Facebook are currently in the process of handing out free beacons to businesses, as an accompaniment to their recently updated Place Tips feature, which was introduced in January. The function is currently being rolled out across the USA, and represents an interesting new development in the ways companies will use social media. Many prominent New York businesses and attractions are already using the feature, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Le Parker Meridien Hotel.
If a Facebook user has their smartphone’s location tracking function switched on, the service will kick in, feeding information to the mobile device about local businesses and attractions in the area. The information will be transmitted from the beacons and ensure that data about local businesses appears in the form of a banner at the top of users’ news feeds. Users can then click the banner and discover further information about attractions in the local area, such as events, exhibitions, menus and anything else that may be relevant.
Some may express concerns about the possible privacy risks posed by such a feature, but Facebook have stated that the signal is strictly one-way, with no information being gathered from users’ phones or social media accounts.
This new feature is set to give companies a brand new online marketing channel, reaching out directly to people in the local area and inspiring them to use their product or service. The beacons can be requested online by businesses who wish to use them, but at the minute the number of available beacons is limited. It remains to be seen whether this feature will become more widely used or if users will appreciate having information displayed directly on their devices.