Do you allow visitors and guests to use your internet connection? Unless you're one of those miserly hotels that thinks it's OK to charge £20 for an hour of internet access at a speed that was slow in 1996, then you are probably giving it away for free. So why not leverage your WiFi and get your customers to do some social advertising for you? Click to read more about how you can get your own WiFi Hotspot using Facebook WiFi from Computercentric.

Facebook, really?

OK - before I start, this advice applies to ALL businesses.  Seeing as we're talking about free WiFi and Facebook and things, you might think this only applies to shops, restaurants, hospitality businesses etc... I am a firm believer that all consumer-facing businesses should have a Facebook Business page (if you don't, go get one now, then come back!). A Facebook page, and the associated activity or "buzz" on it, can help you to get your main business webpage noticed, and drive more sales. How that works is a story for another day, but take it from me, if you have a Facebook page for your business, and you put just a tiny bit of effort into it, then more people will find you, and more people will spend money with you. The stats here don't lie... more than half of the UK population are Facebook users. Over a third of the entire UK population visit Facebook EVERY DAY, and 83% of these do it on their phone. If you have more activity on your Facebook page, Facebook will promote your business higher when people are searching for businesses like yours.

Why should I give my visitors free WiFi anyway?

If you've already got WiFi in your business, then you've already recognised how useful this can be. Even if you're not public-facing, and only get the odd visitor to your business, they are usually grateful for being able to piggy-back onto your internet connection as it will often be faster (and cheaper) than them using their smartphone or tablet to get internet access. If you're running a business like a cafe, restaurant or shop, then your guests will probably be expecting free WiFi. It encourages people to stay longer in your business, and spend more while they are there. For the sake of a few quid every month, it's a no-brainer.

Now the magic happens

Now we've got that out of the way, let's talk about how you can use your free WiFi to boost your Facebook profile. 

If you're not an avid Facebook fan, then you need to know that Facebook has a facility called "Checking In". This simply means that people who visit your business can share the fact they are there with all their friends. People can "Check-In" on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. The simple act of "checking in" is a big tick in the box for your business' social profile. It's basically a big thumbs-up from a real person saying "I am here!". You can't buy that. This is what checking-in looks like on Facebook:

The old way - if you already have internet access for your guests, this is (probably) the chain of events...

Joanne Bloggs comes to your business, she may be coming for a coffee, a meal or a meeting with you. She wants to get on the internet, so she scans for available Wireless networks on her phone, she finds a network with the same name as your business, she can't connect so she asks you for the password. You give it to her, and she is online. You're a few quid down after paying for the internet connection for the month, and you've nothing to show for it other than a happy customer (a very good thing in itself of course).

The new way - with a Facebook-compatible WiFi system from Computercentric...

Joanne comes in again, she scans for networks and connects immediately to your network without a password, and without troubling you. As soon as she connects her phone will popup asking her to check-in on Facebook, which she does. Immediately, all 338 (assuming Joanne is a typical Facebook user) of her friends know that Joanne is at your premises. This allows for conversations to start amongst her friends: "I was there last week!" or "They do amazing cakes.", in fact every comment by another user exposes your business to hundreds of other people. That sort of advertising costs good money.

Amazing, so how does it work?

Well it's a recent innovation by Facebook, and it requires a compatible WiFi router. There are only a handful of suitable devices on the market, and Computercentric have tested them all, and identified the best solution in terms of functionality, features and price, and we have become trained and authorised resellers of the system.

I'm a certified technophobe and I don't want the headache!

That's fine, we sell the system as "Managed" or "Unmanaged".  Managed means we maintain the whole system for you.  If there are any issues with people being able to connect, speed problems, or you need to change passwords and things like that, we do it all for you.  No messing with wires yourself, no need to call BT or any call centres!  You just call us on the phone, or email us, and we'll sort any issues for you, and even come out to site if we have to, all at no extra cost. If you have an IT brain in the business, you can get the unmanaged system at a a lower price point.

What else does it do?

Lots of other pretty cool things:

  • If your guests don't have a Facebook profile, you can give them a password to allow them to skip the Facebook check-in, or you can allow guests to skip it without entering a password.
  • If you don't have a Facebook page, and aren't sold on the idea (it's free by the way!), then we can configure the system so that guests see a branded webpage, with your business details and any special offers, before they continue to browse the web.
  • If you want to charge guests REAL money for using your WiFi, you can do this too.  Either you sell them a WiFi voucher code at your normal point of sale, and they are able to access the net as long as their voucher allows, or they can pay online using Paypal, and you can collect funds this way.
  • If you have a large premises, the system can expand to cover the full area, multiple WiFi points are installed and linked together to provide seamless WiFi coverage indoors and out.
  • You can manage and report on how your customers are using the system through a web control panel and even on a mobile App.  You can see charts showing what sort of things people are looking at, how long they are connecting for, and when your peak usage occurs.
  • WiFi users are segregated from your main business network, so they cannot access your PC's, laptops, servers or any other equipment on your computer network. We can (optionally) create a second WiFi network at no extra cost, that will allow approved visitors and staff to connect and also access other devices on the network.
  • When your guests come back, their device will automatically check them in again.

All of these features are things that until now, have only been available on very high-end corporate-grade WiFi equipment costing many hundreds or thousands of pounds. Now they are available to smaller businesses at a much more attractive price point.

OK what's the damage?

Not a lot! To keep things simple and avoid any up-front costs, you can rent the entire setup, fully managed with no headaches! Computercentric will provide you with a dedicated business-grade broadband line and all the equipment required, plus "WiFi Hotspot" signs for you to erect, all for a simple monthly payment of £79 + VAT, (price depends on how many devices are required).  That's right, we'll provide your phone line, broadband line, signage and all the equipment for hosting a corporate-grade WiFi hotspot in your business from as little as £79 per month, (a 12 month commitment is required, just to make sure we cover our costs).

If you've already got broadband in place, with a decent firewall or router, then a single-device setup (suitable for a small shop or office) can be had, fully installed from as little as £360 + VAT, this is "unmanaged" though, and requires that you look after the system yourself. Bigger setups may require multiple devices, and possibly additional cabling work, which we can take care of for you. Please note, this solution means your customers will be using the same broadband line as your own staff. If your business depends on your internet access, we would always recommend installing a dedicated broadband line for your customers to use.

What next?

You are welcome to come and visit our offices in Aldridge, and check-in on our network to see how the system works!  Or drop Ross, Matt or Joe a line on 01922 830000, or email sales@computercentric.co.uk to find out more.  If you have a large business premises, or are unsure about how many WiFi points will be required, a site survey is completely free of charge.  You can also read more about Facebook WiFi here.

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