Facebook Places: Finally the Update We've Been Waiting For

A Long-Awaited Upgrade

Nearly two weeks ago, Facebook unrolled a major update for Places that makes the feature more scalable and, further, more attractive to businesses with multiple locations.

Similar to Foursquare, Gowalla and other geosocial platforms, Facebook Places lets users “check-in” using their mobile devices to share their locations with Facebook Friends. To encourage users to share their locations, some merchants incentivize check-ins by offering special deals for checking-in.

The biggest criticism for Facebook Places from marketers when it was introduced last year was the lack of any ability to link multiple locations (e.g., multiple stores) with a single, corporate Facebook Page, an issue many of the biggest brands in the world needed to contend with. Plus, setting up check-in deals across multiple locations, was difficult and cumbersome. The combination of these two issues made platforms like Foursquare a bit more attractive for brands hoping to leverage geosocial services with a degree of scale.

What We’ve Been Waiting For… 

Facebook has heard the concerns, and made two significant changes: 

  • Parent Page-Child Place: The new parent-child tool allows Facebook Page administrators to link multiple locations (children) to a single Facebook Page (the parent). Locations linked to a Facebook Page appear under a new “Locations” section that aggregates all the check-ins from the locations and allows consumers to view nearby store locations, search by zip code and view their friends who have checked-in.

  • Check-In Deals API: The upgrade now has a way to automate check-in deal creation, management and measurement. Deals can be targeted to specific locations or geographic regions, allowing brands to deliver highly targeted deals specific to location and product promotion.

Last, the overall, management has been streamlined as deals and location information can easily be modified through the Places dashboard in the admin section of a Facebook Page. 

Much like other geosocial service dashboards out there, ROI-driven marketers can view Facebook Places analytics to determine deal performance, view the number of check-ins and learn store traffic patterns to evaluate performance and optimize efforts.

Facebook’s upgrade doesn’t only benefit businesses. Encouraging major businesses with multiple locations to make Places part of their marketing efforts, will lead to more consumer interest and usage, which gives Facebook more user data to make its already powerful advertising offering more robust.

Before Getting Started…

The opportunity to encourage customers to share their locations with their online networks using Facebook Places is considerable, especially as the penetration of GPS-enabled smart phone devices continues to rise. However, before getting started, it’s important to plan a business’ overall Facebook operating structure and determine who will manage a business’ Facebook Page and how individual locations will be maintained.

With its impressive user base and relentless hype, it’s easy to jump right to Facebook for reaching customers, but it’s not the only geosocial service out there. Competitors, including Foursquare, Gowalla, Google and SCVNGR, are gaining traction with new users by offering unique features. Know the audience and evaluate each platform based on their behavior to, first, determine whether or not they are using geosocial services and, second, which one(s) they are more likely to use and engage with.

Facebook’s update takes what was already an attractive feature for marketers and makes it more attractive for businesses with multiple locations. It’s certainly worth looking into, especially for brands that already have established Facebook Pages.