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Facebook has launched Facebook Place Tips, which will deliver localised content tips to users on their smartphones based on their exact location. The idea is that Facebook will be able to enhance a user’s travel around a city by providing tips on local landmarks; everything from the best tourist attractions through to the most popular shops and a restaurant recommended by your friends.

Place Tips will start appearing as notifications at the top of the news feed and, when opened, the user will be presented with images, event calendars, menus, comments and reviews about that location.

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Locations will be determined by a combination of GPS, mobile network positioning and Wi-Fi, although Facebook is trialling the use of Bluetooth beacons in various locations in New York City – including the Museum of Modern Art.

Facebook is selling this service as very much a traveller’s aid, putting the service up against other geo-location services, such as Foursquare and Yelp, as well as travel resources such as Trip Advisor. However, there are big opportunities for brands and multi-location businesses.

Brand-powered content

The clear point of comparison for this service is Foursquare, which allows users to ‘check in’ to a particular location, rate and review it. All of the content delivered by Foursquare is user generated, based purely on the check-ins and reviews from the people that made them.

Facebook will also take user-generated content and put this in a user’s news feed, but it will also take content from “the entity” – in other words, the page of the venue being promoted.

This creates a very real opportunity for brands to push offers and promotions at people who could, quite literally, be outside their front door.

Of course, how Facebook will determine which businesses and locations are promoted by the service is likely to remain a closely guarded secret (and, in time, is surely going to be another revenue generating channel for Facebook), but it places a big emphasis on brands to manage and maintain their local pages. Those local pages that are well maintained, regularly updated and deliver a positive user experience may well earn more favourable treatment in Google’s algorithm.

Facebook is making a number of moves to improve the online-to-offline experience. We have already seen changes to the Places Directory and expanded availability of offline conversion tracking, so this is clearly an area of focus for the social network. The advertising opportunities for Facebook are clear, as is the opportunity for brands to really drive offline sales through mobile marketing