Now that Facebook Places (a location-based tool that is likely going to compete with Foursquare and Gowalla) has been in full force for a few days, have you tried it? It’s kind of a fun little tool, from a personal perspective, and we’ll talk here about the business implications, but I say be cautiously curious.

Several weeks ago, Facebook opened the platform to search engines, which means a few things:

* When someone tags you or your business on Facebook and you don’t already have a page, it creates one for you.

* When someone tags you or your business on Facebook, Google picks it up in their searches.

* You don’t have much control (other than changing your privacy settings) on whether or not a friend tells the world they’re out with you and you’re not at home – making you a prime target for burglars (or stalkers) as was raised by the now defunct Please Rob Me.

But, just like anything on the web, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for a business. Facebook Places is a marketer’s dream. Danny Brown guest blogged on Spin Sucks about using location-based marketing before Facebook Places launched, and I followed up with some additional ideas. These ideas work for all location-based tools, including Facebook Places.

Just last night I checked into Baskin Robbins because Pete The TapeWorm (my stomach) needed ice cream. A friend said, “Oh! I always forget about Baskin Robbins!” Likely she’s also going to have ice cream from the 31 Flavors this week – all because I checked in. Now imagine if 10 people do that…Baskin Robbins suddenly has 10 new customers. This can happen for any business – even if you don’t have a retail location; it’s raising awareness through social networks and loyal customers.

But from a personal perspective when it comes to Facebook Places, be cautiously curious. If you don’t want your friends to tag you, go to account/privacy settings and disable “people here now” setting. You can also customize who can or cannot tag you by selecting “places I check in to.”

If you don’t have Google alerts set up on your name, do that now. Then you’ll know what kind of information is being put on the web without your knowledge. Play with the tool, but also pay attention to how it’s being used for you.

What tips do you have for using Facebook Places for both personal and business use?

* Image courtesy of Mashable

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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