If you're a business owner and you've heard the recent news about Facebook's attention-grabbing new feature for location-sharing and checkins, you're probably itching to find out what Facebook Places can do for your business and how it can help you reach out to would-be customers and loyal regulars in your community.
While Facebook isn’t ready to announce any special brand-platform relationships or tie-ins just yet, one Facebook ad exec told us that the company does have plans to integrate Places with its larger marketing offerings for SMBs. The best thing a business owner can do to prepare for those offerings is get familiar with the ins and outs of Facebook and location marketing now.
Here are a few pointers for how SMBs can use Facebook Places and other marketing tools starting today.
1. Start a Facebook Page
In our conversation, this executive mentioned that many businesses have left out the most vital part of using Facebook Places or other features as marketing tools: They haven't yet set up a Facebook Page for their company.
It might seem a bit obvious to a seasoned social media marketing pro, but establishing and maintaining a lively, informative presence on Facebook as a business is an art and a science. The first step is creating a Page. You can follow Facebook's step-by-step instructions for making your business's Page. Once you've got that ball rolling, be sure to check out these articles on how to make the most of your Page and apps you can use in conjunction with your Page.
2. Connect Your Facebook Page to a Facebook Place
The first step in getting your Places marketing campaign rolling is connecting your business's Page to a Place. Click here for an example of what a Facebook Place Page looks like. To get started, you'll first need to locate your desired Place Page on Facebook.
Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to find a Places Page within Facebook's website. Facebook told us: "We’re currently not surfacing Place Pages within search unless you have checked in there previously or one of your friends has and you click through to the Place Page on the web." If you haven't done either, the best place to start is by checking in to your Place.
To check in, use the Places features within the Facebook iPhone app. If you don’t have an iPhone, use the Facebook touch mobile site on a browser that supports both HTML5 and geolocation. Click "Check In" on either platform, and choose your location. If you can't find your location, click "+" in the mobile app or "Add" via the touch mobile site to enter the name and description of your business. Finally, check in.
On Facebook.com (not the mobile site or the app), go to your Facebook Wall, where your checkin is logged, and click on the link to the Facebook Place. After locating the Place, click "Is this your business?" at the bottom of the Places page. Lastly, you'll need to submit copies of paperwork proving that your place of business is legally connected to the physical address of the Facebook Place you want to claim. Or, you might be able to verify your business address over the phone. You may have to wait a short period of time after verifying your location, but eventually, your Page and Place will be linked by Facebook.
Your business's Place page will show Facebook users a map of where your business is located, a list of any of their friends who are currently checked in at the Place and an activity stream of others who have checked in at your business in the past. Users can "Like" and "Share" Places on their Facebook profiles, as well.
By claiming your Place you can manage your Place’s address, contact information, business hours, profile picture, admins and other settings.
3. Build Your Facebook Community
Once you have a Page and a Place and the two are linked, make sure that your social media marketing efforts are targeted and effective, and be sure to build out your Facebook community. Doing outreach and marketing to this group requires a little research and some attention to detail, but many small business owners have seen huge success on a marketing budget of zero just by promoting events and reaching out to their true fans on Facebook.
The best social media marketing is cheaper than traditional online advertising, builds relationships with customers and engages your local community. Social media can get your business real results; check out some of these success stories for inspiration, and then get started with your own Facebook strategy.
To track and measure your successes, take a look at this beginner's guide to Facebook Insights, Facebook's free built-in analytics tool.
4. Get into Facebook Ads
Because Facebook's self-service advertising can be hyper-targeted on a number of levels, including psychological, social and geographic factors, many SMBs swear on the ability of this platform to perform. One case study showed incredibly low cost per conversion stats, and other studies show how you can tweak your own Facebook ad campaign for maximum performance.
Once you get your head around how Facebook Ads work, you can use your Page and Place to start a quasi-Place-based campaign. To advertise your Place, go to Facebook's ad creation workflow and click "I want to advertise something I have on Facebook." Then, simply choose your Place from the drop-down menu.
You can't currently target ads to users who check in at your Place. However, you can target people who "Like" your Place page if you've linked your business's Place and Page. From there, you should be able to use your imagination to create special promotions around checking in and sharing your business's Page and Place on Facebook.
5. Test the Location Marketing Waters with Another LBS
If you're familiar with Facebook's ad campaigns and have played with Places marketing a bit, you might also want to do a smaller-scale case study using other location-based services (LBS). These campaigns might not have the saturation to show you huge ROI at first, but they'll definitely help you get your feet wet with location-based marketing and rule out or vote up some of your early ideas without heavy promotion or spending.
We can recommend these five apps, all of which have great partnership, advertising and marketing opportunities for SMBs. Some of them might be more prominent in your local area -- as mentioned in item three, learn what social media users are playing with in your community, and use those apps to engage them.
We're curious to see how SMBs are testing out Facebook Places. Let us know how you are using the feature in the comments below.
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