebook then you’ve probably already figured out that they launched a new feature called “Places”.  It just rolled out and is wrought with controversy.

If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, let me briefly fill you in.  Places allows people to announce via Facebook exactly where they are.  “Checking-in” and announcing where you are isn’t a new idea. Companies like Foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl have set the groundwork for this and users have been posting their check-ins on Facebook.  Seems only natural that Facebook would try to cash in on the craze.

Some people love this idea but I’m just not sold on it.  I know a ton of people using Foursquare and Gowalla and I often joke that it’s like an announcement that people can go rob your house.  You’re obviously not there.

Although Places isn’t available here in the Quad Cities yet, it will be soon.  When it is, I’m curious how many people will flock to using it.  Me?  Not a chance.   At least not until they work out some things.  While other location-based social networking programs allow you to personally check-in and work to achieve various titles, Places allows other people to check you in also.  That kind of freaks me out.  Friend or not, I’m not wild about the idea of someone else having control of announcing to their friends where I’m at.

But as much as I hate the idea of location-based social networking, I find myself drawn to Whrrl.  At Whrrl, it isn’t just about the check-in features; that’s only one small part of a larger picture.  On Whrrl, you’re able to upload pictures and create stories related to your check-in.  It’s a very cool feature that I’ve used for both marketing campaigns as well as personal digital scrapbooking.

So how is it that I swear I won’t use location-based apps yet I throw praise at Whrrl?  You see, I can check-in, take advantage of specials and promotions, participate in recommendations people make, make recommendations of my own, join societies, create societies, post pictures and create slide shows yet not lose all my anonymity.  Whrrl’s “Just Me” option is what makes all the difference.  No matter what I do, I’m able to choose the level that I want to share with Whrrl members, as well as whether I want to share on Twitter or Facebook. I’m also able to go back later and amend the privacy settings of a check-in to make it more (or less) public.

Over the course of the past month, I’ve found myself more and more interested in it.  A Whrrl contest even prompted me to create a society of my own.  After participating in various car-related activities, I decided to create a society called “Under the Hood”.  I couldn’t find any society that involved automobile maintenance so I created Under the Hood and added the following description to it: “When you neglect your automobile, it will begin to neglect you! Don’t forget about general service, oil changes, tires, car washes, window repairs, paint… It’s all about taking care of our vehicles.”  Automobiles… That’s what the Under the Hood Society is all about.  If your business offers car-related services or sells car-related products, check out the merchant program to see if Whrrl can help drive customers through your door.

As a social media participant, you may decide that location-based services are a waste of time.  You may find that Foursquare, Gowalla or one of the other services is best for you.  You may decide to go with Facebook’s Places feature. For me, I’ll stick with Whrrl.  It’s well rounded, thought out and offers a lot of cool features.

>…Now I’m waiting for all my favorite merchants to discover the benefits of it, too.

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