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Facebook Places, the feature that allows users to check in and share their location, may be winning the hearts and dollars of local businesses, according to a MerchantCircle quarterly report of more than 8,000 U.S. local businesses.

First reported by The Financial Times, Facebook Places is getting a larger percent of businesses using the service compared to location-based competitors Foursquare and Gowalla. The survey suggests that 32 percent of businesses are promoting their services through Facebook Places, while 12 percent plan to over the coming months. Just 9 percent of businesses are currently using Foursquare and Gowalla comes in at around 3 percent, both also have businesses planning to use their services in the near future, though small percentages.

While one might think that Facebook would naturally have an advantage over these startups because businesses are already creating business Pages, the Places check in feature is relatively new, launching in August of 2010. Foursquare and Gowalla were both launched in 2009 and, while first to the scene, it appears that Facebook’s already established presence among businesses is paying off in the space. This may be because there is an easier transition for businesses to go from using Pages to promote themselves to Places.

The survey also noted that 72 percent of local businesses only plan on spending less than $5,000 a year with 34 percent of that number spending less than $1,000. With so much competition for these dollars, it makes one wonder if these startups have alternative business models in mind.

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