Beacons. For thousands of years, sailors and fishermen have used them to find their way home. Now, Facebook is hoping shoppers will use beacons to find your store.
We’re not talking about lighthouses anymore. We’re talking about a Facebook beacon—a tiny, bluetooth device that broadcasts information about your store to Facebook users who walk within its range. It sounds like a hoax, but it’s real. And for business owners obsessed with social media, a Facebook beacon could be a useful tool … if used correctly.
According to Facebook, the beacon pushes info like this to anyone logged on to Facebook at your store:
- A welcome note or photo from your Page
- Prompts to like your Page and check in
- Posts from your Page
- Their friends’ photos and posts about your place
That sounds pretty useful if you’re running a sale, taking pre-orders for new product, or promoting a specific fishing technique for the week. Since the beacons are also battery-powered, an intrepid marina owner might place one at the docks, luring in sales from boat passengers while the captain gases up.
Here’s a video of how that might work in another industry:
Facebook beacons are free. There are, however, a few catches (aside from the guaranteed data-mining sure to be going on under the hood). Facebook beacons only work when someone is both logged into Facebook and has their Bluetooth and location services turned on. That means savvy smartphone users — the kind that are addicted to social networks, but also know Bluetooth and location services drain your battery — won’t always be able to receive a signal from your beacon. In short, you could be fishing for the low-hanging fruit. Although, as the cloud continues to push its way onto the water and battery technology improves, Bluetooth usage on vessels should continue to rise.
What about phones? Android users are out of luck. Beacons are only supported by iOS at the moment, which is a big deal. As of 2016, 55 million U.S. Facebook mobile users were on Android, while 47 million were using iOS.
However, beacons do not need the latest-and-greatest phones to thrive. The most vintage phone supported, iPhone 4S, was launched in 2011, so nearly all customers will be using a device several generations newer than that. Here’s a list of requirements:
- An iPhone 4S or later with Bluetooth® turned on
- The latest version of the Facebook for iOS app
- Location services on their device turned on for Facebook
- Place tips turned on in the Facebook for iOS app
Place tips are the name of the game. They’re the reason you should be interested in Facebook beacons at all. Facebook says they’re a full-featured experience, though it’s not clear how many users will actually take the time to scour through the options presented to them. Regardless, here’s a propaganda video from Silicon Valley to help you understand the benefits:
So, should you be using Facebook beacons? Like any tool for your business, only if the shoe fits. But, if you’re into social networking and looking for a cost-effective way to try a new marketing tool for your shelves, a new style of beacon might just be worth a shot.