Facebook has just unveiled a new feature called Facebook Places. It’s based around the same idea of “checking in” to places you visit, usually using an app or a web browser on a mobile phone. This idea has already been explored by products like Foursquare, Gowalla, and SCVNGR. The difference between these services and Facebook’s implementation is users: Facebook just passed the half billion mark for users, and there’s a very good chance that you already use Facebook to promote your business through a fan page. Additionally, Facebook Places is already available and prominently displayed on the Facebook iPhone app (which has over 100 million active users–a fifth of all Facebook users), as well as being available on the touch.facebook.com mobile site for other GPS-enabled phones.
Facebook Places can be an excellent way for business owners, especially businesses like restaurants, bars, and the like, to promote themselves. When a user checks in with Facebook Places, it shows up in their friends’ news feed like a status does. You can also tag other friends that are there with you.
Notice how the business name shows up in the feed item. Not only does it notify the user’s friends of where they are (possibly drawing more people to the business), it’s also an implicit endorsement for your business.
Facebook Places will do nothing for your business if you don’t encourage people to use it. The Facebook Help Center article for “Places for Advertisers” has several helpful tips, including how to set up your place page and how to claim your place so you can manage the address and other information. The Help Center article for Places is also a good place to look for general information. Running promotions or offering incentives for people who check in is another way to encourage people to use Places. The service is still very new, but the chance that Facebook will eventually allow you to run promotions or targeted advertising for Places users is fairly high. Starting to plan now will help you to be ready when that time comes.