If you thought that Google Places’ move to Google+ Local was the last major local SEO change you’d have to deal with for a while, think again. We of course already discussed a suite of local business tools known as Google Business Builder that is set to launch some time in July, which at least gave you a little breathing room. Fortunately these services will be brand new to almost every business owner so you’ll be starting on a level playing field with your competition as long as you don’t procrastinate for too long after these tools become available.
One of the biggest issues Google has had over the last year has been with trying to take away even a fraction of Facebook’s social media market share. This is one of the more obvious reasons why they abruptly did away with Places completely and forced all business owners to adapt to the new new Google Plus Local system. Still, very little has changed on the back-end for business owners and Google clearly has an uphill battle if they want to be a player in the social media game. Don’t get me wrong, I suspect they have a lot of their sleeve still and their slow roll-out is a strategic one, but they’ve got a long way to go, given that Facebook is now claiming over 900 million users. On the flip-side of the coin, Facebook lags behind on the “local search” side of things. So it appears the next step for each is to try to beat the other at their own game, and it would appear that Facebook has quietly taken a step in that direction recently with the launch of a pilot program called Facebook Offers for business.
It’s worth noting that Facebook actually launched its own directory a while back (leading to a lot of confusion for businesses that already had their own pages – sound familiar?), but the social network isn’t used as and wasn’t designed to be a search engine. That hasn’t changed, but the ability to “Like” local businesses, and then see their updates in our newsfeeds, continues to provide businesses with a great marketing tool, allowing business owners to post updates about specials and upcoming promotions. The new “Offers” option goes a step further because it’s actually a full-featured tool that allows you to essentially create coupons (for lack of a better word) that users can claim.
What’s so special about “claiming” a Facebook offer? Well, for users, it allows them to simply bring a copy of the confirmation email to the business to redeem, either in printed form or on a mobile device. But it’s what Facebook Offers provides for business owners that’s really worth our attention. Offers appear in a business’s normal stream of updates like any other, but their design makes them stand out more which will likely mean more users will engage with them and share them with friends who might not already “Like” a particular business. They also give the business owner stats on how their offer is performing, including the total number of times it’s been claimed. Business owners can also set expiration dates and limits on how many users can claim an offer, providing a whole new level of control.
Now I know what you’re wondering – what are the intolerable bugs? Well, given that we are talking about Facebook here, your skepticism is healthy and perfectly justified. However in this case I have to say, the system seems to work great so far. The only downside, as I mentioned earlier, is that it’s still only a pilot program at the moment:
Why can’t I create an offer for my Facebook Page?
Offers are available in beta to a limited number of local business Pages. We plan to launch offers more broadly soon.
Why don’t all the Pages I like have offers?
Offers are only available for certain types of Pages, and not all eligible Pages will choose to post offers. If there’s a business you’d like to get offers from, try sending the Page’s admins a message or posting on its timeline to let them know.
I can tell you that none of the pages we admin are part of the beta testing program so I suspect that there are a very limited number of businesses involved in this beta test. So how did we find out about it? By being users like everyone else which tells you all you need to know about how big Facebook Offers has the potential to be. We mentioned earlier that Google is struggling in the social media realm because EVERYONE still uses Facebook, including our boss here at VDW, Andrew Allen. Tuesday afternoon he Skyped me the following messages:
[6/12/2012 4:13:21 PM] i just got a facebook post from Als french frys that has a “get offer” link on it
[6/12/2012 4:13:33 PM] i clicked it and als is sending me a gift or somehting
[6/12/2012 4:13:34 PM] do you know about this?
I didn’t. But after chatting briefly, Andrew forwarded along the offer claim email he had received and then I was off to the Al’s Facebook page to claim for myself and see how the offer process works. Let’s put it this way, the “process” takes about as much effort as “Liking” a post, so I’m not anticipating any usability issues for people seeking to claim offers. And on the administrative side of things, I can’t test, again because our pages aren’t in the pilot program, but the instructions make it sound like it couldn’t easier to create a new Facebook Offer:
How do I create an offer for my Facebook Page?
To create an offer:
- Go to your Page
- From the sharing tool at the top of your Page’s timeline, click Offer, Event + and then click Offer
- Type a strong headline for your offer, ex. “Buy one pair of socks, get another pair free.”
- Upload a photo for your offer that will stand out in thumbnail size
- Choose to limit the number of claims by clicking Unlimited and selecting a number from the dropdown
- Set an expiration date by clicking today’s date and clicking a different day in the future
- Add terms and conditions of your offer
- Click Preview
- Review what your offer will look like, then click Post
If you want to make changes to your offer when you’re previewing it, click Edit to go back and make changes.
Only admins of some Facebook Pages are currently eligible to create offers.
It’s rare that I think I would say this about any “local business service” online, but the only flaw I see is that Facebook Offers hasn’t been opened up to all businesses yet. And whether FB developed the program after getting a whiff of what Google is working on or it was something they came up with independently on their own, the battle lines for the future of local/social marketing are being drawn before our eyes. I’d say Facebook has at least one a small battle here, especially given Facebook Offers is a free service for business owners while Google Offers recently became a paid service. At the same time FB is quietly testing out another pilot program which allows businesses to include “share” buttons in ads they run offsite, obviously a response to Google+ buttons on Adwords ads. Given their already massive offsite ad network, I ‘d have to give the advantage to Google in that one.
Bottom line: I think we all know where I’m headed for dinner tonight, and this time I’ll only be paying for the pizza burger and corn dog! Thanks Al’s and Facebook Offers!
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