Facebook Launching Corporate-Local Parent-Child Places Structure for Businesses With Multiple Locations

Documents detailing an upcoming change to Facebook Pages and Places have been found by our German sister site, AllFacebook.de . We’ve now confirmed with Facebook that this week it will launch a limited private test of tools permitting a new parent-child management structure for Places that will allow corporations to administrate all the Places pages of the local instances of their business. On corporate parent Pages, an in-house “Locations” app will automatically display nearby branches and allow users to search for local branches by zip code, and child Places will feature a link back to their corporate Page.

Giants from foodservice, retail, insurance and other industries are already setting up Places for each of their branches to facilitiate local marketing and encourage checkins using the clumsier old system. Facebook’s new parent-child structure will make this process simpler and more systematized, which could lead more corporations to buy Facebook ads for their local branches.

Facebook tells us “We’re testing new ways for businesses with more than one location to develop a localized presence on Facebook. The tools launching this week…make it easier for businesses to begin to localize their voice at scale.”

The way Facebook’s location-based service originally worked made it difficult for corporations that needed to set up multiple Places, whether in the dozens or the thousands. Places, separate from Pages, had to be set up or claimed and then clumsily merged with Pages. Facebook has since streamlined this process, giving checkin functionality to any Page that lists a street address.

A corporation’s Page and all its local branch Places still couldn’t be connected on the backend of Facebook’s admin system, though. This meant that if a corporation wanted to push a branding or slogan change to all its Pages, or manage regulatory compliance, a single corporate representative had to be individually granted admin privileges to every Place.  Even then, changes had to be pushed one Page at a time.

Third-party Page management products such as Hearsay Social launched to specifically handle the corporate-local problem. This seemed like a lucrative business as corporations such as State Farm and 24 Hour Fitness were spending a lot on Facebook marketing, and the solution seemed more complicated than something Facebook would design a native product for. However, close relationships that Facebook has forged with corporations through its inside ad sales teams have now led it to address the corporate-local Page management issue.

Parent-Child Admin System and Pages API Changes

Facebook will offer a parent-child Page set up tool to a limited set of businesses that have a corporate-local structure.  Once the connections between parent and child Pages are arranged, parent Pages will include a Locations tab in their Edit Page admin interface navigation menu.

The Locations admin interface will display a list of all children Places, including the store ID, address, Like count, and checkin count of each. This will make it simple for a corporation to monitor the performance of its child Places. Admins will be able to search for a specific child Place by store ID, and make the Locations Page tab application visible to users or hide it.

When using Facebook as the parent Page, admins will have full admin control over the children Places, meaning they can go in and edit a Place page’s info, post or moderate content, change settings, and install tab applications. This means corporations will be able to swiftly address threats to their branding by deleting the posts of local branch admins or fans, as well as coordinate marketing campaigns such as the installation of a new sweepstakes app. Child Place admins won’t be able to remove admin privileges from parent admins.

It appears that Facebook will also support the parent-child structure in the Pages API. Settings, apps, and content moderation will be able to be controlled programmatically, enabling corporations to push changes to many Pages at once. For example, McDonalds could use the parent-child Page API to install an application and publish an update promoting it on all of its local Places simultaneously. Corporations will also be able to use a Checkin Deals API to offer rewards to users for visiting any of their local branches in person.

The corporate-local Pages API could encourage more developers to build apps designed for tighter integration between different levels of a company. For instance, developers could build contest apps that include local run-offs on child Places leading to worldwide finals that are held on a parent Page.

With time, Facebook may build more corporate-local moderation and publishing features into the graphic user interface so corporations can easily change the wall settings, ban certain words, or post content across all their Pages without the use of any code. This could commodify some third-party Page management services, forcing companies offering these services to look for other ways to provide value to their clients.

Locations In-House Page Tab Application

Facebook users visiting a parent Page will see a Locations tab app in the Page’s navigation menu. Parent pages will display a store locator that automatically shows a store nearby the user and can be used to search for branches by zip code. A map and list will show users nearby branches of a business along with thumbnail pictures of friends who’ve checked in there, and allow them to visit the corresponding children Places. These features will help users discover the local branches of their favorite corporations. This will in turn help drive foot traffic, and engagement with location-based Checkin Deals.

Children Places will display a link to their parent Page just below their name, allowing corporations to gain Likes from supporters of their local branches. Checkin counts from child Pages will be summed on the Parent page to give a more accurate impression of the global popularity of the business.

Overall, the parent-child structure and Locations app seem like a strong start to accommodating businesses and organizations with a corporate-local structure. These include some of the world’s biggest brands who are also the world’s biggest spending advertisers. If Facebook can get more corporations with local branches onto the Platform and using the parent-child Page system, it could lead to the launch of a huge number of new, well-funded local Places that it could offer its advertising services to.

Update 7/12/11 10:15am PST: Facebook has confirmed with us that the parent-child Page management set up tool will launch in limited private test this week.

Strategies for using Facebook Places to market your business can found in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s complete guide to marketing and advertising through Facebook.