Broad reach into local markets that is made possible by the Internet and improving (and more ubiquitous) GPS capabilities being offered by mobile smart phones, has led to an explosion in services that allow business to connect with prospects in their specific geographic markets. Some of the most notable examples are Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon Local, and Urban Spoon. The sustainability of the Groupon model is driven by growing email lists and large teams calling on local businesses to encourage them to use Groupon’s discount program. With a 900 million and growing member community, lots of business Pages, and lots of activity on the platform, Facebook offers a unique opportunity for businesses to also promote their services to local shoppers.
Overtime, Facebook has been adding more local capabilities features to its platform that are allowing members to attach and leverage local information into their activities on the platform. One of these features is Facebook Places, which allows members to “check in” at specific locations, to find out what friends and locations of interest are near by, and to find deals at locations nearby.
Facebook Place Pages are being created all the time as members use this feature to engage with their friends on the Facebook platform. It’s important for any business to take the steps required to claim their business as a Facebook Place Page. The first step is for a business to put their name into the Facebook search engine to see if their business shows up as a place where someone has check into in the past. If your business shows up in the search engine, there is a pop up that allows your business to go through a verification process of claiming your business’ Facebook Place Page. If your business doesn’t show up in the search engine, you need to check into your business location using a mobile app or someone other type of web-enabled device that has Facebook Places. Once you have checked into and shared your location, you can then go back to the Facebook search engine to find your location and go through the verification process described above. In some cases you may see duplicates of the same business location in Facebook’s database. If this is the case, Facebook offers the ability manage this through additional descriptions and establishing parent/child relationships (in the case where one business may have multiple locations).
Once you have claimed your Place Page, you can set it up with basic information about your business and a description of the services offered. In addition to a map view of where your business is located and the history of posts of people who have checked into your Place, the Place Page can also contain photos and videos of your business.
The Place Page is also a place where businesses can create social enabled digital coupons (Facebook Deals) to provide incentives for shoppers to visit your business. Facebook Deals are free to set up and can be created using the Edit Button on your claimed Place Page. You can create different types of check in deals that members can use when they check into your business using their smart phones . Types of deals include a one-time discount (similar to Groupon), friend deals (deal is provided if a certain number threshold of your friends check in together), loyalty deals (requires a threshold number of check ins per customer before the deal is provided), and charity deals (where the business donates to a charity if certain check in thresholds are met). Facebook users can find Facebook Deals when they do a search for nearby places using the Facebook app on their smart phone (Places that have a deal have a yellow ticket next to their location name) or by going to www.facebook.com/deals/checkin.
Clearly there are multiple ways to engage with your customer base and connect with new customers on the Facebook platform. It all starts with creating an account on Facebook, building a Page for your business, and making sure you claim the Place Page for your business. Once you have done this you can start to take advantage of social marketing tools that are available today on Facebook and the new ones that Facebook will surely be launching in the futures. And remember, any engagement with people on Facebook starts with having good content to share with customers, especially rich media content like videos that will engage your customers. As mentioned earlier, Facebook is just one of many social media platforms available today. In our next two posts we will provide a little more information on two other social platforms that travel-related businesses should take advantage of: Twitter and Pinterest.
For those interested in learning more about the in’s and out’s of marketing on Facebook, we recommend a very helpful book by Brian Carter and Justin Levy called Facebook Marketing. The book provides an engaging, and in-depth look at how various features on Facebook can be leveraged in marketing campaigns.