Facebook Places is the latest and greatest service offered by Facebook that has many Brands raging around how to build a strategy. Never has the advertiser or brand had so many options as they do now on Facebook to target demographic, interested parties, that you can now actually track whether they’ve been to your physical location! My good friend, Jolie O’Dell of Mashable, wrote a great post on the American Express Open Forum last week on “How SMBs Can Start Using Facebook Places Now”. Granted, the brands I’m used to working with lately are much larger entities and far from SMB, but I think the strategies I suggest in the large corporate Brand environments can still apply in a Small Business setting. In addition to what Jolie recommended (which are great tips), here are some of the ways I’m suggesting businesses deploy Facebook Places. Also note that these strategies only work if your customers (or visitors or users) actually have a place to meet and congregate in real life. Perhaps you could create these real life places for them as part of your strategy.
Claiming the Place – Why This is Important
Jolie Touched on this – she said that as a business you can claim a “Place” and turn it into a real “Page” (or “Fan Page”) on Facebook that you can manage, add pictures, moderate, and more as soon as you’ve proven you are the owner of the actual location. This is powerful, and you want to be sure you’re doing this if you want to be aware of what’s happening online at your locations.
Here’s why it’s powerful. Let’s say you have an event at a particular store – let’s say it’s a grand opening. Or let’s say you’re a band and you’re performing at a particular arena. Now you can have a physical location you can brand in preparation for your event. Let’s say your store is a restaurant and you have a menu you want to be sure only your Facebook customers are aware of. You can post that on the Facebook Page, since you claimed it, and only those that check in on Facebook can know about it. Or perhaps you own a venue and you want to pitch events to frequent visitors. Anyone visiting your Page currently can see what’s coming up and what they can look towards in order to come back again at the right time.
I’m not going to cover this now, but I have a hunch that you’ll even be able to advertise with this data in the future, so it’s to your benefit to try to own these venues that people are checking into on Facebook. (What happens when Facebook enables Push notifications on the iPhone in the future for Venue owners? Just a thought.)
Deals, Deals, Deals! (and Events)
Here’s where a little API knowledge is helpful, and why you’re going to want to read my next book that comes out in a few months. (hint, hint) Right now you can make a simple call to https://graph.facebook.com/%5Bplace page id]/checkins, appending an access token you get from Facebook to identify your application and you can have all the people that have checked into your place. With a little code, all you have to do is add a tab to your Facebook Page, query that URL above to get the list of people that have Checked in, and if the current user visiting the tab is in that list you can offer them a special deal, only for people that have checked in on Facebook.
This has several benefits. First, for each person that checks in on Facebook their friends see that checkin and have the opportunity to click through and like your Page (you did claim the Page, right?) and learn about your Page. Hopefully you have a welcome Tab (which I talk about below) to welcome those people.
Second, it gives people motivation to visit your location. You could set up a deal that offers a discount at the store only if they’ve previously checked in on Facebook Places, or perhaps they have to check in more than one time. You could almost turn this into a loyalty rewards system of some sort.
Or what if you’re managing an event? Let’s say you’re a band and want to promote your latest CD. You could offer a sneak preview of streamed songs only to your most loyal and devoted fans who have checked in at one of your concerts and have liked the Page (I would require both, as once they like the Page you can then promote future events and sales).
One thing I really like about Places is that for each Place users check into you have a running tally of everyone that attended that event or visited that store or location that felt the need to check in on Facebook. I can now go through that list and get a running total of how many people are checking in on Facebook and what they’re saying during their visits. Let’s say I run Best Buy’s Social Media campaign. I could now have a running view of what type of experience all the visitors of my stores are having as they check in (assuming they want to share that experience). We could maybe even feature some of those on our main corporate website using Graph API. You can browse this manually or use the Facebook Graph API to tally it automatically for you (with very little effort).
SMS – Yes, Facebook Has This, Too
One little used feature on Facebook Pages is something I think that has a very powerful effect. I use this every time I speak. Did you know that if you send the text message “like stay” to 32665 (FBOOK on your mobile phone) you’ll get regular updates sent to your cell phone of every post I publish on http://facebook.com/stay? Try it. 🙂 Not only that, but you have now liked my Facebook Page, and even if you turn off the mobile phone updates you’ll get them in your Facebook News Feed.
Since you claimed your Checkin location as a Page, you can now do this for your Page as well. I think every retail store in the world should have a sign that says, “Send ‘like suchandsuch’ to 42665 (FBOOK) on your mobile phone for updates and deals!” This gives you a distribution channel right to the actual hands of every customer of yours that takes advantage of this, bringing more engagement and more participation by your customers. This is a very powerful tool you should be taking advantage of.
Or, what if you’re a band? Take a moment during your concert to ask your fans to do that, right then, then have everyone hold up their cell phones showing that they did, swaying back and forth as you begin the next song. Then, send out a message to your fans during the concert offering a special deal on the CD for the concert that only those that checked in at the concert can take advantage of. See what I mean? You’ve just acquired an audience of thousands that have come out to see you in person, all at once.
The Welcome and Other Custom Tabs
The Welcome Tab is powerful. Check out my article over on Techipedia on how to set this up in a simple manner. Since you claimed your Place as a Page, you can now add these to your Place. You should use these to welcome new customers visiting the Page (keep in mind that most people checking in probably haven’t liked the Page yet, so you want to be sure to give them a welcome message and get their e-mail or promote a deal or something similar that encourages them to like the Page). You can create tabs for specials you offer. Remember what I said above about offering special deals to people that checkin at your locations?
Most Frequent Customers
One custom tab you can offer is one that the Social Media development firm, Context Optional, created that creates a “Leaderboard” on your Page of the top checkins for your location. I think there is value in knowing the most frequent customers of a location. You could offer a contest, giving a deal to the 10 most frequent customers of your location, for instance. This is a great way to find out who your most loyal fans and customers are and reward them as such, creating competition with others to also do the same. If you need a similar tab contact me and we can talk about getting this added to your SocialToo account as well.
This post is about Facebook Places, but I did want to briefly mention FourSquare. Gowalla also has similar strategies you can employ. There is one strategy with these that I think brands should employ, and will target a younger audience (Facebook’s average age is 38 right now – FourSquare’s and Gowalla’s should be much younger). That is the process of creating an account on FourSquare for your brand and encouraging your customers to follow it. Then, post “Tips” for your place – this can be a deal, or additional info, or whatever you like. Then, when people who are following your brand on Foursquare check in nearby your locations, they’ll get these tips and hopefully feel motivated to come by and take advantage of what you have to offer.
I’ve only mentioned a few strategies here – there are so many more you can take advantage of! Knowing the location of your customers and knowing, especially when they’re checking into your location is a powerful concept and gives you so many opportunities to virally grow your brand online. I strongly suggest you take a look at how Facebook Places can benefit your brand – this is perhaps Facebook’s most powerful tool ever to enable brands to engage and convert sales from customers.
Want to learn more cool stuff like this? There are just 3 more days until the 50% off deal is over for Facebook Success Summit registration (after that it’s full price). I’ll be one of the presenters and will be covering stuff just like this. I get 50% of all sales through this site (I don’t get paid otherwise), so please register now!