Facebook Places: What It Means For Your Business

By Cara Friedman The long anticipated Facebook Places has arrived! As of 4:30 PT (7:30 ET) yesterday, Facebook officially entered the fast growing world of location based applications. Similar to Foursquare and Gowalla,  Facebook Places allows users to "check-in" to venues in the real world from their mobile phone. At each location you can check-in, tag friends that you are with, see others who are nearby, and post it all to your wall. If you choose, you can allow friends to tag you at locations eliminating your need to check-in at all.

The announcement of Facebook Places affects your business in a BIG way. Here are some of the features you need to know for your business.

Claiming Your Place

Your business may already be on Facebook Places. To find your place, you can use the Facebook search bar from your computer, or click Places while you are located at your business. If your business does not come up in the search, you will need to add the Place by clicking the plus sign and entering in your store's information. The next step is to claim your Place. This allows you to manage the Place's hours, contact information, profile picture, etc. It is very similar to a Facebook page but now it includes the map, directions, and check-in features. Not just anybody can claim a business. To verify that you are the business manager, Facebook calls the listed number and gives you a 4-digit PIN to enter after receiving the call. This will ensure that only YOU as the business owner can claim your Place.

Merging Places With Pages

Facebook gives you the option to merge your Facebook page with your Place. You can merge your photos, status updates, and links into your Place and keep your likers connected. Your page will have a different design to accommodate the new Places features. Unfortunately, not all pages can be merged with Places yet. If you are eligible, the admin of your Facebook page will be prompted to do so. You would not merge Places with your page if your business has more than one location. As of right now, merging is only available for businesses who have one location, one Facebook page, and have been prompted to do so.

Advertising

Once you claim your Place you will be able to advertise it just like you would a page. Now when you click 'I want to advertise something I have on Facebook,' your Place will appear as an option in the drop menu. Unfortunately, you can not yet target people who have checked-in to your Place. However, if you have merged your Place with your page, you can target your likers. The power of Places advertisements could be more powerful than we expect. It is possible that Facebook will allow you to not only target people who are checked-in to your Place but also to friends of people who are checked-in. Being able to advertise to the friends of people checked-in to your Place could be HUGE.

While Foursquare and Gowalla are set up more like a game, Facebook Places is not. There are no badges or mayorships to be won. Instead, Facebook just wants to create another way for users to connect with their friends.

Will you opt-in to Facebook Places? What implications do you think the new feature will have for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments!