Small business tip #1: Checking In

For both good and bad reasons, Social Media campaigns from big businesses get a lot of press coverage.  So much in fact, that it can be easy to forget about the benefits Social Media can bring to smaller businesses.  Facebook and Twitter can be just as effective marketing tools to your local bakery or hairdresser as they are to Nike and Starbucks.

For any small businesses who want to start utilising Social Media to grow their customer base, an easy (and free!) way to go about this is to encourage your customers to use Facebook Places to “Check In” while at your shop or venue.  This will work on two levels:

  • increasing general awareness of your business to people in your local area
  • and also acting as positive word-of-mouth marketing to those who are already aware of your business, but are not yet paying customers.
For anyone who’s new to Facebook, or who doesn’t pay much attention to its new features, you’re probably wondering….


….what’s a Facebook Place?

Facebook Places is a feature built into mobile Facebook apps that allows you to tag yourself at a location and share this information with your Facebook Friends.  For example, if I were to Check In at my friend’s drum school while getting a lesson, a message along the lines of “Mike is at Dundee Drum Academy would appear on my Facebook News Feed for all my Friends to see.  And if I wanted to I could also attach some comments about what I was doing there.

To give some context on how many people are actually using Facebook Places, there are c.100,000 Check Ins per day in the UK, and c.750,000 per day in the US.


Why you want customers to Check In

The benefit to your business of encouraging Check Ins is that every person who Checks In will be broadcasting this activity to all of their Facebook friends.  Most Facebook users have over 100 Facebook Friends – with many having much more – so this is a great opportunity to advertise your business to hundreds/thousands of potential customers.

As well as considering the number of people you could be reaching, it’s also important to think about if you’re reaching the right people.  So, will utilising this basic form of Facebook marketing help you reach the right people?  To get to that, let’s look at the following two questions:

  • are you reaching people who are interested in what you sell?
  • are you reaching people who are geographically close enough to shop with you?

These are simple questions, and you can get some simple answers just by taking a moment to think about your own group of real-life friends.  We tend to share similar interests and hobbies with our real-life friends, and this is also the case with our Facebook Friends. Consequently, it’s likely several of your customers’ Facebook Friends may also be interested in the same things they are (ie. interested in what you’re selling).  We also tend to live close-by to most of our friends, so it’s also likely that a large number of your customers’ Facebook Friends live in a similar location (ie. a Local audience).  What does this add up to?  People who are interested; and people who are local.

How to “own” and promote your Place

Even if you’ve not created a Check In location for your business yet, it doesn’t mean somebody else hasn’t.  Next time you’re at your business, use Facebook’s app on your mobile device and look for nearby Check In locations.  You might be surprised to see that there’s already one set up for your business.  Don’t be taken aback though, it just means someone has already been keen to tell their friends they’ve been in your shop.  There are easy to follow instructions for claiming an existing Facebook Place as your own; and if there isn’t currently a location set up for you to Check In then you can create a new location using your mobile device.

Once you “own” your Check In page you’ll able to amend your business’s details and, most importantly, lock it down to prevent anyone else editing it.  You should add a well taken photo that represents your business (ideally your shop front, or something similar, that will help people recognise your business), and up to date opening hours.

You’ll now have a page set up that your customers can Check In at, but you can’t just rely on people spontaneously deciding to Check In while in your shop.  You’ll want to give them a prompt to do so.  Having signage in your shop encouraging customers to Check In is a simple way to do this.  A poster that’s easily seen as soon as you enter the shop, with visuals which make the link to Facebook obvious, would be ideal.


Special promotions for customers who Check In


And if you want to take your Facebook promotion one step further, you could advertise special offers for customers who Check In.  This could be a 20% discount after a certain number of Check Ins; 5% off every purchase if you Check In before paying; or perhaps some sort of free limited edition product for every person who Checks In on a specified day or time slot.  Like all things Social, the key here is to get creative!


Hopefully this all sounds good to you.  If you’re a small business owner (or employee), and want to drive increased awareness and sales, try asking your customers to Check In before they check out! have compiled all sorts of interesting Social Media statistics (including a comprehensive ranking of the most popular Places!).  Below are their UK and US Top 10 Places, ranked by most Check Ins:

UK Top 10 Places

  1. Heathrow Airport
  2. The Trafford Centre
  3. London Stansted Airport
  4. The O2
  5. Alton Towers
  6. Euston Station
  7. Covent Gardens
  8. The Emirates Stadium
  9. Old Trafford – Man Utd
  10. Westfield Stratford Station


US Top 10 Places

  1. Los Angeles International Airport
  2. Hartsfield Jackson International Airport
  3. San Francisco International Airport
  4. Denver International Airport
  5. Facebook Palo Alto
  6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Orlando International Airport
  9. Sea-Tac International Airport
  10. General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport




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