Facebook launched Facebook Places in August 2010. It’s a simple feature that allows people to use the GPS on their mobile phone to let friends know where they are, following very much in the same vein as Four Square (without the ‘gaming’ incentive).
‘Checking in’ allows the tagging of friends, and encourages users to describe what they are doing at that moment – creating a newsfeed trail which can connect several users. It is by far one of the most easily-populated features that is available on Facebook, encouraging the ‘tagging’ of several users, with that particular tag then becoming visible on everyone’s feed.
The benefits of checking in for the individual are threefold : you can see who of your friends is nearby, should they have checked in as well; see what friends have been to that particular place before; and it also a popular method by which to appear well-informed and ‘in the know’ with regards to cool or hip places…a pertinent feature of today’s social networking!
With regards to hospitality, the benefits of clients checking in are also easily apparent. It is a great method by which to create a virtual review board, as such, and to gather a realistic insight on the demographics of times, dates and other methods of informing establishments on who comes where and when.
More importantly, however, recent research has suggested that the amount of check-ins an establishment has, the better the chances are of seeing them rank highly on Facebook’s new Graph Search.
Facebook Graph Search
You may have noticed that in recent months that Facebook has been encouraging people to enter more information about themselves on their profiles, including work and education history, family information and so on. This is in order to gather as much data as possible in order to populate their new Graph Search. Graph Search uses any of this information about you that you have shared publicly – plus any pages that you’ve liked – including relationship statuses, addresses, phone numbers and check-ins. This includes data shared with friends and friends of friends.
Facebook have only just announced the wide availability of this Graph Search, a service they’ve been testing for the last six months. It’s a complete revamp of Facebook’s search functionality. One can now search for nearly everything posted on Facebook publicly (including friends’ posts available to you) using natural-language searches.
Previously Facebook users could only search for brands or friends by name and location; Graph Search lets users find specific information including their friends’ favourite films, restaurants, likes and dislikes, food, pubs, clubs etc. Search results can include photos, recommendations of similar pages, past data that relates to that specific search.
The new Graph Search proves that Facebook is a growing powerhouse for local information – it is already highly regarded as a respectable informative resource. When Graph Search is fully available, it will only serve to strengthen this aspect of the network. There is no doubt that Facebook has access to a staggering amount of data that could easily see them as a rival to search engines such as Google or Yahoo. Another factor to consider is that Facebook has become synonymous with ‘updates’, so users now believe that the information from that of pages, establishments and friends is always recent and correct, always streaming in real-time as such – and, more importantly, reliable.
Factors which can affect an establishment’s SEO on Graph Search:
- Friend Activity
- Check Ins
- Page Likes
- Posts / Shares / Comments / Likes
An easy way to encourage check-ins is through the use of deals and offers; a Check-in Deal is an easy and proven method which encourages customers to check-in to a business or location on Facebook by offering customers an incentive to do so.
Ideas of incentives:
- For the individual: Offer a discount to an individual for simply checking in
- Loyalty: Offer a discount or freebie for checking in a certain number of times.
- Friend: Offer a Deal to groups of friends who check-in together – ie Free Garlic Bread
- Charity: A check-in results in a donation to the specified charity.
Though the idea of checking in may seem outdated or irrelevant, it is an absolutely crucial factor to consider for an establishment’s social networking profile. And with over 100 million monthly users on the Facebook mobile app itself, it’s very much a factor which we should always have in mind.