Here at Sparkloft, new social media toys are pretty much our favorite thing. Put the words “beta,” and “testing,” side by side, and you’re sure to catch our attention. This summer, we received a notification from Facebook for Business for a special invitation that was extended to local businesses across the country to test the Facebook Bluetooth beacon.
In early 2015, Facebook joined the ranks of several big names that are experimenting with marketing’s current buzzword: beacon technology. Beginning in New York City, the platform began rolling out the Facebook Bluetooth beacon to select businesses, and the technology is now widely available to any Facebook page connected to a business with a physical address in a major metropolitan area. The beacon uses Bluetooth technology to interact with a Facebook user’s mobile app when they enter a business. Users will see “Place Tips,” a combination of messaging crafted by the business and user-generated photos, popular menu items, and upcoming events.
Facebook users will only see these Place Tips if they have location services and bluetooth turned on. To the disappointment of some beacon users, Facebook won’t send push notifications to users in a location. Instead, users will have to click a notification at the top of their Newsfeed to reveal Place Tips around them.
On the spectrum of beacon technology, the Facebook iteration is a bit underwhelming. In the last two years, tech giants including Apple, Estimote, and Gelo have released Bluetooth beacons that talk to mobile applications on both iPhones and Androids. Beacons have given brands like Virgin Atlantic and Macy’s the capability to offer real-time alerts, customer service, and discounts to consumers through their mobile applications. Additionally, beacons have added a mobile phone element to live events like SXSW and Outside Lands Music Festival.
While the current technology is basic, it is undeniable that the chance to catch Facebook’s 1.4 billion registered users as they experience a new place presents a valuable opportunity for brands and consumers– especially in the tourism industry. We’d like to see beacon technology empower Facebook to become the traveler’s ultimate companion, creating a channel for real-time communication between tourism offices or visitor centers and travelers, while curating photos and recommendations from their own social circles.