Q&A: Nick O’Neill on Facebook Deals, Places

Q&A: Nick O’Neill on Facebook Deals, Places

There can be little doubt that the interest of some foodservice operators and other business owners has been piqued by news of Facebook’s ongoing test of Deals.

Deals is a software tool that when used with the social network’s geo-location tool, Places, lets businesses reward fans who check-in at brick-and-mortar locations. Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald’s and Starbucks Coffee are part of the gradually expanding Deals test by Facebook, which claims more than 500 million users worldwide.

Nation’s Restaurant News recently spoke about Facebook developments with Nick O’Neill, the founder of AllFacebook.com and SocialTimes.com to tackle some ins and outs on using these tools.

To begin, businesses can create a standalone Facebook Places page or merge their Places page with their Facebook fan page. Some users argue that the merge option is preferable from an administrative and marketing efficiencies point of view, but there may be a catch to that approach, according to numerous page administrators.

A group of disgruntled administrators said it was not clear to them before hand that the merging process could cost them the use of shortcut tabs at the top of their pages; eliminate all but two pages of previous fan posts; and scuttle custom landing pages — some of which were designed with search engine optimization in mind or to direct people who have not yet “liked” a brand to recruitment pages of sorts.

More than 300 Facebook users have “liked” a Facebook site asking Facebook staff to help them unmerge their fan pages from their Places pages. They have also asked the social network’s support team to build into the Facebook ecosytem a user-activated option to undo such merges should they prove unsuitable or come about by mistake.

Ashlee Yingling, a representative of Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s parent, McDonald’s Corp., reported “business as usual” for the chain’s Facebook page after the launch of a Facebook Deals campaign to raise money for its Ronald McDonald House charity. And Chris Arnold of Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said his chain’s primary Facebook page was not significantly altered by its first venture with Deals and Places.

“The bigger issue we ran into centered more around the general use of Places” and consumer “confusion” or questions about which mobile devices beyond Apple’s iPhone were supported, Arnold indicated.

Chipotle’s first ‘Deal’ involved a buy-one-get-one free entrée with check-in during each of the past two weekends.

Still, Scott Dickens, president of Rocket Pop Media of Richmond, Va., a marketing and digital media services company that represents Capital Coffee and Desserts, among other businesses, said its decision to merge Capital Coffee’s established Facebook business page with its new Places page resulted in the loss of the ability to send Facebook users to a custom landing page and cost it its tabs at the top of the page.

Facebook officials had not returned e-mails requesting comment by press time. The social networking company has posted an FAQ on Deals [3] that includes some information about Places, which debuted in August.

An edited version of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Q&A with O’Neill follows:

Once a business is associated with Facebook Places, are there some best strategies you’ve seen related to using Places and Deals?

Deals is still in beta testing, so I don’t know if just anybody can set it up. They are rapidly increasing the number of businesses they test with, however. In terms of promoting [Deals], you could promote it with something like Facebook ads. But for the most part, it is suppose to be kind of natural. You are just trying to encourage user behavior — checking in — by offering them deals.

Do you see that Facebook has an advantage over some of the established geo-social networks, such as Foursquare and Gowalla?

Overnight, Facebook was bigger than Foursquare and Gowalla [in number of users], so it definitely has an advantage. I think the main point is that Facebook is like a one-stop shop for all of your online small business needs. A small business doesn’t have time to try 14 different things, if it can go to one place. Facebook wants to be that place.

Of what you’ve read and seen, what appears to be the most serious consequence to Facebook business fan pages from merging with Places pages?

I'm not sure what the consequences are, but there are definitely people who have been annoyed with the change. I haven't measured the performance effects though.

Should businesses delay using Places until an unmerge” option, if any, is created or until they can efficiently use Places without merging pages?

Small businesses shouldn't worry about making the shift, as the impact should be relatively negligible. However for companies with a large existing fan base, I'd definitely suggest that they consider holding off.

If business owners want to be involved with Places from a single merged Facebook page, what do they need to do?

I’ve run it in three steps, which are create the Place, claim it as yours, and then merge your Place and your [fan] page. The guide on our site articulates the process.

Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected] [4].