Facebook is going on a feature binge. The latest installment is, of course, the much anticipated Facebook Places. With 150 million of the 500 million Facebook users accessing the service via mobile device, this will be a big step for brands that have customer POS or PO I("points of interaction"). That means if you have retail stores, dealerships or even temporary events like conferences or sampling events you should take steps today to claim your actual "place" today.
Why You Should Care
Location-based marketing and communication is one of the next 4 big trends (stay tuned for the other three) and is not a simple passing fad. Combining social behaviors (communicating with friends, meeting up, broadcasting your lifestream) with geolocation information has proven itself valuable with the rapid growth of services like Gowalla, FourSquare and the geolocation-enhanced Yelp. I "check-in" to locations all the time via FourSquare and enjoy connecting with people I know as I travel. The social value of these services are outlined well in Facebook's video on the launch of Places (see below).
Facebook has an advantage over FourSquare: As with other location-based services like FourSquare, people will 'check-in' at your location. If you are a car dealership, they will check-in. If you are a restaurant, they will check-in. If you are a B2B company at a trade show, they will check-in. The feature will attract those already using other geolocation services and, more importantly, it will attract Facebook users new to this feature/service. The sheer critical mass of friends on Facebook will drive many to use this feature within Facebook vs. another service that cannot access their Facebook friends. (e.g. I only see my FourSquare "friends" when I check-in via that service)
People will explore using this feature: As the Internet continues its migration beyond the desktop, people will explore new ways to leverage access wherever they are. They will (are) accessing relevant services which means relevant to their location and context. From social benefits (connecting with friends at the Grinderman show) to utility and value (earning loyalty premiums from local hotels), consumers will try new ways to derive value and brands should be all over that.
The price of entry is relatively low: Even if you are skeptical about mass-adoption of geolocation services or, gulp, doubtful of facebook's ability to steal the thunder from Loopt or FourSquare, the price of getting involved and claiming your POS and POI today is so low you should do it. Oh, and you shoudl establish and claim your own place today before someone else does. Just like on FourSquare, anyone can establish a place. Three reasons why that matters:
- You want to put your best foot forward. When folks go to check-in at your location, you want them to see the best, most accurate information not some half-baked entry or worse from an unaffiliated user
- You want to harness the content and social graph of users willing to check-in at your location and that will be most impactful if you have established one, comprehensive listing for your business. Even as a user, I hate when I check-in at a location only to find that there are 3-4 duplicate listings for a place with insignificant differences in the record for that place. As a brand, you want to have as many people as possible checking in to your official Facebook Places records. You want to consolidate the reach of their social graph around your best location(s). Remember when they check-in, they are broadcasting a message via their New Feed to all of their friends - "hey I just arrived at Pete's Apizza..."
- You want to start accruing the benefit of consumer generated media which is what gets created when folks check-in at your location. Brand presence today is created by third parties. That's what is most credible and most scalable.
Here's how Inside Facebook sums it up:
"In other words, any business or other organization with a physical presence should make sure to claim and manage their Place page. The most immediate reason is that lots of users will be generating content on the page, with or without an admin to moderate it. The more important reason, though, is that Places is a promising new way to connect with customers, clients and partners."
What You Should Do
Do three things today to prepare you for a fuller use of Facebook Places today. There is little risk inherent in these initial steps save for the effort involved in taking them. For brands with hundreds or thousands of POS/POI's the combined effort may be significant (e.g. getting 3000 stores to create their individual Facebook Place entries may add up. And currently Facebook functionality requires individual entries created from the actual geolocation. In other words, the store managers will need to do this).
- Claim or establish your business inside Facebook Places - Inside Facebook has the best DIY guide to setting up and/or claiming places for your brand. This site, in general, is a terrific resource to understand Facebook and it remains one of my daily feeds/reads.
- If you are brand with many locations, create a template of 'best-practice' information and circulate to POS/POI managers to implement
- Make it someone's job to monitor your Places check-ins
More advanced steps - if you are farther along with location-based marketing and/or consumer reviews than you are likely all over this already. You will likely want to jump ahead and prepare to use the service more proactively:
- Create a response plan much like you would for FourSquare or Twitter such that you can reach out to loyalists who check-in at your locations and/or triage customer service issues shodul they complain via that feature.
- Build a promotion around 'check-ins' to reward the behavior and build usage. Brands have quickly learned how to use the Facebook "Like" feature to promote social graph pass-alongs (have they over-used it? ). Now do it with check-ins by rewarding the behavior
- Add a Facebook Places section to your social media "Activation Guidelines" that tells business managers within your company how to leverage the service feature. "Activation Guidelines" are part of the governance package that corporate social media 'Centers for Excellence' (see this post) can create for their organization. Unlike the typical 'social media guidelines' intended to communicate the do's and dont's of social media behavior to employees, activation guidelines are the accumulated best practices and social brand governance meant o guide the best, most impactful social media marketing practices throughout the enterprise.
(image of Facebook Places dialogue box respectfully reproduced from Inside Facebook)
Facebook's video describing the service for your viewing pleasure (Facebook has done a good job communicating via video)