Texas, Milwaukee baseball parks lead Opening Week Facebook checkins

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Facebook tracked check-ins at Major League Baseball stadiums in the first week of games, with a couple of surprising venues leading the list.

Baseball fans checked into Globe Life Park/Rangers Ballpark, home stadium of the Texas Rangers, most often, followed by Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers call home.

Find out where else baseball fans checked in during MLB’s first few days.

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Facebook lets users rate any place and change their ratings from desktop pages

recommendFacebook place pages now include an option for users to give star ratings to businesses and locations directly from their page on Facebook.com, even if they haven’t been to the location. Facebook tells us this is a test.

Previously, users could rate places from the Local Search section of the mobile app, and only if they had previously checked into the location or been tagged there. Facebook would also use the desktop sidebar to randomly prompt users to rate places they had been. There wasn’t a way for users to rate any place at any time they wanted until this past few weeks.

This enables users to go back and rate the places they might not have checked into on Facebook, but it also opens the door to rating manipulation. For instance, a business could ask friends or incentivize fans to give them five-star ratings. This became a problem at one point with app ratings. Facebook eliminated app reviews and ratings when manipulation made them no longer useful, but it later brought them back with more ways to keep them legitimate, such as random sampling. Facebook says it will continue to track engagement on place ratings to find ways to improve them over time.

This lates test on desktop place pages also gives users an easy way to change their rating. Before, the only way we could find to change a place rating was to do so through the activity log, but it could be difficult to find the rating among all of a user’s other actions. Changing a rating is not possible to do from the mobile app.
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Facebook Wi-Fi program for businesses expands with Cisco Meraki integration

wifi_lgCisco Meraki, which offers cloud-managed networking solutions, announced a partnership with Facebook last week to include Facebook Wi-Fi in its new Presence platform for businesses to gather location analytics and promote engagement among visitors.

Facebook Wi-Fi is a service that allows businesses to offer customers free Wi-Fi after checking in on the social network. It began as a hackathon project a year ago and gradually rolled out as a local experiment with a few businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now it’s a full-fledged commercial product thanks to the Meraki partnership.

The integration with Presence gives business owners access to Facebook page insights with aggregate demographic information about the customers who check in. The check-in also results in increased exposure for the business and leads users to a business’ Facebook page, which could lead to more Likes or interactions. It could be a useful feature for local businesses, retail locations, the hospitality industry or large events and conferences, which want to learn more about their visitors and generate word of mouth.

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Facebook tests new rating scales for places

placesAs Facebook continues to encourage users to rate the places they’ve been, the social network is testing different language for its five-star rating scale.

After a user has checked into a place or been tagged in a post with location, they may see a “Rate These Places” module in the right hand side of Facebook.com. When users hover over the stars, they can see what each rating means.

Some users are seeing stars one through five defined as: ”would never recommend to a friend,” “probably wouldn’t recommend to a friend,” “might recommend to a friend,” “would recommend to a friend” and “would definitely recommend to a friend.”

Others see “really don’t like it,” “don’t like it,” “like some things about it,” “really like it” and “love it.”

We’ve also seen the scale as “hate it,” “don’t like it,” “like it,” “really like it”  and “love it.” Others could be in rotation as well.

These different definitions could lead some users to be more or less likely to add their rating to a place, and they could influence the rating a user ultimately gives. For instance, a user might not want to give a place a three-star rating if three stars means “like it,” but they might if three stars means “like some things about it” or “might recommend to a friend.”

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Facebook calls out ‘Local Search’ on iOS

placesFacebook has renamed its Nearby feature on iOS “Local Search,” making its function more obvious and possibly increasing the number of users who will try it.

For now, the tab is still called Nearby on Facebook’s mobile site and Android app.

The social network relaunched Nearby on mobile as a local search product in December 2012. Previously it was a feature to see friends’ check-ins. Now its seeking to be a Yelp competitor, allowing users to search for specific places, browse categories or see broadly what’s around them, organized by their friend’s recommendations, check-ins and other social cues, such as star ratings. Users can see a place’s business hours, description and price range, as well as options to get directions, call the business, check-in, Like the page or visit the business’ Timeline.
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Facebook adds weather info to event pages and locations

eventsFacebook today began adding weather forecasts to upcoming events and current weather conditions to place pages such as parks, cities and neighborhoods, a spokesperson tells us.

Events that have a designated location, and which will occur within 10 days, will now offer a general forecast and estimates for high and low temperatures. Users can click to visit Weather Underground for full conditions and other information. This will be available for event pages on the web and mobile.

Event Pages (web)
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Facebook removes options to filter friends by city, but some alternatives exist

Some Facebook users have been disappointed to discover that they can no longer filter their friends list by current city or other identifiers besides name.

When Facebook rolled out its redesigned friends page last month, it removed the option to search friends by current city, workplace, school, hometown and interest. Instead, the social network offers a way to view friends from a user’s own high school, college or workplace, as well as a way to view “recently added” friends, but these options are more limited. We’ve seen a number of questions and complaints in the community forums of Facebook’s Help Center about this change.

A Facebook spokesperson explained, “We try and simplify features when possible based on usage patterns. This is something we’re open to considering again in the future.”

Users who want to know which of their friends live in a city they’re thinking about visiting or work for a company they’re interested in can no longer use the search function on their friends page as a shortcut, but there are some alternatives. Users can visit business or place pages directly to see which of their friends are connected to them and how. City pages let users know whether their friends visited the city, lived there, worked there, was born there or went to school there.

Business or fan pages that have been claimed by the entity have less information. Users can see if a friend Likes the page or has visited, but they can’t see whether their friends worked for a company or attended a school. This used to be possible before Timeline, but was never brought to the new page layout.

Before shot of friends page via Cass Sapir.

Facebook makes big push into local search with Nearby feature in mobile app

Facebook today begins a rollout of Nearby, a new local search and discovery feature in its iOS and Android apps.

Nearby used to be a feed of friends’ check-ins, but now it will enable users to search for specific places, browse categories or see broadly what’s around them, organized by their friend’s recommendations, check-ins and other social cues. Place listings include business hours, a location map and description, as well as an option to call the business, check-in, Like the page and visit the business’ Timeline. Facebook has also begun displaying star ratings for places based on information it began collecting a few months ago. Users can only rate places that they have previously checked into. Recommendations are also included.

This signals a major push into the local search space, which could help Facebook establish its mobile strength and open new opportunities for monetization, such as promoted places, sponsored results, click-to-call advertising or other mobile location-based ads. For now, Nearby lives within the main mobile app, but we imagine it would be a useful standalone app as well.


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Facebook helps some local businesses provide free Wi-Fi in exchange for check-ins

Facebook is testing a new service that allows local businesses to offer customers free Wi-Fi after checking in on the social network, the company tells us.

For this small test, Facebook is supplying the router but businesses are providing the Internet access. When visitors check into a location on Facebook, they are redirected to the business’ Facebook page and can continue to browse the web for free. Page owners will be able to track how many new Likes they received from people who took advantage of this service. Visitors who don’t wish to check in can request a passcode from the local business to connect to the network anyway.

Developer Tom Waddington, who also discovered Facebook testing the Want button plugin and possibly promoted messages, first tipped us off to this when he found a new entry called “social wifi” in the “Like sources” section of the Insights API. The explanation for the entry is “People who liked your page after checking in via Facebook Wi-Fi.”

Facebook confirmed to us in a statement, “We are currently running a small test with a few local businesses of a Wi-Fi router that is designed to offer a quick and easy way to access free Wi-Fi after checking in on Facebook. When you access Facebook Wi-Fi by checking in, you are directed to your local business’s Facebook Page.”

This is similar to a service provided by HotspotSystem also called “Social Wi-Fi,” but Facebook says it does not have a connection with that company.

Waddington correctly speculated whether Facebook was testing Like-gated free Wi-Fi, though he also wondered if this was part of a bigger effort where page owners of local businesses would be able to associate their Wi-Fi hotspots with their Facebook page. Then, a prompt on the Facebook homepage might suggest Wi-Fi users become a fan of the page. This could be an interesting ad type in the future, but it doesn’t seem to be what Facebook is testing now.

It’s important to note that Facebook Wi-Fi is a limited test that is not necessarily going to be rolled out wider any time soon. We’ve heard that this began as a hackathon project.

[Update: Rakesh Agrawal, an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile, wrote an interesting post last year about how Google or Facebook could improve local search by sending routers to businesses.]

Unclaimed Facebook pages get a redesign

Facebook recently redesigned pages for places and businesses that have not been claimed by an admin. These pages don’t include a timeline, but the layout has been updated to better match the design of other Facebook pages and profiles.

Business pages that are moderated by admins have not changed. Those pages continue to use the Timeline format with a cover photo, posts and apps.

Unclaimed pages now feature key information in a module that spans across the top of the page, rather than having tabs on the left below the page icon as before. There are several other redesigned modules on the page, including a map, posts by friends, public photos, suggestions of similar pages and more. The update, along with recent tests of star ratings for places, suggest that Facebook could be putting more weight behind local search and discovery.

All unclaimed pages that are associated with an address now include a local search module, similar to what was available on country, state and city pages previously. Users can search for other places near the place they are viewing. This would be useful on mobile, but so far isn’t available from the app or mobile site.

Some place pages feature a “suggest edits” module where users can add more information about a location or suggest that a place be merged with an official page. On pages where this module isn’t initially displayed, users can access the feature by clicking the “Edit” button on the top right.

Unclaimed business pages include a module about friends who have worked for the company. This was a feature on all pages before Timeline, but has so far been left off of official fan pages.

Thanks to Paul Miller for the tip and some screenshots.

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