Facebook Places are the bane of my existence. Perhaps that’s a bit overdramatic, but this obsolete feature has provided no shortage of headaches when we try to launch or relaunch a business on Facebook. Today I’m making the case that Facebook Places is a failed feature of the social giant, and they need to die.
If you don’t know about Places, consider yourself lucky. Places can be automatically generated when a user–any user–checks in to a physical location. This means if you actually have a Page for your business and a visitor can’t find it for some reason, they can type in whatever name they choose and create a permanent, publicly available Place. They can add whatever contact information they want as well. These Places can then appear in searches and anyone else who finds them can check in, leave reviews, and suggest changes to any or all of information (including phone number, website, hours, etc). In our experience, we’ve rarely seen any suggested changes be rejected, which is probably why we’ve also noticed so much completely wrong information on these awful things.
Businesses can of course claim ownership of Places, but unlike claiming your business on Google or Yelp, it is not an easy process and it often fails to work. We’ve tried to claim Places for existing businesses using an automated phone call to the business number, only to have Facebook indicate that they couldn’t verify ownership. No matter that we are usually directing Facebook to call the correct and only phone number that business has ever had. From all indications, this happens because Facebook recognizes the original phone number added to a Place as the official, real business phone–even if this information is incorrect. When the numbers don’t match up, Facebook assumes you’re not the owner. When the phone call process fails, your backup option is to submit documentation (utility bills, Articles of Incorporation, etc) to prove ownership. In our experience, this lengthy process (3-4 weeks often) still ends with Facebook being unable to verify ownership.
The worst thing about Places is that any random person can create one and fill it with whatever information they want, and whether they’re doing it maliciously or not, this person is making it harder to find the actual contact and other information for your business. Of course, they could do this with Pages as well, but that’s a multi-step process–creating a Place takes a couple of clicks on the app.
It is common that when we first start working with a client, a search will quickly turn up one or more Places for their business, none of which were created by the business owners or anyone they ever worked with. When you successfully claim a Place, Facebook automatically creates a Page which you can then do with what you like. It’s a tedious process, but it allows us to delete the rogue Places so that only the actual business Facebook Page remains. We had success merging Places to Pages in past years (which will redirect anyone who ends up on the Place to the Page), but in the last six months or so, merging has failed to work at all.
We’ve increasingly been unable to claim Places at all (such as the example pictured), and have had to be content with correcting all of the contact information (again, our edits are almost always accepted) and monitoring the Place to make sure the information isn’t removed or edited again.
So why do Places exist? In the early years of social media, many businesses hadn’t yet taken to it the way they do now, and you wouldn’t expect to find an official Facebook Page. It made sense for Facebook to create a way that their users could check in to places because it would make the site more useful and encourage them to use the it more. I’m sure they thought businesses would see the potential of using Facebook as a marketing tool if they saw users were engaging with Places.
Places were certainly useful 7 years ago when they were launched, but today, there is no longer any reason to let users create their own check-ins for businesses. Pages are infinitely more powerful and useful than they were at that point, so having Places still exist is redundant. Between the ease of how they are created and how difficult it is to claim and/or remove them, Places now create more problems than they ever solved. It’s time for them to be permanently retired.
We would suggest that Facebook announce a date for the end of Places, giving businesses a last chance to claim or merge them into Pages if they chose. After that date, all Places should be permanently deleted, which would fix the problems outlined above for businesses that are just launching their Facebook marketing or are trying to take better control over it. Please Facebook, have mercy on us, and let Places die.