Facebook to Test "Place Tips" in NYCFacebook, the great connector, specializing in connecting you with friends and news now wants to connect you with “the world around you,” according to Mike LeBeau, product manager for the new Facebook “Place Tips” feature of Facebook’s iPhone app.

Still in the pilot stage, Place Tips is designed to provide specific location information based on a user’s geographic location as determined by GPS, WiFi and cell phone triangulation. Users who have enabled Location in their Facebook iPhone app will see an innocuous notation at the top of their news feed. Tap to open, and Place Tips will feature tips and recommendations centered on the nearest venue, which have been posted by the user’s network of friends along with content from the venue’s Facebook page.

If Place Tips Can Make it There…

It’s a monumental undertaking that will likely give Foursquare Tips a run for the money, so Facebook has launched a pilot program to test it out — where else? New York City, of course. Arguably the most densely packed real estate in the nation, NYC is a proving ground for testing the technology needed to nail down a user’s exact location.

What kind of technology? In addition to GPS, WiFi and cell towers, Facebook is deploying bluetooth beacons in select locations around the city including the Strand Book Store, Dominique Ansel Bakery, The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, Veselka, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Pianos, Brooklyn Bowl and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These beacons will be able to instantly detect Facebook users who enter the premises.

Facebook execs are quick to assure users, however, that turning on Location will merely allow the app to provide them information about the nearest venue; the user’s location will not be shared unless the user decides to check in or otherwise post their location.

How Will This Affect My Local Business?

Once fully deployed, this new Facebook feature stands to benefit local businesses tremendously, since content displayed will come not only from the user’s friends network but from the location’s Facebook page as well. Savvy business owners could post special offers on their pages that would have the effect of location-based SMS marketing without having to go to all the trouble of sending a text. Imagine a user is checking their news feed as they’re walking through your store to get to the mall. They tap Place Tips and there’s your special discount offer along with comments from friends about your products. It doesn’t get any better than that.

How is it Different from Foursquare?

First of all, it’s Facebook, which is a much more popular platform. Second, Foursquare Tips are those posted by the general public, while Place Tips will be posts from the user’s network as well as from the location’s Facebook page. Of course, if you’ve just moved to the West Coast and all your friends are back on the East Coast, you likely won’t see any Place Tips from your network.

Only in NYC

Once Facebook fine tunes the technology and works out all the bugs, the app will eventually be rolled out to the rest of the country, and then to androids. But for now, it’s only available on iPhones, and only in New York City.