I immediately wrote a short article on what was then the agency’s blog, hosted on Tumblr, which was mentioned by Adweek among others .Since then I have talked about it in numerous events (SMXL, Web Marketing Festival, Social Media Strategies, Local Strategy Live) and written on blogs , magazines and books .
I therefore decided to write this “definitive” guide to Facebook Locations , to share my knowledge gained over the years. Definitive in many quotes of course, given that the platform is, like all Facebook, in constant evolution.
We arrived in July 2020 and I believe I am on the 5th or 6th update of the guide , but I will continue to do so with each new change or implementation.
Facebook Locations allows you to connect the Facebook Page of the Brand (which from now on I will call the “parent page”) to the Facebook Pages of the individual stores, generating a store locator geolocated automatically based on the user’s location , usable both from desktop and from mobile.
Thanks to this feature, it is also possible to take advantage of advanced advertising and editorial management methods dedicated to activities of this type.
Facebook Locations serves those companies with 1 brand and many points of sale, such as franchising businesses, retailers, large-scale distribution, chain stores, bars, gyms, hotels and restaurants , but it has also been used by companies that manage more Airports, such as those of Milan .
Unlike in the past, business size doesn’t matter anymore: a brand with only 1 store could choose to use Facebook Locations. Honestly, however, I would recommend it only to those realities that have at least 2 different addresses corresponding to 2 points of sale open to the public .
It was back in 2009 when, almost simultaneously, 3 different applications were launched that offered the possibility of geolocalizing oneself through the GPS present in smartphones and therefore of sharing the position with friends and acquaintances: the American Gowalla and Foursquare and the Italian Mobnotes . The interest is high, the two US start-ups receive appreciation and above all important funding (in Italy things went differently and Mobnotes closed after a couple of years).
Not even a year later, Facebook launched Facebook Places , integrating similar features into its app. The beginning is not the brightest, Facebook users are not used to and fear for their privacy, but the future goes in that direction and in 2011 Facebook buys Gowalla , closes it and puts the entire team to work on the project.
Facebook Locations was born in 2012 , but it is only open to a few. Big US brands such as Starbucks, Subway and Macy’s show a new tab on their Facebook pages: at first glance it looks like a simple map with outlets marked, a kind of store locator.
But looking closely, there are two not insignificant new features: each point marked on the map corresponds to a different Place Page , even if they all have the same name, the same logo and the same cover image.
The second novelty is automatic geolocation : if I consult that tab from Bologna, the zoom of the map is on the Bologna store, if I consult it from Genoa, the zoom is on the Genoa store (or on the store closest to my actual position ).
As already mentioned, from May 2014 Facebook Locations began to spread even outside the circle of big brands, but only in November 2015 was it officially released .
To activate Facebook Locations it is no longer necessary to fill out any form, just use Business Manager .
Business Manager is the Facebook tool dedicated to those who use this platform professionally, often working with advertising. Although frequent bugs and malfunctions are reported, I always recommend working with Business Manager.
Obviously the page on which you want to activate the functionality must be added among the pages managed by the Business Manager and also any site pages to be linked.
Clicking on the 3 bars at the top left opens the main menu of the platform, scroll down to the “Business Manager Management” block and click on the item ” Store locations “.
This activates the tutorial for activating Facebook Locations .
If you manage several pages with Business Manager, it is important to first select the main page in the drop-down menu at the top right, the one you want to become the parent page of all the others.
If the selected page does not have an address set, so it is not a place page, you will see the above screen and you can proceed with activation.
If, on the other hand, it is a place page, the tutorial will tell you that it is not possible to activate it, unless you remove the address. By selecting “Remove address”, in the next step it will ask you if you want to automatically create a place page with the address just removed.
Finally, if you select a page with Facebook Locations already active, instead of the introductory screen you will directly see the list of all the stores .
Once activated Facebook Locations must be populated, that is, all the “children” places of the Parent Page chosen in the previous point must be entered.
To do this, just click on “Add stores”, then choose one of the 4 options:
- Add manually
- Add more stores
- Connect via API
- Connect a Page
1. Add manually
To add the offices one by one, you can create a new page or link an existing page : if this is your case, go to point 4.
By clicking on “Add manually” and then on “Next” this form will appear.
As you can see, it is not possible to change the name of the Page, which will remain the same as the Parent Page, followed by a parenthesis, in which the name of the city or the address will be present, if there are more offices in the same city. .
To change this automatism, just fill in the “ Location descriptor ” field : customizing this field is very useful, for example, for offices located inside Outlets or Shopping Centers , in order to insert this specification directly in the name of the Page.
The “Store ID” field is the identification number of the store: if your company does not have these identifiers, enter a progressive number (it is however a field that can also be modified in the future).
The other fields are all easily understood, so I will focus only on two:
- Wi-Fi network – does your store offer this service to customers? Enter the name of the network: it will help Facebook to better analyze drive to store campaigns
- Page username – this field is used to customize the web address of the new Facebook Page (only the “username” that will compose the address www.facebook.com/username must be entered)
Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic , Facebook added a new entry: “Temporary Service Changes”, where you can choose 3 options.
- Operating as usual – the pandemic did not change the operations of the store
- Temporarily closed – the store is temporarily closed
- Open with Service Changes – the store is open, but with some changes to the service (in this case it is better to specify, also selecting more than one of the following items)
- Online services – can be ordered / purchased online
- Delivery – home delivery service
- Pickup – take away service is provided
- Other – other changes to the services other than the 3 above
Obviously this is a field that can be modified at any time and as many times as you want, hoping we can all select “Operating as usual” as soon as possible and not have to change the selection anymore .
2. Add more stores
Adding more points of sale at the same time is recommended for large companies that need to create or connect from 10 points of sale upwards. The procedure allows you to create new pages, but also to link existing pages.
You can download the Excel template and also a sample file. Let’s scroll through all the items together, in order to fill it in correctly:
- Store Number – as anticipated it is the identification number of the store
- Page ID: Main Page – the ID of the Parent Page (must be the same in each row)
- Page ID – if you want to create a new Page it must be left blank, if you want to link an existing Page, enter the relative ID here
- Name – the name of the Page (always the same, always the same as the name of the Parent Page)
- FB Subcategory – the main subcategory of the store (the list of all possible subcategories can be found in the “Subcategories” tab of the Excel you just downloaded)
- FB Subcategory 2 – possible second subcategory
- FB Subcategory 3 – possible third subcategory
- Phone – telephone number
- Street Address – address (if you have any doubts or the system tells you it’s wrong, check it on HERE.com, the Facebook map provider)
- City – city
- State – state code (USA: this can be left blank for stores located outside the USA)
- ZIP Code – the ZIP Code
- Country Code – country code (IT for Italy)
- Latitude – latitude (in this format: 40.71455)
- Longitude – longitude (in this format: -93.32122)
- Hours – opening hours (to be entered in the military format, where 1 is equivalent to Monday, 2 to Tuesday, 7 to Sunday and in which the hours must be written in four digits and without separations, so 9 in the morning will be 0900 and 8 and half in the evening 2030. For example, an activity open from Monday to Friday from 3 to 7 in the afternoon and on Saturdays from 9 to 13 must insert this: “1-5: 1500-1900,6: 0900-1300”)
- Closed – is the store closed? Enter “Y”. Otherwise “N”.
- Franchise – is this store a franchisee? Enter “Y”. Otherwise “N”.
- Verification Status – this field should indicate if the brand or the store has a blue check, but either by inserting “Y” or “N” I have never noticed any changes in this regard
- Facebook Web Address – the web address of your Facebook Page (only the “username” that will compose the address www.facebook.com/username must be entered)
- Website – the website of the store or chain, if that of the individual store does not exist
- Description – the “Information” field of your pages (also important from a Local SEO perspective )
- Price Range – non-mandatory field, you can fill in by inserting from 1 to 4 “$”
- Others Can Post – can users post on the site page? Fill in with “Y” or “N”
- Others Can Add Photos And Videos – can users post photos and videos on the place page? Fill in with “Y” or “N”
- Others Can Message – can users send private messages to the site page? Fill in with “Y” or “N”
- Show Posts From Main Page – will the posts published by the Parent Page be shown (attention, not: republished) also on the place page? “Y” or “N”
- Location Descriptor – the points of sale will automatically be called: “Brand Name (City)” or “Brand Name (Street, City)” if there are more points of sale in the same city; if you want to customize what will appear in brackets fill in this field
Save and Upload – The result is similar to uploading one by one.
Something went wrong? Try looking at the “ Possible Issues ” section.
3. Connect via API
What are bees? They are a system for automatically connecting, through software, external platforms (for example the store locator of the website) to specific functions of the platform, in this specific case to Facebook Locations.
Obviously you need a developer who knows how to make this connection, but the very interesting news is that Facebook has finally publicly released the APIs dedicated to Locations. Here you can find all the information about it.
4. Connect a Page
If the stores already have Place Pages published and you want to link them one by one, this is the correct procedure. Once clicked, Facebook will show the list of Pages you are an administrator of.
Selecting Pages with a name other than the Parent Page is practically certain that you will be blocked. Is this the case for you? See the ” Possible Problems ” section.
If, on the other hand, the Page has the same name, it will be necessary to enter the Store Number (if the brand does not have this type of identification enter progressive numbers, you can modify them later) and possibly modify the main fields of the Page.
Download the points of sale
Have you already uploaded the points of sale, but need to make massive changes?
Download the Excel with all the locations, make the changes and reload them as explained in point 2 of the section Adding points of sale to Facebook Locations.
Be very careful with page IDs as deleting an ID during this operation could lead to the deletion of a Page.
Sets of points of sale
This feature has been introduced in recent years and is very useful for large companies with hundreds of stores located in different parts of the world.
You can create subsets of stores based on:
For each of them it is also possible to choose whether to set the range of action automatically (leaving the choice to the algorithm, based on population density), or manually, by defining the kilometers in detail.
The real advantage is obtained by activating Social Advertising campaigns: “Visits to the point of sale” since only in this way will it be possible to differentiate campaigns and ad groups, for example by language or between points of sale located in cities or towns. small towns.
Store Page Settings
By clicking on the 3 dots at the top right, a small menu appears.
The first item allows you to make some interesting changes, since it is possible to manage the visibility of the “Stores” Tab and the propagation of posts from the main page to the linked ones .
In the first case, ” Post of the Page ” it is possible:
- Show main page posts on all linked site pages
- Show main page posts only on the Pages of locations that have never posted posts
- Do not enable this feature
The propagation of posts allows you to overcome the problem of site pages that seem empty or abandoned, so I would recommend the first or second option.
In correspondence with ” Suggestions of the point of sale ” it is possible to:
- Allow the display of the “Stores” tab and its widget on both desktop and mobile
- Allow viewing on mobile devices only
- Do not allow viewing (useful for example in the activation and setting phase, before having finished the activity, or in the case of franchisees competing with each other)
Often, when you upload all the locations via Excel, you start from the data extracted from Google My Business , the Google tool for managing locations on Google Maps .
The most frequent problem is given precisely by the incompatibility between Google Maps and the HERE maps , the ones that Facebook uses.
We are not talking about abysmal differences, but about details: Via Donato Creti for example could be called Via D. Creti or Via Creti. Another frequent problem is the use of different alphabets: the address of an Arab city, for example, could be written in English on one map and in Arabic on another. Details yes, but that lead to the reporting of errors in the upload phase.
Unless you are very lucky then, at the end of the import you will see a long series of errors to be corrected before the activation of the local Facebook Pages.
Unfortunately, there is no advice to give here: you need to check every single address on HERE.com making sure that the street, city, state and country are correctly spelled on that platform.
Second common problem: I created the Brand Page and Place Pages before activating Facebook Locations, using different names (for example, specifying the city in the name of the Page).
In this case the only solution is to contact Facebook support and ask for the names of the Pages to be changed, explaining the reason in detail (otherwise they could refuse the change). Only in this way will it be possible to activate and connect the Pages to Facebook Locations correctly, otherwise any of the procedures listed above will give you an error, blocking you.
The first days when I proposed the use of Facebook Locations to our customers there was always panic in the eyes of the interlocutor when he understood that he would no longer have to manage 1 Facebook page, but 30, 100, 1,000 …
Fortunately, over the years Facebook Locations has evolved to help those brands that want to centrally manage all the pages, both the main one and those of the offices.
Yes, because otherwise each page can be autonomous and be managed independently from the Parent Page.
Otherwise Facebook comes to meet us with regard to:
- Cover image
- Profile image of the Page
If in the Location Pages , those of the locations do not set a cover image or a profile image , these will automatically show those of the Parent Page , thus changing as these change.
If, on the other hand, I upload an image in one of these 2 positions, the automation is lost until I go to delete them.
As for the posts, however, it is more complex because, thanks to the above menu, I can choose whether:
- Show posts published by the Parent Page on all site pages (regardless of whether they are posting something else or not)
- Show posts published by the Parent Page only on the pages of locations that have never published a single post
- Don’t show Parent Page posts anywhere
Attention, I used the word “show” not by chance: we are not talking about a multiplication of the same posts, but only to view the posts published on the Parent Page.
This is obviously an advantage in terms of community management and social customer care , since there will be no need to monitor the notifications of all the pages, but only the main one, as well as a potential driver for the reach and engagement of these posts.
What has just been said applies to the posts shown on the Site Pages, but not for all other interactions, Reviews in the first place. The advice therefore is to always monitor the notifications of all the pages and to intervene when appropriate with community management and social customer care activities .
The Site Pages automatically acquire the Parent Page as administrator. Consequently all the administrators (but also the editors, moderators, advertisers and analysts) of the Parent Page will have the same role also on the Site Pages.
However, if you need to install third-party applications (for example for custom tabs) you must also re-enter your profile as administrator, otherwise you will not be able to.
Things obviously get complicated when those who manage the Parent Page are not the same people as those who manage 1 or more Site Pages. For example, a franchising chain that decides to leave management autonomy and above all promotion to individual franchisees.
Things get complicated mainly due to a Business Manager bug that threatens to undermine the “control” that every franchisor would rightly want to have over the marketing activities of the franchisees.
My advice to avoid this type of problem is to not enter Site Page Administrators, but only Editors, thus leaving only the Parent Page as “Super Administrator” .
From the integration between Local Awareness Ads (ads thanks to which it is possible to intercept users who are passing around the point of sale at that precise moment) and Facebook Locations , the ads were born whose goal is “real” conversions, that is ” Visits at the point of sale ” (or“ Store visits ”in English).
Using Business Manager I can manage advertisements on all points of sale (or part of them) diversifying them and making them “locally relevant”.
I can then set up a “neutral” ad and populate it dynamically using the information taken from the pages of my stores.
Specifically, I can customize:
- Link description
Using the following parameters taken from the local pages:
- First name
- POSTAL CODE
- Telephone number
- Opening time
Each user intercepted by advertising will then go to see the personalized ad based on the closest point of sale.
I can also choose whether to display the name of the main page or that of the site page as the promoter of the announcement.
Finally, using the “Carousel” advertising function, you can add a map between the different cards, in the position you want, which will show the address of the nearest point of sale, including timetables, distance from where you are and call to action.
The available calls to action are:
- Call now
- Find out more
- Send a message
Last but not least: the goal of this type of ads are visits to the point of sale and Facebook actually manages today to provide an estimate, based on the actions we perform daily on the Facebook apps installed on our smartphones, of the actual return of these campaigns. in terms of floor traffic .
Furthermore, Facebook allows you to optimize the progress of the campaign itself based on the objective (just like it does for all the other objectives). It will then show the ads to those users who , based on its information, will be most likely to convert and therefore to go to the point of sale. .
To go into even more detail of the results brought by a campaign, Facebook offers the possibility of using its API and securely communicating data from, for example, CRM or POS systems. In this way, by crossing the data from Facebook and those from these sources, it will also be possible to establish whether and how much the people who, after seeing an ad on Facebook, went to the store spent. .
Finally, if I do not have the possibility to integrate my platforms with the Facebook API, I can use the “ Offline Actions “, the system integrated in Business Manager to provide the same data but manually.
If we talked about the analysis of Facebook Ads campaigns in the previous paragraph, for the analysis of the performance of the Place Pages connected with Facebook Locations we have few roads.
Unfortunately, the “Locations” section within “Settings” has been replaced with a link to the section within Business Manager analyzed previously. This section lists all the brand’s offices, but it is no longer possible to see the data relating to:
- I like it
The only way, therefore, is to develop an external platform which, by connecting via the API, allows me to import, manage and analyze all the KPIs necessary to achieve the project objectives.
Or, of course, analyze the locations one by one.