It’s Time to Take Facebook Seriously for Location Marketing

What’s your location marketing strategy for Facebook? How often do you update your pages? For many businesses, the answers are, “I don’t have one,” and, “Whenever we can.”

What’s your location marketing strategy for Facebook? How often do you update your pages? For many businesses, the answers are, “I don’t have one,” and, “Whenever we can.”

If you are one of those businesses, it’s time to take local presence on Facebook more seriously, because Facebook is taking some big steps to make itself a stronger platform for location marketing, especially on-demand commerce at a local level. Even better, Facebook is giving you tools to succeed on the world’s largest social network. You have to start using them.

Like clockwork, Facebook has been signaling a very clear move toward local marketing year after year. Let’s take a look at two prominent examples:

A little more than two years ago, Facebook rolled out local awareness ads to help businesses create customized ads locally through Facebook.

One year later, Facebook upped the ante with two enhancements. First, Facebook made it easier for businesses with multiple locations to customize Facebook ad copy for different markets–a boon to any brand that needs to manage several local Facebook pages, whether you’re Nordstrom or Starbucks. Facebook also improved ad targeting at a local level by sharing (anonymous) insights about who is visiting local pages and responding to ads.

In October, Facebook added more tools that will capitalize on its scale to make the social media platform an even stronger location marketing hub, especially for on-demand ecommerce.

These include functions that enable ordering food, requesting appointments, getting quotes for services and getting tickets for movies and events. For instance, customers of businesses that require appointments, such as physicians and hair salons, can request times from the businesses’ Facebook pages and have their appointment confirmed via Messenger.

Meanwhile, you can order food from restaurants by clicking “Start Order” on a restaurant’s Facebook page (so long as the establishment uses Delivery.com or Slice to fulfill orders).

And one of my personal favorite on-demand tools is the ability to get movie tickets from the films’ Facebook pages thanks to a partnership between Facebook and Fandango.

Incidentally, as part of the latest round of location marketing updates, Facebook has also made it easier for its community to find recommendations for things to do and places to go. When you use Facebook to ask about a place to visit (which can happen often when you’re traveling), you can organize your friends’ recommendations in one place.

But as interesting as those social features are, the on-demand tools really jump out at me. Facebook is participating in a larger move toward the so-called Uberization of commerce, in which consumers use applications and other tools to accelerate the process of buying goods and services. Examples include Amazon launching the Dash button for easy order fulfillment from your home and Pinterest introducing Buyable Pins, which you can use to buy products without leaving Pinterest.

Facebook really jumped into the on-demand world with its launch of chat bots for Messenger at the F8 conference this year. The October rollouts continued this trend, but at a local level.

If you’re a business that manages Facebook pages for your locations, you need to take a fresh look at how you’re using your presence on the social network. In the near term, I would recommend these specific actions:

First, revisit your strategy for how you use Facebook as a location marketing hub–or create a strategy if you lack one. Have you been using Facebook pages strictly for brand awareness? How does the introduction of the call-to-action features affect your strategy?

It might be time for you to think of your Facebook pages as a source of on-demand commerce in addition to creating brand lift, depending on what type of business you operate. The availability of local awareness ads should definitely get you thinking seriously of using Facebook more for paid media locally.

Get your Facebook pages in order. Make sure that all pages support your locations and that you have the resources in place to ensure that they are updated constantly. Audit the location data on your pages. Is your data accurate, including your business name, address and phone number? Is your content compelling? Are you using visual content effectively?

Experiment with the new tools Facebook offers, such as local awareness ads. Use tools such as audience insights to better understand who at a local level is interested in you.

Facebook’s local marketing tools aren’t just for retailers or restaurants. One of my clients that actively uses local awareness ads is an Illinois-based hospital that operates facilities in different cities. The organization relies on local awareness ads to share customize content, such as online wait times, to people who live in each market. Depending on where you live, the client can create a completely different experience.

Facebook will only amplify its role as a location-marketing destination. How will your business respond?

Jay Hawkinson is a digital marketing professional with 20 years of sales, marketing and merchandising experience including organic search optimization, paid search advertising, local search, mobile and social media. Jay joined SIM Partners in 2006 as an equity partner and currently oversees mobile, social media and emerging technology as senior vice president of client success.