How Marketers and Businesses Can Start Using Facebook Places

Facebook has started making Places, its long-speculated location service, available to users. And while it is only available to users in the US, expect it to make a big impact with Facebook’s 500 million people worldwide as it rolls out to more users and devices around the world – Places is going to significantly impact the entire ecosystem of Facebook users and businesses. More than 150 million of Facebook’s users access Facebook on mobile devices, and some large portion have a phone that they’ll be able to use to check themselves in, check their friends in, and create a Place page about any real-world location.

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.

First, we’ll look at how to get started using Places. Then, we’ll look at how to use it.

Getting Your Place

Facebook has filled Places with a directory of some 14 million local businesses already, via a partnership with business listings data provider Localeze; 600,000 of these listings are already verified by the businesses, who have access to manage the Localeze information that gets shared with Facebook and other third parties (more on that here).

This partnership, and the ability for users to create Places, means that the actual owners of the place in the physical world will need to claim it with Facebook. Here’s how that process works.

Claiming Your Facebook Place

1. Search on Facebook’s web site for your business name.

2. When you find your Place, you can claim it by clicking on the link below the profile picture that says “Is this your business?”.

We’ll explain how to claim below — before that, though, here’s what to do if you don’t see your place:

Adding Your Facebook Place

1. Using the mobile web or app interface, click on the + or Add button — the Place will be pinned at your current GPS coordinates, so don’t do this from home unless you’re creating a Place for a home office.

2. Enter your Place’s name and description.

3. Click “add”

4. Now, go to your new Place page and click on the “Is this your business?” button.

Verifying Ownership

Now, here’s how to claim your Place:

1. The first page of the form requires you to select a button certifying that you’re the owner of the Place — click through, assuming you are.

2. Then, the next Page shows you your pre-populated business number.

3a. If you use an automated phone system, Facebook will ask you to enter your preferred extension number so it can reach you.

3b. If the number is wrong, Facebook will have you click through to a generic claim form that lets you edit then submit all details of your business, including Place name, Place URL, official name of business, address, phone number, your name and title, and your federal employee identification number (if applicable). You’ll also need to upload a copy of one of the following: articles of incorporation, certificate of formation, local business license, or Better Business Bureau accreditation. You’ll also need to check a box re-affirming legalese about how you are who you claim to be.

4. Unless you need to file the full claim, Facebook will then give your listed number a call, and provide you with a four-digit PIN.

5. Enter this number in the next field. You should now have access to managing your Places page, and you’ll receive a confirmation email saying so.

Facebook also makes it possible for you to merge your Place page with your Facebook Page. The advantage is that you can have a single Facebook identity for your business that incorporates people checking in at your business (including a map of their actions), together with the status updates, photos and links that you and your fans are already sharing. The merged interface retains your existing Page features, including photos, videos, events and custom tabs for applications and landing pages, along with your existing vanity URL (if you have one). All of your Facebook ad campaigns for your existing Page will continue to run as previously planned.

Important notes: Facebook says that “if you have multiple Places to claim, you must go through the claiming process for each of your Places.” In addition, a solution for linking multiple Places to a single Facebook Page may become available in the future.

Using Your Place

Simply showing up and claiming your place will allow you to edit key details about it, including your address, contact information, business hours, profile picture, administrative tasks and other settings. The most basic benefit of having a Place is that you can centralize what people are doing and saying about your business using the feature — you don’t need to be actively involved in your Place in order to get value out of it. Users will do that themselves, by finding your place, checking and broadcasting this activity to their friends and to other people looking at the Place.

Advertising Your Place

Facebook has also integrated Places in with its performance advertising service. You can advertise for Places, or merged Pages/Places in the same way that you can advertise for other Facebook content.

1. Go to the Facebook Ads.

2. Click on the “I want to advertise something I have on Facebook” link immediately beneath the destination URL. You’ll see a drop-down menu of all of your Facebook properties — your Place should appear there, alongside the Pages, applications, Events and Groups you’re an administrator for.

3. Select your Place, and proceed to define and purchase the ad campaign as you would for any other Facebook campaign.

Note: Facebook does not currently let Place owners target users who have at some point checked in. This might change, but for now, the best alternative is to target people who Like your Page (especially if it is merged with your Place).

Just the First Step

Going forward, we expect Facebook and the third parties using the Places APIs to make much richer use of location data in ways that will benefit businesses and other organizations with real-world locations. For example, we’ve heard that there may be a Groupon integration coming. While the functionality is not currently available, it’s easy to imagine a local businesses sharing a daily group deal through their Places page.

For now, we highly recommend that Page owners create or find their Places, and consider merging them with existing Pages. While every organization’s goals are different, the engagement created by the location feature can help almost any business build its Facebook presence.

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