Facebook, location-based social media

Understanding Facebook Places Functionality Opens Possibilities

11 Comments 15 September 2010

Now that your Place is claimed, what are the capabilities of Places and its potential uses? Most importantly, how does that functionality open up possibilities?

Since the launch of Facebook Places a few weeks ago, there have been some great blog posts about how to claim the space. Heather Mansfield wrote a comprehensive step-by-step on how to claim your organization’s Facebook Place. John Haydon created a very clear two-minute video guide on how to claim your Facebook Place (click on film icon and the video will pop up inside this blog post).

Understanding the functionality of Places is critical to thinking about the possibilities of Facebook Places.

First, some preliminaries of setting up the Page:

You can begin to set up your Place once you have received an official Place confirmation from Facebook. This is what it looks like:

It is important to note that a Facebook Place is a new Page.  Here is what you can do with your Places Page:

1. Populate it with a profile picture. Have fun with this – don’t assume you have to put your logo here. Is there a particular symbol on the exterior of your building that is identified with your organization? Make that your profile picture. You could also chose a fan that has checked in the most that month and make his/her photo your monthly Places profile picture as a reward (or surprise)!

2. Post status updates on the Places Page. Just like any other Page, people who Like this Place will see the updates. You can attach links, photos and video to it. (Screen shot below)

From an organizational perspective, if you have an event or a physical location that is used by your consumers/clients/customers (such as a food bank, career counseling location, etc.), the status update offers interesting opportunities. Some ideas are:

  • offer special incentives, congratulations, and connections to those checking in
  • connect and tag others, encouraging peer to peer connections
  • creatively bridge a digital divide by checking people in at your site
  • encourage a group conversation at an event
  • crowdsource ideas about the place (Do we need more chairs or a bigger welcome area here? How is the wifi for you? How could we improve our space)
  • Add photos and videos of the event, place, etc.

(John Haydon offers other nonprofit Places ideas here.)

3. Feature your organization’s Place Page on your website by adding a Facebook Page Badge (such as the Like box) to your website, blog, etc. I am not sure if you are able to add all the features of the Facebook Open Graph (such as the Like button) at this time, but it seems obvious to me that you will be able to do that at a later point. Again, if you have an upcoming fundraiser, event, or use your organization’s physical location, adding the Page Badge is a good way to publicize your Facebook Place.

4. Know who has checked into your Place. This is the unique feature. If a person checks into your Place, you can see them there. As an individual Facebook user, you can also check yourself into a Place, check others in (if they allow that feature on Facebook), or tag other using an @message just like tagging them on a status update). If you want to know more about how to actually check into a Place, read this article on the Facebook Blog.

From an organizational perspective, this is where it gets very interesting. You can view the people who have chosen to check into a Place, and who have added their friends to a Place, and can even begin to graph friend ties by noting people that check in together.

5. Add applications. You can add applications to your Page. At this point, I can only see that Facebook allows a Place Page to add static FBML, Discussions, Video, Links, Notes, Photos, and Discussion Boards. I haven’t seen this in action, but it indicates that Places will become incredibly robust geo-location spaces. For a nonprofit, I wouldn’t advise replicating the same applications that are on the official Page, but thinking instead about which applications make sense for those fans actually checking into your Place. Perhaps video, Notes, and photos make sense. I’d love to hear about how organizations are adding static FBML to Places.

6. Merge Places with Pages. It is possible to merge your Facebook Place with your official Page (but not if you have multiple Places). It appears that you have to be the administrator/owner of both types of Pages and then Facebook will prompt you to merge them. (I have not personally seen this prompt for the FirstGiving Place yet.) Further, if you merge Places with your Page, then Facebook allows you to target ads specifically to people who Like your place. The merge feature clearly indicates that Facebook is interested in bringing all user activities to a single, geo-located, merged space.

Which nonprofit organizations are using Places now? How are they taking advantage of the functionality in interesting ways?

Further reading:

Charlene Li’s article on how the Facebook Experience will change after Places.

Mashable’s Field Guide to Facebook Places.

  • zionaetzion

    Note that a Facebook Place is a new Page.
    Comprehensive article (as usual) that is most enlightening.
    Analytical and useful.


  • Debra – Merging a Places Page and a Fan Page is a complete mystery. Nothing in Facebook support…


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    John – I think we should just call it the Mystery Merge for now…


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Funny, I can see that I replied to you 5 days ago in the Disqus comments but not on this blog. To repeat my reply: John – I think we should just call it the Mystery Merge for now!


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  • Wonder if this will ever support multiple locations for one NPO? That would be cool.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    From everything I hear, that is where Facebook Places are heading. However, no one has any idea when/if this is happening. It would be a great feature for Places to offer, for sure!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    This would be a great feature. From what I’ve read, Facebook is planning on supporting multiple locations with their Places, but not at this point.


  • Elizabeth Hill

    I claimed my Facebook place for my non-profit and merged my fan page w/ the place page. Now I can’t upload photos as an administrator of the page – the photos automatically go to my personal page, not the non-profit’s. Do you know a way around this? Thanks!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Unfortunately, Elizabeth, I do not know a way around the merge. I have heard from a few people that the merged Places/Fan Page also means that you no longer have the ability to choose which tab your visitors will land on. At this time, I’m not recommending that people merge Places with their Fan Page. My fellow nptech blogger Ivan Boothe wrote a great blog post about this issue here: http://rootwork.org/blog/2010/12/facebook-removes-default-landing-tab-new-nonprofit-pages


  • Dirtymartini05

    don’t merge your page… u will be very sorry!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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