Facebook gives Places Editor a facelift

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Places Editor — which allows users to edit or improve the Entity Graph listings on Facebook — has gone through a bit of a redesign. As first pointed out to Inside Facebook by Matteo Gamba, Places Editor has gotten a little more user-friendly with deeper and more easily-accessed features.

Through Places Editor, users can fix incorrect check-in locales by affixing the correctly-spelled name, inputting the real address of the place or by fixing any other inaccuracies.

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Facebook now lets users suggest photos for place pages

placesAs part of the social network’s continuing efforts to build out its location database, Facebook now allows users to upload and suggest photos for unadministered place pages.

Facebook’s location platform relies heavily on user-generated content and community editing. Anyone can create a place or edit the details of an existing place, such as the category, business hours, website or other information. Some place pages are run by the people or organizations that own them, and in those cases, they can designate their own profile picture. This new feature applies to places that don’t have an admin.

suggest-photo-place

Unadministered places are ones that are not managed by a person, business or organization, and are often cities, public parks or local businesses that haven’t claimed their page on Facebook. They do not appear in Timeline format like claimed places do. These rely on Facebook users and a community of power users called “Places Editors” to be filled out with complete information and photos.

Previously, users could suggest the place’s official website and then select one image from the site to serve as the profile picture of that place. Earlier this month, Facebook began rolling out a new way for users to add any photo to serve as the profile picture. Users can now upload a new photo or choose from one of their existing albums. Other users can vote on the submitted photos, and the most popular one becomes the profile picture. The other images become part of an album for the place.
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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 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 makes recommendation stories in the feed more visual

Facebook has redesigned News Feed stories about users recommending places to include more images.

Recommendation stories now display the place’s cover photo in addition to its profile picture. The story will also include a user’s star rating if the user has made one. The new design is more likely to catch users’ eyes in the feed and could lead more people discover places their friends like. It might also encourage a user’s friends to share their recommendation for a place if they’ve been to it.

recommendation-story

Ratings and recommendations are a key part of Facebook’s new Nearby search for mobile and are going to be important as the even newer Graph Search feature rolls out to users on desktop.

Recommendations are only enabled for pages that are associated with a location. Any fan page can gain this status by adding an address to its info section, though we imagine Facebook might one day expand recommendations to all pages, including consumer goods, websites and other services. Place recommendations first appeared in May 2011, but Nearby and Graph Search show the company increasing its emphasis on helping users find new places to go based on friends’ experiences.

New recommendation story

new-recommendation

Previous recommendation story
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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.

Facebook tests star ratings for places

Facebook appears to be testing star ratings for places, similar to the system it uses for apps.

Some users are seeing a “rate these places” module in the sidebar with the option to give one to five stars to places they’ve been to or Liked. This feature could help Facebook better organize places in search or a new recommendation engine, as it has done with App Center.

[Update 10/30/12: Some users are seeing a version of the module that includes a short note about how a user is connected to the location. After users rate a place, the module refreshes with another location to rate.]

Facebook takes a unique approach to ratings to avoid manipulation. App ratings use random sampling rather than appearing on a static page that anyone can visit. This way, it is much more difficult to game the system and ratings are more reflective of how people feel about an app. Facebook seems to have done the same with places, but we’re waiting to hear back for confirmation.

The social network has a little-known location search feature that could rival Yelp or Google for business searches if the company decided to put resources toward developing it. Star ratings could be the start to an overhaul of the product, which would benefit from a mobile component.

Last month, a Bloomberg Businessweek article hinted that Facebook had a new review feature in the works:

During a meeting in a conference room near his desk, [VP of Engineering Mike] Schroepfer leads a group of engineers in a half-hour debate over the design of a restaurant review feature. Should it have a five-star rating option, a Like button, or both? Should there be animation? Does it feel natural? At the end of the meeting, Schroepfer and one other guy remain at odds over the Like vs. Stars question.

From what we’ve seen, pages still have Like buttons and the modules have stars, but it’s possible Facebook is testing different variations.

On place pages themselves, users can already leave “recommendations” in a module on the timeline. Facebook also tested a “favorite places” module in the sidebar last year. These units would show users two places they had checked into and ask “which place do you like better?” Users could click a “see your favorites” link in the module to see a ranked list of all the places they voted for, but this hasn’t been available for a year or so.

Thanks to Ryan Plant for the tip and the top screenshot.

How Glancee acquisition fits into Facebook’s strategy of letting users share where they are, were, will be

Facebook hasn’t shared its plans for Glancee, the location-based app it acquired on Friday, but the app fits well into the social network’s location strategy that now goes well beyond check-ins.

“We’re looking at location from a past, present, future sort of tense,” Facebook product manager Josh Williams said at the Where Conference in April. By that, he means letting users share where they have been, where they are now and where they plan to be.

The present tense is pretty clear: users can tag their location in posts to let friends know where they are. As for the past, Timeline allows users to backdate their posts or add old photos to their map. This means Facebook is beginning to gather information on where users have been, including in years before location-based services were available. And with the recent updates to events, users can tag location to indicate where they will be. There are also Open Graph applications that let users list their future travel plans or places they want to go.

The basis for the Glancee, which has since been removed from the Apple App Store, was that users could continuously share their location as the app ran in the background. Users could then browse to see who nearby shared their interests and they would receive push notifications about close matches. This makes present-tense location sharing even easier, but Facebook will likely also consider how this technology could be used for past- and future-tense sharing as well. The social network won’t reveal whether it plans to release a rebranded Glancee app as it did with Beluga’s group messaging app, or simply incorporate Glancee’s co-founders with the rest of its location team, as it did with check-in service Gowalla. But here are some ways we can envision Glancee being applied.

Where friends are

Although Glancee sought to help users meet new people, this feature doesn’t necessarily have wide enough appeal for Facebook’s 900 million users at this time. Many users are sensitive about sharing information with people they don’t know. We imagine social network focusing first on helping users know where their friends are.

Currently, the Facebook mobile site and apps include a check-in feed that shows where users have checked in, but it is not very useful because it does not indicate whether a friend is still at a location. Glancee’s technology could help solve that, and enable more spontaneous meetups among friends. It could also lay the groundwork for a location-based mobile ad network. If users agree to continuously share their location so friends can find them, they might additionally opt-in to get information about deals or sales nearby.

Where friends were

By aggregating data on where friends have been in the past, Glancee could also be used to help users discover new places or decide where to go. Facebook already shows users how many of their friends have been to a location based on check-ins or location tags, but the data is limited only to what users actively shared. The listing would be more complete if users enabled ambient location-sharing, and then a person could reach out to friends for more information about a restaurant that they had been to, for example.

Where friends will be

On the future-location side, users might use events or some other feature to indicate where they plan to be, and Glancee technology could help track their progress along the way. This might be a useful integration for Messenger, Facebook’s standalone group messaging app that already allows users to share their location when they send a message, but doesn’t track it in real-time like iOS apps Find My Friends and Glympse. These apps help users coordinate plans, something Facebook has shown particular interest in recently. The company could create its own location-sharing app similar to what Glancee was, just as it launched Messenger after acquiring Beluga.

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