Facebook letting more stores ping your phone when you're inside

Facebook's Place Tips feature highlights relevant information about businesses in News Feed

Facebook's Bluetooth beacons ping users' phones when they're inside participating businesses, to give them information around the business.

Facebook's Bluetooth beacons ping users' phones when they're inside participating businesses, to give them information around the business.

You might find yourself browsing more than the shelves at your local store, if Facebook knows you're there. It's expanding a location-aware program that will let businesses pop information into the top of your news feed.

Place Tips lets brick-and-mortar stores send information to people's News Feeds, by sensing where customers are through Bluetooth beacons. Facebook began piloting the program earlier this year among just a handful of businesses in New York; now the social network is opening it to small and midsize businesses across the U.S.

The program publishes content from the business's Facebook page, and posts from users' friends about the business, to the top of people's News Feeds while they're at the company's location. The goal is to give customers more information about the place, or see what their friends think of it, while giving the business increased prominence in the popular app.

The Place Tips link at the top of your News Feed might read, "See photos and posts by your friends at Veselka." Tap on it, and you'll be led into a special feed of content related to the place.

The beacons used are diamond shaped devices about six centimeters wide that businesses can stick on a wall.

Tapping on the business's Place Tips won't post on Facebook or show other users where the person is, Facebook says.

For the content to appear on users' phones, they must be sharing their location information with Facebook, with Bluetooth turned on, and have Place Tips enabled in their Facebook settings. Currently, the content only appears in Facebook's iPhone app.

The feature also works at landmarks like New York's Central Park and Times Square, without needing beacons, where Facebook users' location can be determined using cellular networks, Wi-Fi and GPS.

By expanding the program, Facebook could help small businesses get more people talking about them and help them promote retail items or events, when content from their Pages might otherwise get lost in the feed. It might also be a way for Facebook to turn some of those businesses into paying advertisers.

Some participating businesses, however, aren't entirely sure how well the program works for them.

Veselka, a restaurant serving Ukrainian food in the East Village of New York, has been using a Facebook beacon since last February. For them, the feature displays, among other content, a questionnaire seeking feedback from customers.

Facebook told the restaurant they would receive data on the level of engagement customers have had with the content, but they haven't received anything yet, said Jason Birchard, a manager there. The restaurant does not know how often people see the Place Tips content, he said.

Not knowing whether the program had actually led to increased business, "is kind of the pitfall of this," he said.

Strand Book Store, which specializes in rare and out-of-print books, has used a Facebook beacon to highlight their Page content and show upcoming in-store events. After installing the beacon, attendance at their events has risen, and they've received more Facebook check-ins and "likes," said Brianne Sperber, marketing manager at the store.

Still, because they don't yet have data about user activity within the feature, "We can't say that this is certainly because of Place Tips, but we believe there is a correlation," she said.

Facebook says the beacons send a one-way signal to users' Facebook apps, and that they don't collect information from people or change the location information Facebook already receives.

When Facebook employees were helping Birchard set up the beacon at Veselka, they were concerned that people might think "big brother" was watching, he said. "That's the last thing they want. They want to make this something useful for Facebook users."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags analyticsadvertisingmobile applicationsInternet-based applications and servicesmobilesocial mediainternetFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?