Facebook Beacons are Set to Go Nationwide

One of Facebook’s attempts at integrating itself in the physical world is coming to fruition, making the social media service even more ubiquitous—and increasing its value for businesses and marketers.

Facebook’s Place Tips program began a test run at select businesses in New York City early this year, and the company announced this month that they’re starting to take the program nationwide.

Place Tips is powered by physical beacons placed in businesses and recreational areas that push Facebook posts and photos relating to the location to your smartphone. The information it sends can include coupons to use at the store you’re shopping in, news about events or specials, posts and photos from any of your Facebook friends who have posted about the restaurant where you’re having dinner, general or historic information about the business or landmark you’re near and more. The beacon-pushed notifications appear at the top of your news feed.

The content can be just about anything that the beacon’s operator (a business owner, museum curator or just about anyone who wants to place a beacon somewhere) wants to share with customers or passersby. The Facebook beacons transmit to a range of about 500 feet.

Comparisons to the Tom Cruise film Minority Report abound, and it’s easy to imagine beacons in every business and on every street corner, constantly pushing information to phones in the pockets and purses of everyone who walks by, similar to the barrage of ads triggered by retinal scanners in the sci-fi movie. While this might seem like a marketing manager’s dream come true, you can opt out of Place Tips by changing a setting in the Facebook mobile app. Also, the beacons transmit via Bluetooth, so you can prevent the persistent pushes by having Bluetooth turned off.

Facebook claims that no information is collected from people or their phones, but there’s no word yet if Facebook beacons can or will keep track of locations that users visit or frequent.

Facebook beacons are currently being offered to businesses at no charge, but businesses that are most active with status updates, photos, check-ins from the business itself and from customers are being prioritized.

Other businesses, such as InterContinental Hotels Group, are also experimenting with beacon technology, so it might not be too long before beacons become mainstream and are as common as billboards, albeit tiny, customized billboards electronically zapped into our devices

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