Places allows a user to "check in" at a given geographic location using any of a variety of "smart phones." (See their website for details on which phones may be used.) A check in is simply a way of telling their friends and the business that the user is in that place. For example, I might check in at Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm & Market (http://www.hollabaughbros.com/) next time I am in Biglerville. If I were to do that, I'd be announcing to all of my Facebook Friends where I am. I can also add text to tell them what I'm doing, how I like it (or don't like it), and that they really need to buy some Nittany apples.
That check in is then announced to at least some of my Friends. (I may have some that I choose not to share it with and still others who may have hidden my posts from their feeds.) The post on their feed will show that I've checked in at a location, the text that I included with my check in, and the names of anyone else I may have "tagged" in my check in. (A tag is simply a way of showing that others were with me when I checked in.) The location name, which would be "Hollabaugh Bros., Inc." since that's their Facebook name, is clickable. If a friend clicks on that, they go to a page with a description of the business (if the business has entered that) as well as an interactive map that can be used to get directions to Hollabaugh Brothers.
A business owner or manager can claim a business through a verification process on Facebook. If you are even thinking about using Places or Deals, you should start that process. This would allow you to track check ins.
Deals adds a lot of value to Places by allowing the business to offer, you guessed it, deals to customers who check in using Places. I am providing a short summary here. For all the details, check out Facebook's site including this pdf file that provides an outstanding overview including tips on how to structure a deal and how to manage the process.
You can offer four different types of deals.
- Individual Deals - A user is eligible for the deal with one check in.
- Loyalty Deals - A user is eligible for the deal with at least 2, but no more than 20, check ins.
- Friend Deals - Only users who check in with others are eligible for the deal.
- Charity Deals - A check in triggers a contribution to a charity. The business must determine the amount of the contribution and the target charity.
As I talk to business owners using Facebook, I'm commonly asked how to generate "Likes" on their Pages. Places is a good way to get word out by allowing people to check in at your business and, in so doing, putting the business's name out to their friends. Deals helps by providing a stronger incentive to check in. Like most other Facebook features, Places and Deals are both free of charge. However, there is a footnote on one of the pages in the pdf file referenced above. It says: "Note: Deals is in beta and is available to a limited set of businesses. The product, product availability, and pricing are all subject to change in the future." It may be worth a try whether it's free or not. Offering a discount or free product (for example) along with what is likely to be a small fee, if any, charged by Facebook might be a great investment for many ag and food businesses.