If you're looking for new ways to capitalize on the consumer shift to SoLoMo and draw in nearby mobile users to your place of business, Facebook has you covered. In late January, Facebook announced a feature called Place Tips to help users receive contextually relevant information about nearby businesses directly in their News Feed. In what may prove for businesses to be a silver bullet for SoLoMo connection and conversion, Place Tips offers up this information by pulling content from company Facebook Pages, as well as from people in the user's social network who've been there before.
Here's how Facebook describes the new feature:
From friends' recommendations to information about the places and things that interest you, Facebook helps you connect with the world around you. To better show you this content at just the right place and time, today we're launching a new feature called place tips. Place tips will show you fun, useful and relevant info about the place you're at. Tapping on place tips won't post on Facebook or show anyone where you are.
Unfortunately, Place Tips is not yet widely available to businesses; the feature is being tested in a select group of New York businesses and landmarks. Moreover, it's only available on the Facebook app for iPhone. However, I would expect this to change quickly, especially if the initial users and businesses experimenting with the new feature like what they see. On the bright side, for now at least, Facebook Place Tips is being offered as a free service to businesses.
Place Tips and Beacon Technology
One aspect of Place Tips that I find really interesting and, in my opinion, forward thinking, is Facebook's experimentation with Bluetooth beacons. Unlike Wi-Fi, GPS, and cell towers (which Facebook will also be utilizing to connect larger areas with Place Tips), beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to pinpoint user location. Beacons work by broadcasting a signal in a short-range sphere (approximately 50-150+ yards, depending on the device) to nearby mobile users. One big advantage of BLU beacon technology over GPS and Wi-Fi is its energy efficiency. Because they use so little energy, beacons don't put a strain on smartphone batteries.
Beacons are also small (smaller than a deck of cards), which means they can be put virtually anywhere. Moreover, because beacons transmit a unique signal, multiple beacons can be used simultaneously. It's important to note that beacons don't transmit data to your device. Rather, it's up to your mobile app (in this case Facebook) to trigger a pre-programed action when it senses a beacon's signal. In this way, businesses can use beacons to pinpoint users with great accuracy and send them customized offers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook will begin testing Place Tips in New York City in coming weeks after installing beacons at eight shops, including the Strand Book Store, The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel and Dominique Ansel Bakery.
Facebook Bluetooth Beacon (Image credit: Facebook)
How Business Can Use Place Tips
In recent post on the subject, Mark Traphagen of Marketing Land provides seven really useful strategies for local businesses trying to capitalize on Place Tips. One that stood out to me was the general idea of inspiring and incentivizing customers to write positive reviews of your business and create other types of user-generated content that will provide ample SoLoMo fodder when broadcast to nearby friends via Place Tips. Mark also notes how Place Tips revitalizes the idea of Facebook Check-Ins, which I've always felt were a grossly underutilizedSoLoMo tool for small businesses. Another great idea is to use Promoted Posts to drive higher levels of Facebook engagement, which would signal Place Tips to feature your business to nearby mobile users.
Beyond the SoLoMo potential for businesses, Place Tips may prove to be a boon for Facebook, at least to the extent the new feature is successful at offering small businesses a reason to integrate Facebook's many useful functionalities and tools under a single contextual umbrella. For example, businesses can employ user-generated content initiatives, Check-Ins, and Promoted Posts together to try and improve their SoLoMo exposure on Facebook Place Tips.
If you consider that the overarching aim of SoLoMo is to reach users at times of peak contextual relevance, i.e. when they are nearby looking for the service a business provides, Facebook Place Tips may provide businesses a relatively simple and inexpensive pathway to connection and conversion. Time will tell.