In a significant move Facebook yesterday, moved into the potentially lucrative local business advertising space with the launch of Places Deals in the UK and European countries, which offers discounts and benefits with nearby shops, restaurants and venues through users' mobile phones to users.
The feature was launched in the US last November and allows users to 'check in' to venues via the Places feature on its mobile app for iPhone, Android and through facebook.com on some smartphones.
According to Facebook, millions of users are already checking in to venues, and its app is already the most popular in Apple's iTunes Store with over 250 million people using Facebook every day from a membership of more than 500 million worldwide. More than a third of those, access the site through mobile.
With deals the first 30,000 Facebook users to check in at Starbucks stores in UK can claim a free coffee and the first 1,000 to check in at Debenham can claim a free mascara and makeover. In a similar deal, the first four users to upgrade their contracts and check in at O2 would win a free Xbox or Playstation.
Facebook Places Deals, which is to launch in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Canada, is a major commercial strategy initiative from the company. According to analysts, this would link users to businesses from national retail chains to local stores, and allow the businesses to effectively advertise through the social networks of their most regular customers. Depending on a user's privacy settings, deals availed would be published in the newsfeed of friends that their friends follow.
According to Emily White, Facebook's director of local, the wisdom friends has taken over from the wisdom of crowds, through a highly personal experience in the real world, and Facebook local enabled users to take that Facebook identity out and about with them as they experienced the real world. She added that Places allowed businesses to start joining the conversation.