Facebook Places – Should Everybody Know Your Business?

Yes, it appears Facebook has once again set off the privacy alarms. It only seems like yesterday when shared post after post liked from my news feed took me to instructions on how to change my privacy settings to remove my voice mail number from public Facebook Places barely out off the launch pad, the backlash hit me like the heat from a blast furnace.

If you aren’t aware of this latest alleged attempt for Facebook to reveal everything but your underwear size, Facebook Places is similar to the Foursquare, Loopt, and Gowalla concepts – acting as a GPS agent, Places tracks where you are in the world and posts it to your profile. Gone down the street to Starbuck’s? Facebook is there. Off to see a movie? It’s on your Facebook.

What’s more, unless you change your privacy settings, your FB friends can tag you on Places. So, let’s say you *cough* called in sick to work so you could catch the Vans Warped Tour three towns over. If a friend spots you and tags you, it’s out there. We all know, too, what happens on Facebook could get you fired.

Now, as a businessperson using social media to promote your work and products, you have to ask yourself of what value is something like Facebook Places to you. Opponents of the tool cite security risks; many pointed to the defunct Please Rob Me site as an example of how even Tweeting your activities without a locator device could land you in trouble, so why let Facebook compound problems? If you have a personal Facebook account and a page to promote your company, does Facebook Places add something of value to your social media strategy?

It can, provided your business is a physical location that other Facebook users frequent, and are willing to mark in Places. One way to encourage promotion via this tool would be to offer incentives to anybody who marks your business in their profiles. Half off their dinner order at your restaurant, or 10% off their purchase or other discount on your services.

Whether or not you should use Facebook Places is up to you. Physical store owners, naturally, would be expected to be at work. If you do not feel comfortable with Facebook tracking your every move, don’t feel as though opting out will hurt your business. Yet, for those who choose to use it, keep the offers open, because word of mouth never hurts, no matter where the words are posted.