Claim Your Facebook Place
The Facebook Places service is a relatively new addition to the social network. Following the trend that sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla established, Facebook now enables users to do location-based check-ins. That means that a customer who visits your business may announce where they are to their extended social network, and possibly share opinions and feedback about your business.
If a Facebook Place does not exist for your business, any user who checks in can simply create one for you. Since the Facebook Place will most likely exist whether you like it or not, you may as well claim it and manage it.
A Bing map pinpointing the location of your business will appear at the top of the Facebook Places page. You can enter information, such as the actual address and phone number. The Facebook Places page will display all of the check-ins for your location from Facebook members, and you can post status updates to the Facebook Places page.
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't offer a way to merge the Facebook Page for a business with the Facebook Places page for that business. This overlap and redundancy can create a bit of an administrative headache.
The exposure and word-of-mouth advertising aspects of customers letting their Facebook social networks know about your business is a tremendous benefit, though. And you can use Facebook Places check-ins as a marketing tool by providing incentives or discounts for users who check in, or who do so most frequently.
You'd be wise to post status updates periodically with a link to your company's Facebook Page to drive Facebook Places users to engage there, as well.
Drive Customers to Facebook
Simply establishing a presence on Facebook has very little practical value if your customers don't know it's there. Thankfully, Facebook provides a variety of tools and plug-ins that you can use to link to your presence on Facebook from elsewhere--such as from your actual Web page.
Obviously, you can simply insert a link to your Facebook Page or Places location on your Website. Using Social Plugins from Facebook, though, you can integrate with Facebook even more through elements such as a Like Button or Like Box. You can also display an activity feed--the live stream of updates from Facebook--or display comments or recommendations.
For each of the tools on the Social Plugins page, you fill in the blanks to define attributes such as the width or height of the plug-in, or the color scheme; you then click the Get Code button for code that you can insert on your Web page to integrate that plug-in.
It's also a good idea to include links to your Facebook Page or Places page in your e-mail signature, on business cards, and on letterhead. The more exposure it gets, the more likely that customers will visit.
Give Customers a Reason to Engage
Now that you have a Facebook presence, don't make the mistake of merely trumpeting your business or its products and services. Facebook provides a platform to involve your customers and share in new ways that extend beyond simply blasting out marketing sound bites.
It's important to engage the audience and give them a reason to frequent the page. Involve the Facebook community in discussion. Make yourself or a representative of the business available to participate and respond. Provide value for your Facebook audience, and let the power of word-of-mouth marketing take care of the rest.