Facebook's Place Tips expands nationally with free beacons for businesses

Originally rolled out January, Place Tips uses beacons to publish curated content about a business to the top of a shopper's News Feed while they're at the company's location.

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Facebook is giving away free Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons to businesses as part of a nationwide expansion of its Place Tips feature.

Originally rolled out January, Place Tips is designed to help business owners digitally connect with their customers while they are in-store. The program uses beacons to publish curated content about a business to the top of a shopper's News Feed while they're at the company's location.

The goal of the program is to give shoppers more information about a business, like what their friends think of the place or what they've purchased there previously, while also giving businesses well-timed visibility within Facebook's widely used mobile app. Facebook says participating businesses have seen "a steady uptick in Page traffic from in-store visitors" since launching the service.

From the Facebook for Business blog:

Each person's Place Tips are unique. At a restaurant, Place Tips can show the menu, reviews and frequently mentioned information about the establishment, like a signature cocktail or popular table. Place Tips for a retail store can help customers find business hours, locate popular items and learn about upcoming events.

As of now Place Tips is not open to advertisers, however businesses are given the ability to write a customized welcome note that appears at the top of their Place Tips feed, which can be used to promote certain items or deals.

What's more, the feed is only visible to people who are in store, have Bluetooth enabled on their phones and who have given Facebook permission to access their phone's location data.

As for the beacons powering Place Tips, Facebook is apparently using its own branded devices to do the job. Beacons typically aren't expensive pieces of equipment, but by giving them out gratis, Facebook is able to attract more businesses to the still-developing program.

Over the last several years, beacons have become the foundation for location-based marketing efforts. But a one of the biggest pain points of their use is that shoppers are required to be actively using a business's mobile app in order for communication between the two sides to be successful.

That is where Facebook's approach separates from the pack -- not because it negates the need for a mobile app, but because it takes advantage of Facebook's ubiquity. It's more likely for a shopper to have a Facebook app installed than they would an app for a neighborhood cafe or local boutique.

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