Last August the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, announced a new Application called "Facebook Places" which aimed to accomplish three goals:
- allow people to share their location with their network
- give people the ability to see who's nearby
- show people what's going on and help them discover new places
There has been an on going debate about the functionality of Facebook Places since its launch, and many business owners and strategists are clamoring for Facebook's support. The most hotly debated topic is on the subject of "merging" a preexisting Facebook Page with a Facebook Places page. This merge function has given countless headaches to owners nationwide and is not yet fully understood.
Before I get in to the issue of Merging let me introduce the concept of Facebook Places to those who may not fully understand the Application. In a nutshell Facebook Places allows you to
...see where your friends are and share your physical location. You can check in to nearby Places to tell your friends where you are, tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about the Places you visit
To claim your Facebook Places page
...search for your business name on Facebook via the normal Search bar. If your business’s Place already exists on Facebook, click on it to visit its page. At the bottom left side of your Place there will be a link that says "Is this your business?" Click on the link and you will be directed to a claiming flow. - Facebook.com
Essentially Facebook Places is an attempt to compete with rival technologies like Foursquare, and to an extent Google Hotpot and even Groupon. I say Groupon because Places has incorporated a feature called "Facebook Deals" which allows businesses to offer deals for check-ins.
Companies can now reward their customers in a variety of ways:
- Individual Deals:
- Businesses can offer this type of deal to both new and existing customers, to launch a new product, offer a gift with purchase, get rid of excess inventory, or simply get more people into your store.
- Loyalty Deals:
- These are reserved for your most loyal customers, reward them after a certain number of check-ins. Users can claim this deal with no fewer than two check-ins and no more than twenty.
- Friend Deals:
- Build more exposure with the power of referral, reward your customers who check in with no more than eight friends.
- Charity Deals:
- Drive authenticity and show your customers you care with this deal to pledge an amount of your choice to the charity of your choice.
Please note that businesses need to carefully plan and think out any deals before launching them; they need to make sure their Facebook Deals align with their overall business strategy before jumping in. Here are some ideas to help avoid disaster or a bad customer experience:
- Discuss the process with the employees that will be interacting with the customer
- Make sure you've got the logistics to cover the potential demand
- Clearly state the terms and conditions to the customer
- Create a clear process for tracking the ROI on your Facebook Deals
Check out this detailed .pdf from Facebook.com for more detailed information on Facebook Deals.
Merging Fan & Places Pages
So you've had a Facebook fan page for awhile now, and you've just claimed your Places page, now what? time to merge them? Hold on, be sure to think about it before you do. Many page owners have run in to bugs with this process including loss of content, comments, and valuable custom made landing pages. A group called "Unmerge Places & My Business Page" formed from the lack of Facebook customer support, and now has close to 1,000 members. Thankfully, Facebook has enabled an "umerge" option which unfortunately still seems to kill content if used. This has left many early adopters up a creek without a paddle.
It's hard to say that every Facebook Places page should merge with its respective Fan page with the horror stories posted on the Unmerge wall. But I would recommend claiming your Places page and leaving it as a separate location until all of the bugs are worked out.
One current strategy to promote your Facebook Places page is to create a Deal, and then advertise it to your fans on your Facebook Page. This will drive plenty of curious traffic to your Places page, this plus normal Facebook advertising should quickly bump your presence and authority. Also, be sure to select distinct, yet rememberable page aliases for the two pages (i.e. Facebook.com/brandName & Facebook.com/brandNameStore)
Facebook makes it easy if you still want to merge your two pages; go to your Facebook Places page and in the lower left hand corner you'll see the option to merge, click it to select which page to merge with.
On a side note, Facebook does state:
There are certain features which will not be supported after the merge. For example, you will not be able to set the landing tab of your Page. Overall, the loss of functionality is very limited, and will not impact the basic experience of your Page.The only problem I see with this statement is "[merging] will not impact the basic experience of your Page" - Advanced iFrames and custom landing pages don't seem to be supported with the merge, so be careful.
In the end if this is fine with you then go ahead and see if it works out, but personally I don't think i'll run the risk until Facebook shows that some better support for this feature.