This Is Why I Use the Facebook Check-In Tool And You Should Too

I recently saw a disgruntled status update from a Facebook friend announcing that he wanted to “block check-ins” because he didn’t bloody care where we are spending our time.

I get that. Facebook is filled with all sorts of frivolous and irritating information about our friends, things we don’t have a need to know.

But the check-in has another use that I’d encourage my friend to reconsider – it is a tangible way to support small or local businesses. By checking-in, you are sharing something important with your own network,  giving a two thumbs up to a business as well as an active link to their Facebook presence.

When I visit a business that I believe merits support, I do several things …

  1. If  it is new to me, I wait to check-in until I have sense of how the business operates. Sometimes I check-in on my way out the door or from the parking lot. I want to be able to add something tangible to the check-in.
  2. I take photos. I take a photo of the decor and of the food. Sometimes, I take a photo of Ledcat. I don’t take photos of the staff or chef. If there’s a view, I take a photo. And I add these photos to my check-in. Photos increase the likelihood that someone will see my checked-in status and take a second glance.
  3. I mention who is with me with their permission. This adds my status to their timeline which gives the business even more exposure. Sometimes I tag employees if I know that they don’t mind.

So what does this accomplish? It is a small way for me to say “Hey, this business is worth supporting” in a fresh, in-your-feed manner that is a little more than a review on Yelp. I know that small businesses need support. I can’t afford to eat at most of the businesses I really like as often as I’d like, but it just costs me a little time to promote them to other people.

And having learned my lesson from the FourSquare stalking situation, I keep these posts (mostly) to friends only so I can’t be tracked necessarily. I don’t check in at “The Waterfront” then Giant Eagle, then Target, then Red Robin then etc. No one cares that much and I don’t necessarily see any value in telling you I’m at Target. Unless something interesting happens. Like a great sale on cat litter. Or a really cute photo of Ledcat. But that’s rare.

Telling you that I stopped in to the Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery at The Waterfront? That’s good information because you might not even realize The Waterfront hosts a local art gallery. Or that it hosts a roving band of crafters affiliated with I Made It! Market. So that check in is a useful tidbit to local artsy craftsy folks and a little nod to the corporate folks who made it happen.

Sometimes I check-in just to add some context to my photos or commentary. We once to a cool retro-theater so when I took a photo of the decor, checking-in gave the image some context.

It also gives you a little nudge to stop in yourself and visit the space, like a reminder or an alert. It is fresh and in your face in a way that a simple blog post can’t achieve. But in your face in a nice way that’s tied to an agenda we all support – supporting small, local business.

And, hopefully, when you see the post you might click on the link to their Facebook page and take a closer look. Everything is right there in your hands.

Does it work? I’ve had anecdotal feedback from friends who tried “that Italian place” we like so much or some such general statement. I’ve had businesses notice and indicate people came in. I was even contacted by a small business owner who noticed how often I do this. And I have taken note of where other people check-in, clicking through and liking the page. So it works on me as well as for me.

On the other hand, a friend recently said to me “Oh Saturday is Asian food night for you, right”? We do go to a few different Asian restaurants, but not exclusively on Saturdays. Neither she nor I could figure out where that impression came from, but it wasn’t what I intended at all. On the bright side, she’ll probably ask me if she ever wants a suggestion for an Asian restaurant.

Overall, I think it is worthwhile and a way to show your support. It can be fun. And people who don’t want to read the check-ins can simply scroll past or unfollow you if it troubles them that deeply.

How useful is this for businesses? That depends on how effectively they use Facebook. Small businesses are most likely to let Facebook fall to the wayside, create duplicate pages or even use a personal timeline as a business. All of those things hamper the effectiveness of the check-in. After all, I’m not going to spend THAT much time figuring out which venue to check-in to and if the page isn’t current, people won’t click “like” and engage it.  If the business makes it hard for me by maintaining too many pages/profiles, that’s a loss on their part. And that’s unfortunate because there is some useful data you can gain from check-ins.

But that’s another post.

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