Facebook mobile now includes a feature that lets you to tell your friends when you are visiting a specific business location. Facebook calls this “checking-in.” This means that you can use a smartphone device to receive a list of local businesses in your area and subsequently “check in” at the one you are frequenting. This “check-in” is then visible to all of your friends through your newsfeed and a posting on your personal Facebook wall. Businesses are taking advantage of this new concept and adding certain deals and specials that are available only to those people who have “checked in” to the specific location. With a constant increase in the number of mobile Facebook users, we can’t help but wonder what effects this will this have on local small business (SMB) owners.
Some of the early participants of Facebook Deals included 24 Hour Fitness, Alamo Draft house Cinema, American Eagle Outfitters, Chipotle, Gap, the Golden State Warriors, JC Penney, McDonald's, and Starbucks. Gap was one of the first to advertise their Facebook Deals through commercials. The first 10,000 customers to “check-in” to the Gap location received a free pair of jeans. This got people lined up at 8 am to take advantage of the Facebook Deal.
These Deals allow businesses to take full advantage of Facebook advertising by having the users “check in” to their establishment, yet there are still some cons to this newly developed concept. One problem is that the “places” category only shows you Deals from businesses that are close to your current location. This makes it nearly impossible to plan a specific shopping trip around Facebook Deals unless your known destinations are surrounding your current location. For example: A local boutique shop is having a special deal where if you “check in” to their location, you receive 20% off your purchase. Unless you are physically close to that specific boutique shop, there is a strong probability that the deal will never be brought to your attention. This means that as a SMB owner, any deals you offer would only show up to people in close vicinity.
But do these Deals through “checking in” provide a worthwhile marketing medium for SMB owners? The answer is yes. That’s because in order to receive the coupon, a customer is forced to “check-in” to the business location and this action is then displayed on Facebook for all of his or her Facebook friends to see. This can create a large number of impressions for an SMB owner since their business can now potentially be viewed by Facebook’s 200 million plus users. It’s like having a billboard along a busy stretch of freeway, but even more powerful, because by “checking in” the user is basically shouting out “Hey I’m at this establishment and you should check it out too.”
If your business is not yet established on Facebook, setting up a page and getting listed is not very difficult and is something you should do if you’re serious about internet marketing. Business places can be added by clicking the plus sign and entering in the store’s information. The next step is to claim the Place. After claiming the location, then things like the businesses hours, contact information, profile picture, and other necessary details can be updated. It is very similar to a Facebook page but now it includes the map, directions, and check-in features. Not just anybody can claim a business though. To verify the business, Facebook calls the listed number and gives the business manager a 4-digit PIN to enter. This will ensure that only the ACTUAL business owner can claim the business place.
This form of advertisement through Facebook places could be more powerful than we would ever expect. By allowing businesses to target users and their friends who had previously “checked in,” Facebook has added a whole new layer to the internet marketing mix. Local merchants and small businesses are now included in conversation between Facebook users. “Checking-in” to a specific local business could potentially have a dramatic effect due to word of mouth marketing and it can functionally turn customers into brand promoters. Yet just like any other social media site, negative comments could also come with Facebook Places. That’s why being up to date on how your Place is being used by Facebook users is very important to your future success.
If your business is located in an area that drives in a lot of traffic, initiating a Facebook Deal could be a great opportunity to create more business. On the other hand, if your business is not located in a central, popular area, it will be hard for Facebook users to be aware of the “check-in” deal. But with all the advancements within the Facebook mobile application, it’s likely that soon there will be a way for Facebook users to search for certain deals/places that are not close to their immediate location. Until that advancement is made, it’s still a good idea to advertise your Deal so you can make your target consumers aware of the discount, even if you only get the ones in close vicinity.