With over 500 million people using Facebook, you may have noticed your friends checking-in around town (or even around the country). How are they doing this? They’re using Facebook “Places” – a free feature that “allows you to see where your friends are and share your location in the real world,” according to our pals at Facebook. The advantage of Places to small businesses is it provides a social media platform for marketing and promotion, and an opportunity to build customer loyalty. Who doesn’t need that?

Here’s how it works: A “Place” page shows you a map of where the Place is located, a list of friends who are currently checked in at the Place (if any), as well as a Friend Activity stream of other friends who have visited the Place in the past. So how can you get Places working for your business?

Take Your Place on Facebook Places

First off, claim your Place by following the instructions provided by Facebook. Then you’ll be on your way with a few simple tactics. It’s easier than you think because you’re probably already doing most of this stuff in other channels (like email marketing).

What’s In It For Me?

Similar to Foursquare, which allows businesses to provide special offers to their “mayor” or at check-in, you can offer special discounts or giveaways to customers who show that they’ve checked in with Facebook Places during their visit. Make sure you have signs posted in your location to encourage users to check-in and receive a special offer.


Keep ‘Em Coming Back

Getting new customers is good for business, but getting loyal repeat customers is the real deal. Provide a special discount for every certain number of Facebook Places check-ins to keep your customers coming back time and time again. For example, check in 5 times in a month and get a free coffee, or check in 2 times a year and get a free oil change.

Use What You’ve Got 

You already have a list of loyal customers and email subscribers, so let them know you’re on Facebook and have a Place by sending out an email and encourage them to check-in the next time they stop by. Remind them what they’ll get by doing so and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

As a note, Places is available to users in select countries with mobile access to the Facebook application for iPhone, Android, Blackberry v1.9, or touch.facebook.com. According to Facebook, Places will be rolled out more broadly and to other mobile devices and the web in the future.

How will you use Facebook Places? I’d love to hear and share your ideas with our readers!

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