Last week Facebook unveiled Facebook Places and it’s exactly what you’d assume it is if you’ve spent any time on the Web over the past six months. Like many sites/applications that have come before it, Facebook Places allows you to see where your friends are and to share your location with the real world. You can see which of your friends are nearby, tag the people you’re with and leave comments on their updates. There’s a lot of speculation about how Facebook Places may affect Google Places and what it means for applications like FourSquare or Gowalla, but I’m going to save all that for later. What I am interested in is what this means for small business owners, right now.
As a small business owner you need to be aware of Facebook Pages, and you need to be aware of it even if you have no intention of ever using it. Because some of Facebook’s 500 million users are your customers and, regardless of your feelings, they’ll be using it.
To access Facebook Places you’ll have to use the iPhone Facebook application or, if you don’t use an iPhone (hold out!), you can access touch.facebook.com from any mobile browser-supported phone. The Facebook Place Page listings I’m seeing right now are very reminiscent of a FourSquare business listing. They show your basic business information (address, phone number, directions, etc), a Bing map (read Bing’s announcement), the number of check-ins and any of your friends who have checked into the business.
Here’s a screenshot of an early Facebook Place listing for the Burbank Airport:
As you can see, these pages are still pretty bare. However, more is coming!
Right now Facebook Place Pages is existing completely independent of your company’s Facebook Fan page that you’re using to engage and connect with customers. That means you have to watch and monitor both to protect yourself from attack. However, Greg Sterling spoke to Facebook’s Chris Box and got the scoop that small business owners will be able to merge their Fan page listing with their Facebook Place Page at a later date. There’s quite a hefty claiming process to set the stage for the eventual merger, but once it’s done, the new Place Page will serve as your business’ identity on Facebook. You will have one page that users can interact with and check in at.
Having a fully integrated page will also open up different promotional opportunities for small business owners who can now tie calls to action with check in activity or run ads directing people to their page. It should be interesting to see how Google responds and what social components will be added to Google Place Pages as a way to compete. But that’s all in the future.
Right now, small business owners need to do their part to make sure that their information and brand are both protected. You can’t merge your Facebook Place page with your Fan page yet, but you can claim it. By claiming it you give yourself the ability to edit the information, complete your profile and authorize page admins. Getting this done ahead of time will help you take advantage of the merged profiles once they become available. Also, there’s no current way to edit the title of your Facebook Place Page, so if you want to make sure it gets inputted correctly, you may want to be pro-active and create it yourself.
Thanks for this important Facebook scoop.
I’m on it!
The Franchise King
This is fine and all for physical storefronts, but what about the service oriented businesses? Not everyone has a storefront.
So when will Android and Blackberry smartphones get an app?
I like this, Lisa, but I’m always a bit leery of FB as they change their minds frequently. I know your advice is good — claim my listing…
I thought that as soon as a business claimed its place page they could merge it with their fan page. Is this not the case?
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what Facebook will call the mega mix of Fan Page and Places. Facebook Fan Place? I’m not yet pretty sure about using Facebook Places as it exposes me a lot and sometimes, we need a little bit of privacy. There’s still a thin line between what is ok to share on the Web, and what’s not. Now, it’s time for me to claim my virtual space.
It seems Facebook is trying to set the bar too high that even business may not bother anytime soon and im not sure about all the paperwork and application process…
Can’t they do the heavy lifting for small business, can’t they see that your Tax Number, Address, Phone and Website match with your Whois info and approve it? How many businesses have the time or patience to go through all that process and not even have it confirmed, just get a we will get back to you message…
The problem is that they are once again profiting on users(business) information that we add, I think that they are taking more than they are giving on the Facebook places product…
I have begun to dabble in the Facebook space for business and this is definitely one to be on top of.
Well, how exciting to find out the merge was possible. We are the admin for a client and did the “claim this place” today which offered the “merge” option. After going through the FAQ it was not apparent that the page would change so significantly that capabilities to have a landing page created would go away. We know announcements for new landing page options to Facebook Canvas apps is going to begin, but our client now has lost the landing page capability and there is no way to find out if custom tabs or custom landing graphics are going to be an available option anymore the new “richer experience”.
In an effort to do the right thing for the client, we now are left with something less satisfactory. I would not recommend merging until FB actually provides a better means of presenting the new Fan pages in as rich an experience as businesses have had before. If my client thought they were going to get a replacement of their page this way, they would not have agreed to merge. We did as much homework on the topic as possible but not once did we realized that the landing tab and default tabs would go way permanently.
Not always fun to be first.