Facebook is giving out free beacons to small businesses

The beacons are part of its Place Tips feature, to help businesses promote themselves

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 8, 2015
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Whenever anyone starts going on about the end of brick and mortar stores, I tend to bristle. It seems to short-sighted to me. There will always be businesses, places to go and buy things. The best tech companies recognize this and actually try to incorporate these businesses into their plans, rather than ignore them and pretend they don't exist.

Back in January, Facebook announced its Place Tips feature, in which businesses would install beacons, which have been designed specifically by Facebook, which would send information about that establishment to people who were nearby. Facebook lined up a few businesses to test it out, but now it looks to be expanding it much further, revealing on Monday that it will actually be giving those beacons away for free.

"We’re now providing free beacons to more businesses in the US," the company wrote in a blog post. 

"Because Place Tips are meant to offer people useful and interesting information about the places they visit, we’re prioritizing beacons for businesses with active Pages full of content—such as photos, check-ins and status updates—from both the business and its customers."

Here is how Place Tips work: after the beacons are installed, users who have given Facebook permission to access their location on their phone will get notifications of certain places at the top of their NewsFeed. When they tap on place tips, they will see a series of cards with information about the business.

That can include things like posts and photos that their friends have shared.

Some of the initial businesses included many in New York City, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Strand Book Store, the burger joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Brooklyn Bowl, Pianos, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and Veselka.

Businesses are also allowed to write a customizable welcome note that appears at the top of the Place Tips feed, in order to promote items or share facts and tips about their establishment.

"A bookstore could use the welcome note to tell visitors where a book signing is happening in the store, while a popular deli may share menu items that famous people have ordered," said Facebook.

Facebook, like most social networks, relies heavily on advertising. In its most recent quarterly earnings, the company made $3.5 billion in revenue. Revenue from advertising was $3.32 billion. So its easy to see where Facebook eventually wants to take this. 

Currently, Place Tips act as free advertisements for those businesses, especially if they aren't even going to be paying for the beacons they use. It is pretty easy to see a future where those businesses, having developed a relationship with Facebook, and having seen the amount of new businesses it can help draw in, does decided to advertise on the network.

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