Facebook is the largest online social network in the world, but it's increasingly looking to make its billion-user service relevant offline as well.

The latest example of that can be seen with Place Tips, a feature "that helps people learn about and connect with the places they visit."

Launched as a test earlier this year, Facebook yesterday announced that it is rolling out Place Tips more broadly with a heavy emphasis on local business.

Place Tips functions by displaying relevant information about a place to Facebook mobile app users who visit that location and have opted in to sharing their location with Facebook. In the case of businesses, this information may include posts from a Facebook Page, reviews and upcoming events.

Business Place Tips are personalized based on the kind of business establishment. As Facebook explained:

At a restaurant, Place Tips can show the menu, reviews and frequently mentioned information about the establishment, like a signature cocktail or popular table. Place Tips for a retail store can help customers find business hours, locate popular items and learn about upcoming events.

To help businesses take advantage of Place Tips, Facebook is giving them some control over what information is displayed. Specifically, businesses can set a welcome message that appears at the top of their Place Tips feeds.

Facebook is also recommending that businesses interested in using Place Tips request a Bluetooth beacon that businesses physically place in-store. This beacon sends a signal to customers using the Facebook app, helping the app more reliably identify the business.

Facebook is prioritizing beacon distribution to businesses that are active on Facebook.

Will it drive sales?

According to Facebook, businesses that have used Place Tips have seen increases in page traffic from their in-store visitors, and some businesses are excited about how Place Tips can help them connect with their customers. As Briannne Sperber, director of marketing for Strand Book Store in Manhattan explained:

We love that someone can come into our store and check Place Tips on their phone to see that a friend of theirs has checked in here and posted photos, or even that there’s an in-store event coming up soon.

Despite Facebook's global popularity, with so many companies still trying to crack local, Place Tip's ultimate success may depend on whether or not business owners can connect its use to increased sales, not just increased Facebook activity.

Patricio Robles

Published 9 June, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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