Facebook Place Tips: 7 Ways To Optimize For Local Business Organic Reach
How can marketers with brick-and-mortar locations get a leg up on the competition on Facebook? Contributor Mark Traphagen provides in-depth suggestions.
Facebook taketh and Facebook giveth away.
Marketers loudly complain about Facebook’s drastic reduction in organic reach for content on their Pages, but Facebook may be giving some organic reach back.
Two important things to know: the new source of organic exposure is only for local businesses with real geographic locations, and it includes user-generated content about those businesses.
Introducing Facebook Place Tips
Last month, Facebook announce a new user opt-in feature it is calling Place Tips. I won’t be covering all the details of what Place Tips are or how they work; so for more information, see this Marketing Land news story, Facebook’s own announcement, and the official Facebook Place Tips help page.
What Are Place Tips?
Facebook Place Tips are notifications that show up at the top of a user’s Facebook for iPhone news feed when they are in a location where Place Tips are active and there is content or likes from friends relevant to businesses in the vicinity.
A few important facts:
- Users must opt in to Place Tips by having location tracking and Place Tips both switched on in the iPhone apps settings. (The Place Tips on/off switch is under the Location section in those settings.)
- Using Place Tips does not create any posts to the user’s timeline, nor does it reveal the user’s location to other users.
- Place Tips are currently only available on the Facebook app for iPhone.
- Place Tips, for now, only work in “limited areas” according to Facebook. We can probably expect those areas to expand over time if the initial experiments seem to work well.
- Place Tips are generated on a user’s phone based on the user’s location. Location information comes from cellular triangulation, nearby WiFi, and GPS. In addition, Facebook is experimenting with Bluetooth low-energy beacons. These beacons are being placed in a few partnering businesses. They generate a signal that can trigger a Place Tip when Facebook users with Place Tips enabled are nearby.
What Do Place Tips Show?
The screen caps below (from Facebook’s blog) show the kind of content cards users will see after clicking a Place Tips link in their news feed:
Place Tips card types include:
- Info Cards About The Location. These are similar to Google Answer Boxes from the Google Knowledge Graph. Just a few quick facts about the location.
- Friends’ Photos. Photos from the user’s Facebook friends that have been geotagged for the location.
- Friends’ Posts. Posts from friends that are relevant either to the location or to a nearby business.
- Posts And Photos From The Business. If the location is a business with an active Facebook page, Place Tips may show recent content and/or photos posted by that business.
- Business-Specific Information. This will include popular menu items, reviews, and upcoming events for the location.
Why Place Tips May Be A Big Deal For Local Businesses
One of the hottest digital marketing topics in recent years is so-called SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile). SoLoMo is the realization that there is a sweet spot at the confluence of the three fastest-growing trends in online behavior. More people are using social media, they are increasingly using it on mobile devices, and they very often want locally-relevant information.
Facebook has known for some time that it has potential to be a major player in SoLoMo, if not the major player. Obviously it is a social platform. It’s wisely invested heavily in development of mobile apps. And it has a vast database of location-based data on both people and businesses.
The Failure (For Now) Of Graph Search
Facebook’s first attempt at making UGC (User Generated Content) useful to users using SoLoMo data was Graph Search. First introduced in March of 2013,
Graph Search originally allowed users to search for Facebook entities based on the criteria of friends who liked the entity. A few other qualifiers could be added to such searches, including location. So one could search for something like, “Chinese restaurants liked by my friends in San Francisco.”
However, it is unclear whether many people make such searches, or even know that they can. Back when Graph Search was first unveiled, I wrote about why I thought it was not a threat to services like Google or Yelp, at least in its initial form. Among the difficulties with Graph Search are:
- Awkward & Limited Query Structure. While even the Wikipedia article about Graph Search calls it a “semantic search engine,” it really isn’t. It’s actually a sophisticated database engine. Like most databases, queries must be formatted in a structured manner. So although Graph Search queries have the appearance of being natural language queries, they are not. Users had to enter queries with terms in a certain order and using a limited vocabulary of connecting words. Admittedly, Facebook has improved this somewhat. Now I can enter “Do I have any friends who like Chinese food in San Francisco?” and Graph Search will translate my query to, “my friends who like chinese restaurants in san francisco.” (By the way, I apparently need to know more Chinese food fans from San Francisco. I’ll be accepting applications.) But the queries still don’t have the flexibility of Google’s Hummingbird update.
- The Facebook Search Hurdle. I think this has been the strongest barrier to user adoption of Graph Search. Over the years Google has trained people to think of Google as being synonymous with search. The word “google” has even entered into that prized but limited group of brand names that have become a term for the generic thing they do. On the other hand, people don’t go to Facebook to search. They go there to catch up with friends and family and to be passively entertained. If they do want to get recommendations from their friends, the most natural action is to create a post and ask them, not to enter a search query in the Facebook search box. I’ve done a number of unscientific polls of my Facebook friends over time. The vast majority (usually over 90%) only use Facebook search for navigational searches (to find the profile or page of a friend or business).
Place Tips & The Power Of The Passive
In contrast, the brilliance of Place Tips is that it is entirely passive. The user doesn’t have to “use” it (other than enabling it in settings). It brings them location-relevant content at the very moment it might be most useful to them: when they are physically at the location.
Facebook certainly isn’t alone in recognizing what I call the Power of the Passive. It may be one of the most serious challenges ever to the hegemony on “intent” held by search engines.
In fact, it goes beyond mere active intent (“I want some new shoes. I wonder where I should buy them?”) to potentially creating intent: (“Oh look. There’s a cool shoe store nearby that my friends rave about. I’m going to walk over and check it out!”). Think about how powerful that could be for your local business.
Local recommendation apps are falling over themselves to try to take advantage of the SoMoLo power of the computer in everyone’s pocket. It’s a primary reason why FourSquare split off its check-in function to a separate app (Swarm) in order to concentrate on being a location-based recommendation engine. Even Google has jumped in, with Google Now cards that are location-sensitive.
Obviously, this is one area where Facebook is way ahead of the pack. When you combine the power of the most user accounts of any service on Earth, with the most business information, with the ability to know where users are at any given moment and you light a passive-action match to it, you just might set off the biggest local marketing explosion ever.
And best of all, Place Tips serves up your local business information and content organically, at no charge to you. (At least, for now!)
How To Win With Facebook Place Tips For Your Local Business
As I mentioned above, at the present time Place Tips is only available for a limited set of locations and businesses. However, it will inevitably expand over time, and surely Facebook’s intent is that eventually this will work everywhere for all users everywhere.
So for most businesses, the strategies I give below are investments in the future. But if Place Tips takes off, those businesses that have made these investments will be ahead of their competition.
Here is what I advise your local business to do to be in the best possible position for when Place Tips comes to your neighborhood:
1. Optimize Your Facebook Page
This should be obvious. Make sure your Facebook Page is up to date and that all relevant information is filled in. Pay particular attention to your location information.
2. Optimize Your Facebook Posts
Even though EdgeRank is pretty much dead, the tips in this Search Engine Land post are still relevant for helping you to create Facebook content that will be more likely to matter to your fans.
3. Update Regularly
Make sure your page is regularly updated with fresh and relevant content. Not only are you feeding your fans what they want to see in their news feed, you’re also creating content that Place Tips can use when those fans visit your locale.
When Place Tips kicks in and has a choice of what content to show a user at a busy location, it is likely that businesses with fresh, relevant content that people like will have a leg up.
4. Sponsor Regular In-store Events
Events posted on Facebook are one of the categories that show in Place Tips cards. It stands to reason that if a Facebook user is nearby your place of business, and you have a special event that day, Place Tips will promote it to that user.
5. Promote Facebook Check Ins
If more people are checking-in to your business on Facebook, that could be a signal that your business should be shown more in Place Tips. Post signs in your brick-and-mortar location showing customers how to check-in, and perhaps give certain rewards to those that do.
6. Inspire & Incentivize UGC
One of the most powerful aspects of Place Tips is that it will push content about your business from friends (UGC – User Generated Content) to friends exactly at the moment they are in a position (literally!) to take action.
It’s a no-brainer that positive reviews and regular content from real people — especially people we know — about a business is the most powerful free advertising available. Since via Place Tips, Facebook is willing to push that content for free, driving your fans to create such content may be your best play.
You can inspire such content by creating campaigns that make users want to create content about your business. Perhaps start your own meme around user photos showing them and their friends having a great time at your bar, or using your products. Create fun in-store events that Facebook users will want to post about to show how they participated.
You can incentivize UGC by rewarding fans for posting it. Monitor customer posts about your business, and regularly reshare the best ones on your page. Make your customers your heros. Run a contest for the best UGC about your business. Ask happy customers to write Facebook check in reviews or to write a post about your business on their own timelines.
7. Promote Content With Facebook Promoted Posts
Doing targeted paid promotions of your Facebook content now makes very good sense anyway, but once Place Tips comes to your city, you have the potential to get even more bang for your buck from it. Place Tips is undoubtedly governed by an algorithm. It can’t show everything about every business, especially in a busy area.
So, it becomes more important than ever to show Facebook that you and your content matter to people. Of course, your content can’t matter to anyone if they don’t see it. So Promoted Posts can be a way to drive up exposure, get more user engagements and actions, and thereby trigger the Place Tips algorithm in your favor.
At a time when Facebook is notoriously clamping down on organic reach for businesses, any crack in that wall is worth exploiting. Facebook knows for Place Tips to succeed, it needs content. Your goal should be to be to show Facebook in every possible way that your business matters to local users. The tips above are designed to do just that.
The good news is that even without Place Tips, those tips are all good things you should be doing to promote your business anyway!
All images courtesy of Facebook