Facebook announced yesterday the release of their new Facebook Places feature. The feature allows mobile users to “check-in” to their physical location or “place”. Users can do this on their smart phones or browser on web-enabled mobile devices. Currently, the service is only available in the US, but other countries cannot be too far behind. This puts Facebook head to head against other LBS (location based services) biggies like Foursquare and Gowalla (if you aren’t 100% familiar with the extensive list of LBSs, check out this shameless plug for my white paper on location-based social media . So why worry about investing in a marketing strategy involving Facebook places in this saturated market? Here are the top 5 benefits to marketing with Facebook Places: 1) Robust Profiling Data Users connect their profiles to a plethora of interests on Facebook. They overtly state their interests in the “info” tab and indirectly connect themselves to interests when they “like” a brand or community page. Now, with the addition of social plugins, users connect their profiles to everything they browse outside of Facebook. This gives Facebook a library of data about users so rich that you can target for pretty much anything. Want to advertise a special only to urban hip hop lovers? Using creative keyword and location choices, you can really hone in on exactly the audience you want to view your ad. 2) Immense existing audience Facebook Places is currently available only in the US. This equates to an audience with about 150 million users, while other LBSs struggle to hit the 1 million user mark. These users have an average of 130 friends. Users who are likely to be early adopters to Facebook Places will most likely have a higher average number of friends. These users group themselves into communities in groups, community pages, and brand pages. As a manager of Facebook brand pages, you get to know the active community members well quickly. If active users checkin to your place, they can quickly and organically make a very large audience aware of your business. 3) Unique Advertising Opportunities As a member of the team focused primarily on optimized organic campaigns, I often get sick of hearing about all of the display advertising capabilities of Facebook. Despite my personal nausea over the topic, Facebook really is doing something right. There are constantly new types of ads to engage users. These ads often have better bang for your buck and a better ROI than traditional non-SMM ad types. Great display can lead to successful branding campaigns, event marketing, and fan acquisition. You can serve photos, get users to “like” your page in the ad, view videos, pretty much everything short of purchase directly in the ad (I claim a portion of rights if Facebook comes out with this anytime soon). All I get served by Facebook are ads around shoes, pizza, and travel. They know me well. Many LBSs services offer the chance to advertise, but Facebook is definitely ahead of the game in the variety of possible ads. 4) Viral Sharing Options When a user checks in, the check is blasted to their wall, and into their users stream. The check in is linked to the place, and able to be commented on and liked. Every time a user interacts with this check in, the viral potential grows. Some LBSs have yet (or have just begun) to allow integration with other social media sites. Users may adopt and share more in Facebook’s new all-in-one social media community and LBS, without the extraneous checking in with other services. 
5) Make a splash, be the first
This benefit will only be applicable for a short time. There are currently no brands making marketing headlines with a nifty Facebook places campaign. Whenever a new social media function or website comes along, audiences pay most attention while the new feature is still “shiny and sparkly”. For a little more than some creative genius and some effort, you can get the extra return that a groundbreaking marketing strategy can bring you. So, put on your genius hats, grab a six-pack, get your smartest players, and come up with the cool campaign that will rock everyone’s socks off.
Have you tried Facebook Places yet? Give us your initial impression of this new service.