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Facebook Tests Beacon Tech with Launch of New Place Tips Feature

in Mobile Marketing, Social Media with tags , , , , , Both comments and trackbacks are closed.

Yesterday, Facebook announced the launch of Place Tips, a new feature that will surface location-specific content, including friends’ recommendations and information about nearby shops and landmarks, based on where users are. It is designed to enhance the Facebook experience by using GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth beacons to deliver relevant and useful information and tips derived from locations’ Facebook pages above the newsfeed in a users’ smartphone browser. Facebook is currently testing Place Tips beacons in pilot locations in New York City, including the Dominique Ansel Bakery, the Strand Book Store, and The Burger Joint, and it is testing the service near New York City landmarks like Times Square and Central Park.

While still in the early stages of development and only currently available for iPhone users, this new feature is poised to be a game changer for Facebook, by creating new opportunities to engage the network’s 1.3 billion users in the right places, at the right times, with the right messages. Currently the feature is free for businesses, but it is likely to serve as the foundation of future ad products on the platform.

For marketers, Place Tips enhances the way Facebook has embedded itself into millions of businesses’ digital infrastructures, essentially making the platform indispensable – first with the launch of Facebook Connect in 2008 and then with the launch of Open Graph in 2012. What’s new is that Place Tips creates a physical infrastructure that connects the platform with the physical environment using signals and beacons, making the technology more attractive and accessible for marketers, while creating a significant potential revenue stream for Facebook. If the new feature takes hold, it could lead to widespread adoption of new location-based technologies, expanding use rapidly among businesses around the country and the world.

What’s in it for Facebook?
While mobile technology is still in its infancy, location-based marketing is a huge area for projected future growth. The ability to target people with relevant information based on where they’re standing at any given time opens new possibilities for marketers and new revenue streams for Facebook. As a leader in mobile advertising and targeting, Facebook will be able to connect the dots better and earlier than anyone else, to make location-based marketing more attractive than ever before.

User Experience is Key
As with any new offering, Facebook must work carefully to develop the user experience for Place Tips and figure out how to make the experience additive rather than disruptive. It will be important for Facebook in these early stages to figure out the right amount and type of content to surface, to make Facebook a must-check app the minute a user walks into a store, restaurant or venue of any kind. If location-based information becomes sought out on Facebook, it will be possible for the app to send push notifications to Facebook users’ phones with relevant information, including deals and tips, depending on where a person is standing at that very moment.

What’s in it for Marketers?
This new feature gives brands the ability to target consumers with relevant and useful information (including product and sales information) at the right times and in the right places, which has been fairly limited up until this point. In addition, the tie to businesses’ Facebook pages will make these pages prime destinations for business information, especially for local businesses.

If Facebook’s Place Tips take hold, the product will give marketers the ability to “close the deal” much more seamlessly than is currently possible. In addition, Facebook’s investment in the technical setup and infrastructure will reduce barriers for brands looking to work with beacons and location-based marketing by making it easy to tap them at scale with just a strategically-placed media buy.

Place Tips also creates better ROI metrics by giving brand marketers more opportunity to connect online marketing with offline sales. Place Tips could establish better metrics for mobile by creating an additional signal that connects engaged consumers to sales. The metrics marketers focus on today such as view-thru and click-thru, could be enhanced to include “walk-thru” metrics as well.

Of course, as with many new technologies launching today – and specifically technology from Facebook – there are certain privacy concerns that can slow down growth in this area. It’s possible that there will be consumer backlash that halts the progress of this feature before it gets off the ground. However, if past product launches from Facebook and other platforms are any indication, Place Tips and the marketing opportunities it creates will present a very attractive proposition for brands this year.

Amy Peterman, Director, Paid Social Practice Lead, Karri Wells Wane, Social Marketing Supervisor, and Layne Harris, VP, Innovation Technology at 360i contributed to this post.

Cover photo via Facebook