Roll Out of Facebook Place Tips Beacons for Apple Smartphone Users.

Facebook is rolling out a new way for businesses e.g. retailers to attract nearby smart phone users and inform and engage those already at their premises by using a Facebook Bluetooth® Beacon as part of its ‘Place Tips’ service.

The system works by businesses using a Bluetooth® Beacon device provided free by Facebook to send notifications to (currently only) Apple smart phone users who are logged in to Facebook,  who are in the close vicinity of their business premises, who have enabled location services on their phone, and have Bluetooth turned on. The ‘Place Tips’ notifications are added to the user’s News Feed. 

The Trial

This new service had its trial and is being rolled out first in the U.S. There is no clear date for when it will arrive in the UK but the Facebook Bluetooth® Beacons page does suggest that you can sign up now to request information and a request a Beacon for your business which presumably indicates priority for when the service is introduced here - see https://www.facebook.com/business/a/facebook-bluetooth-beacons.

The trial is reported to have been taking place since January among around 100 New York City businesses, and the results have been such that Facebook has gone for a national roll out.

What Kind of Notifications?

The kinds of Place Tips notifications described by Facebook as “Fun, useful and relevant” can include things like a welcome message and photos,  prompts to like the business Facebook page, posts from that Facebook Page, and recommendations from their friends about that business.  Posts could also include information about upcoming events and popular menus for example so it is clear to see the potential benefits of Place Tips as an extra promotional tool for marketing messages, a differentiating factor, and a way to make walk-in customers engage more with a retail business and brand.

Intrusive or Disruptive?

Facebook says that the service will not be intrusive because the notifications can be turned off and the signal from the Beacon is one-way and does not collect any information from your phone, nor does it disrupt your WiFi or other equipment.

Some Initial Criticism

Some of the early online criticisms of the service speculate that some people may find it a little ‘creepy’ at first to be instantly targeted with information about a business on your phone as soon as you walk through the door. The service does however seem to be something that in theory and in initial trials could be good news for the many small retail businesses that are tied to a physical location.