FacebookFacebook recently announced it will be expanding its Place Tips program and launching retailer beacons free of charge. The feature could help small businesses extend their visibility across the social media network.

Retailer beacons alert Facebook users in the vicinity of participating shops, museums and landmarks. The service is the social giants attempt to rival info-share sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Foursquare.

Beta-testing of the service was launched in Brooklyn, New York six months ago – and it seems to have gone rather well. The Facebook Bluetooth beacon is now being rolled out universally.

How Facebook beacons work

Whenever a Facebook user is near a location of a participating retailer or tourist attraction, a ‘tip notification’ is sent to their phone. The notification can be left by friends and users have to open the social network in order to receive alerts.

The cards give users access to more information about a place. For example, if you walk into a museum, you will have access to photos, tips and any other info Facebook friends have shared about the rooms and exhibits.

To access the info, mobile owners simply tap the notification and are given a series of info cards. They then have the option to engage with them and learn more about the site or shop.

However, there are a few snags. Firstly, you need a physical location in which to place your beacon. Contractors and freelancers working from home or remote locations will not benefit.

And although the service appears to be highly advantageous to small businesses, advertising is not permitted.

It is likely that ads will be introduced at some stage, but you can guarantee retailers will have to pay for the privilege. Facebook users can also opt out from receiving notifications.

You can find more information about how the Facebook Bluetooth Beacon works here or request your free beacon by filling in this form.