Facebook Places: Introductory Guide

Facebook introduced its new Places feature last week. Designed to compete with the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla, Places allows Facebook users to “check-in” wherever they are at.

I’m going to take a look at what Places is and how to claim your business’s Places page.

Check-In’s and Places?

Smartphone use has been exploding, and a popular use for these devices is accessing social networks on the go. A natural next step when using a social network while out and about is to let people know where you’re at. Accordingly, specialized social networks sprung up a few years ago. They let users “check-in” using the phone’s built in GPS to find your location, and then marking the location so friends could easily find you.

Foursquare's Mayor Symbol

Foursquare's Mayor

Foursquare is the most popular of these location-based social networks. It keeps track of your check-in history, allowing the system to reward people who most frequently visit a given place (by calling them the location’s “mayor”). Some businesses are already marketing through this, providing rewards to people who check in at their location or become its mayor – check out Snacksquare to see some examples.

And Now Facebook Places

Facebook announced Facebook Places last week. Places provides a way for Facebook users to check-in wherever they are at, and a large number of popular locations have been named “Places.”

The big news about Facebook adding Places is that there’s a good chance they will bring check-in’s into the mainstream. Facebook is much larger than any site previously providing this service. Right now, there don’t appear to be huge numbers using Places, but it will likely grow over time.

Claiming Your Facebook Place

Although it might not be a huge deal today, Facebook Places should become an important promotional venue, particularly for some types of businesses. It’s a good idea to claim your business’s Place, even if it’s just to keep others from falsely claiming the location.

This will all be easiest if you’re using one of the compatible mobile devices. You’ll want to use either the Facebook app or touch.facebook.com.

First off, search for your company’s Facebook Place.  If you see it, there should be a link at the bottom that says “Is this Place Page your business?” (If your business does not yet have a Place page, then you’ll want to go to your location and check-in, which will give you the option to create a Place). Click the “is this your business” link, and you’ll see this dialog:

Facebook Places Claim

Proceed with verification, and you’ll need to provide proof that you own the location. Facebook says this will be possible by phone, but so far I have only seen an option to send scanned official documents – these include your articles of incorporation, certificate of formation, BBB accreditation, or local business license. Facebook will get back to you once they have verified your information.

After you have claimed your Place, and you’ll be able to edit your address, profile picture, business hours, contact info and other settings.

Places & Pages – Oh My?

Some of you probably already have a Facebook Page for your business. If you claim your Place, you’ll effectively have 2 pages. Facebook has indicated that companies will be able to combine these into one at some point in the future, which would be helpful – as you probably have people who have liked your Page, and they may not want to like the Place as well.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for multi-location businesses, as many companies use just one Facebook Page, but they will now need to claim a Place for each of their locations. Whether Facebook will tie the fans for these locations together remains to be seen.

What’s Next

For now, it will be interesting to watch and see how many people are checking into your location. If you operate a popular place, such as a restaurant or coffee shop, it might be worthwhile encouraging check-ins with a sign or reward – when a person checks-in, this will notify their friends that the person is at your business.

In the future, Facebook Places may become an important place for promoting your business. In addition to your customers checking in, Facebook will likely introduce some form of targeted advertising, and it could also become a hub for reviews on Facebook, which would be powerful due the site’s social nature. It’s a good idea to get started now.

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4 Responses to “Facebook Places: Introductory Guide”

  1. Kyle Suss September 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    Facebook places are likely to take off due to the company’s reach but I think they need to offer some sort of incentive for checking in like FourSquare’s Mayor. This really encourages repeat check ins which is why a business would want to use these apps in the first place!

    • Chris September 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Kyle. It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook further develops Places (and encourages its use) over time.

  2. Suskyle November 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Hey Chris, looks like Facebook places now have a “Deal” feature for local businesses similar to FourSquare’s specials & coupons

  3. Sadie Mandes March 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    arrgh, I don’t really like facebook, but I can agree with you anyway 😉