If you’ve been paying attention to the business decisions Facebook makes over time, you can chart the rise and fall of a variety of different apps based on the features Facebook rolls out. When Google started introducing their place pages and local reviews, Facebook released their places feature, since discontinued. When Snapchat started to become popular, Facebook used Instagram, and later the Facebook platform itself, to mimic the functionality in the now more-popular Stories.
And, of course, when local business engagement apps like Foursquare made local check-ins and regional search popular, Facebook stole it with their local check-in feature for business pages.
Facebook page check-ins are a feature that does basically what it sounds like. Brands with a physical, visitable location set on their Facebook page can enable check-ins, which allows users who actually visit that location to check in.
Check-ins have some interesting benefits. For one thing, they function as reviews with a verification system; people who don’t check in can’t leave a review through this system, since it’s restricted to those using the mobile app with geographic tracking turned on.
Check-ins are also a form of posting with tagging that gives your business more exposure. When a user checks in at a local business, Facebook generates a post that showcases that check-in on that user’s feed. The friends of that user can see the check-in. Estimates indicate that this might show a post about your business to as many as 200 people! Some of them might be inspired to visit as well, some of them might find out about you for the first time, and sometimes they’ll even click and follow your page through the links Facebook generates.
Interestingly, Facebook doesn’t use check-ins all that much in their marketing tools. For example, you cannot use Facebook ads with “check-in” as an objective. You can run ads that encourage people to visit your physical location, but they don’t encourage users to leave a Facebook check-in, just to visit your store. Facebook will track if any check-ins happen as a result of your ads, but that’s somewhat different. It’s possible they limit this because it’s not actually too difficult to fake your location to check in.
So how can your business make use of check-ins and encourage more of them?
0: Understand Privacy Concerns
Before you dive into promoting check-ins, you should think about your audience and how effective those check-ins will be. Now, nine times out of ten, you’ll be fine encouraging check-ins. It’s usually only a small fraction of your audience that is concerned enough with privacy to not use the system and be turned off by you using it.
However, if you’re a business specifically catering to the privacy-conscious, you want to avoid using Facebook check-ins. Check-ins, by definition, require users to be using Facebook on a mobile device, with GPS tracking enabled, in order to display their location to Facebook. There are a bunch of reasons why a user might not want to do this.
- Some people hate having their phone track them via GPS. They turn off GPS tracking – which disables most map features – so they have more perceived privacy. I say perceived because simply using a cell phone means cell towers are triangulating your position at all times, so you’re still being tracked, just not by Facebook specifically.
- Some people hate using the Facebook mobile app. Since Facebook has had a whole range of problems with privacy over the last decade, I’m not surprised at all. Some people believe that Facebook passively listens to your phone even when it’s not active, though tests rarely show evidence of this.
- Some people may be concerned about having their location publicly broadcast. This most often applies to women who have persistent stalkers or abusers, where broadcasting their location would be actively dangerous to them. Conversely, by broadcasting when you’re checking in at, say, a restaurant, you’re telling the world that your home is empty and ripe for the picking. Is that a common threat? Maybe not, but it does happen occasionally.
What it all comes down to is that there will always be a fringe of users who visit your business and who want nothing to do with check-ins as a system. That’s okay, it just means you aren’t going to get check-ins from those people. Just don’t try to push them on it too hard or you may lose them as customers because of it.
If your audience isn’t primarily composed of privacy-conscious individuals, and you still want to use check-ins, here are some options to promote them.
1: Make Sure Check-Ins Are Enabled
In order for users to be able to check in with your business, you need to have the right kind of business selected and you need to have check-ins enabled.
From your Page, click on the About section on the left side, and find Edit Page Info and click it. You’ll find an Address section. Check the box that says “has a street address” and plug in your address. This should be the address for your local branch, not a headquarters; you know, the place you want users to actually show up.
There should be a map that shows your location once you’ve put in your address. Below the map should be a box that says “Customers visit my business at my street address”. Make sure the check box is checked, which enables both the map and the check-ins.
It’s worth making two important notes here. First, check-ins and the map listing are tied together. You cannot display your map while hiding check-ins or reviews. This is important for smaller local businesses that have negative reviews they want to hide; you can’t hide negative check-ins while keeping the other beneficial features of using the local system.
The other important note is that you can only have one location specified on a page for a business. Large brands like, say, Target, can’t specify an address for every one of their retail locations. This is why you see smaller franchise or chain businesses creating individual franchise pages for each location; to take advantage of local features.
If your Page doesn’t have the ability to add a location with check-ins, you may need to change your page category. In order to do that, you need to go back to the About section for your page and find the Category section. Click Edit, and choose a new page category. You can choose up to three, and Facebook will display the most specific of them. For example, if you chose both “restaurant” and “American grill”, only the latter would display.
Specifically, business and brand pages can use check-ins if you have an address, but community and public figure pages cannot. You can’t assign yourself as a public figure, put your address on Facebook, and let people check in at your house. Aside from being a bad idea, that is.
Anyways, once you have check-ins enabled, you can start promoting them. Here are the actual ideas I have for that.
2: Run Offer Ads with In-Store Claims
Facebook doesn’t allow you to run ads with a check-in as an ad objective. However, what you can do is run offer ads. Offer ads allow you to use a Facebook offer claims system. You run ads with an offer claim, that can be time limited or limited in quantity. Users can claim an offer and receive a coupon that they have to take to your store to redeem.
How does this promote check-ins? Well, it doesn’t, directly. Getting more people in your doors allows you to get those people to check in through other calls to action, however. Some of those people are just going to check in naturally, and some of them might check in with a mention about the offer their friends can claim.
3: Provide In-Store Calls to Action
Why not simply ask for a check-in from your users while they’re in the store? There are a bunch of different ways you can do this.
- Put a sign on your door with a Facebook logo asking users to check in when they visit to tell others about their experiences in the store.
- Add a custom call to action on your receipts for users who make a purchase, asking them to review their purchase with a check-in.
- Print out a sign to put by your register that asks people to check in. Alternatively, print out a sign that asks people to ask you about your Facebook page, which you can use to have cashiers pitch checking in when asked. The curiosity gap helps encourage customers to ask.
- Create additional labels to put on products, possibly just popular products, that asks users to review the product on Facebook with a check-in.
Really, there are a bunch of different ways to pitch a check-in, but all of these are quite basic. To really kick the strategy into high gear, you need to offer something in return.
4: Give an Incentive for In-Store Check-Ins
Now, before you do this, be sure to check local laws. Some states might have rules against incentivized reviews. They may need to be disclosed, or they might not be allowed at all. On the other hand, it’s so rare that anyone cares enough to pursue it that you’re pretty unlikely to be penalized one way or the other. That’s up to you how much risk you want to run.
As for an incentive, basically anything you want to do can be used as an incentive for a Facebook check-in. All you need to do is train your cashier to vet to make sure the check-in is live.
- Put a bucket of small products up by the check lanes. Tell users they can pick one item from the bucket to have for free if they check in on Facebook. You can have a sign that says “check in for a free item” or you can just say “ask us how to get a free item from this bucket!”
- Create an offer that gives users a free item from your menu or a free upsell if they check in, again with verification. This is one of the most common offers for food service locations and cafes. A free upgrade from a medium to a large drink, for example, or a free added side dish, can be good ideas for a free low-cost item that incentivizes a check-in. It might be worthwhile to add fine print, though. Something like “must have completed check-in before making order” to ensure appropriate billing and to minimize people holding up the line while they struggle to check in quickly.
- Does your retail location offer free Wi-Fi to your customers? There are a lot of benefits you can get out of that, but one of the most common is using a landing page that makes users read through an agreement or complete an action in order to access. You can use this landing page to ask people to check in to access your internet connection. Of course, you might not be able to actually require the check-in, but you can use language that makes it sound like it’s required to access.
Play around with different incentives and promotions to encourage users who check in. Some can be very effective, and might be best used as time-limited promotions for that reason.
5: Install a Large Art Piece
Large murals, statues, and other community art pieces become a central focus for users visiting a location. They take selfies and check in on Instagram, and you can encourage it on Facebook as well. It might not be a great option for everyone, but it can work for some kinds of businesses, plus it’s a good community builder.
Have you successfully encouraged check-ins for your business? If so, what techniques did you use? I’d like to hear them in the comments below.