Many small businesses already leverage the power of Google Places, Foursquare, Gowalla and other geolocation social networking sites to help build brand loyalty by offering discounts and other incentives. Groupon is another popular service that allows local businesses to generate sales by offering discount coupons on a variety of products and services.
Facebook Places now presents businesses with new opportunities to attract customers, build their brands and generate sales at the local level.
Users can access the Facebook Places application on their Apple iPhones or through the Facebook touch mobile site using any browser that supports HTML 5 and geolocation. Facebook is currently working to make Places available on other smart phones.
They can announce their location, tag friends that are with them and update their status. In addition to appearing on their Facebook Wall and Place pages, the location will also appear in the News Feeds of people in their network and in third-party applications that aggregate places of interest based on proximity.
Facebook has already populated its Places directory with more than 14 million local businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. Any business with a physical location should claim and manage their Facebook Place page.
Chances are good that your business is already in the Facebook index as a Community page. If it is, chances are also fairly good that users have already begun generating content on your Facebook Places page. Claiming your Places page gives you administrative power to provide valuable information about your business including a description of your products and services, your contact information, business hours and a profile picture.
To see if your business is currently in the Facebook directory, simply search for it on the Facebook Web site. If you find it, claim it by clicking on the link that says “Is this your business?” at the bottom of the page.
When it comes to verifying ownership or your business, Facebook has set the bar fairly high so be prepared to provide official documentation in the form of a local business license, Better Business Bureau accreditation, or appropriate certificate of formation or incorporation.
If your business doesn’t show up when you search for it, you can create a new Facebook Place. You’ll need to use the aforementioned iPhone app or www.touch.facebook.com. From there, you can click on the “Add” button. Again, you’ll be required to provide official documentation proving you are the rightful business owner.
Whether you claim your existing Place page or create a new one, you’ll be able to link it to your existing Facebook page. This will provide your business with a single Facebook identity that can share status updates, photos and links. If your business has multiple locations, they can also be merged to your Facebook page.
Facebook also allows you advertise to your Places through its performance advertising service. Although Facebook does not currently allow advertisers to target people who have checked in from their location, that ability is likely to be available in the future.