Facebook Continues Its Slow (Yet Inexorable) Local March

Facebook keeps telling me it’s not doing much in local. I beg to differ.

Yesterday Facebook introduced what it calls Place Tips. Place Tips are like Foursquare Tips but more expansive. Place Tips appear as a notification at the top of the News Feed based on where users are. Tips can be for a museum, an outdoor space like Central Park in New York or a specific business.

If users tap the notification it opens “cards” showing images, events, menu items, reviews and friends’ comments and posts. Users can also hide Place Tips for specific locations. The content comes from Facebook Pages and recommendations or content created by users’ networks.

Facebook Place Tips

Once users opt-in to location for the Facebook app Place Tips will automatically show by default unless they’re turned off. Location is coming from all the usual sources and mechanisms: cell tower and WiFi triangulation and GPS location.

In New York, interestingly, Facebook is also experimenting with the use of beacons in selected locations. Those places include Dominique Ansel Bakery, Strand Book Store, The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Brooklyn Bowl, Pianos, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Veselka and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Facebook Place Tips

When I heard about this initially I immediately had two thoughts:

  • This will put much more emphasis on local Pages for retailers and other multi-location businesses.
  • It will create in-store/indoor/location-specific promotional opportunities

Facebook said there won’t be any ads or offer units tied to this (at least for now). But you can probably bet that if all goes well that over time there will be ad units available (or other promotional mechanisms) for in-store/indoor customers via Facebook. There’s nothing to stop business owners from creating “specials” or “offers” on their official Pages that would then show up in Place Tips.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about Facebook’s deployment of Beacons. The Beacons part is a very small part of Place Tips. But if it goes well Facebook could become a large-scale supplier of Beacons to business locations.

What’s also interesting to me is the way in which Place Tips becomes an incentive for users to turn on location for Facebook. Facebook then gets incredibly valuable data about location history and user movements in the real world. They would also get store visits data that could then be tied back to online or mobile ad exposures. This is consistent with what Facebook is trying to do with its online-to-offline conversion tracking.

With updated Graph Search, Places Directory, Local Awareness Ads and now Place Tips, Facebook is circling local and moving in. It’s only a matter of time before we get some more “consolidated” app or functionality that tries to bring all these pieces together.

Introducing Place Tips in News Feed from Facebook on Vimeo.

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