Facebook Places Deals for Small Businesses?

Facebook Places DealsThis morning Facebook launched its "Places Deals" service in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Facebook Places is a location-based service allowing people to "check-in" to venues, much like Gowalla and Foursquare, and Places Deals associates deals with these check-in places.

Currently Facebook Places Deals has a number of big brand UK partners onboard including Alton Towers, Argos, Benetton, Debenhams, Mazda, O2, Starbucks and YO! Sushi. Argos, for instance, are offering a £1 donation to charity for every check-in up to a maximum donation of £10,000. Mazda’ Places Deals offer is a 20% discount on a new Mazda MX5 (a discount of something like £4000) when users check in to one of five specific dealerships.

So what does this have to do with small businesses?

Joanna Shields, head of Facebook Europe, said at the launch conference this morning that

“We used to search the internet for information. Today we mostly go to find out what is happening with our friends”

That’s quite a bold statement – Google and Bing are still the search engines of choice but it cannot be denied that Facebook’s social power to drive brand awareness and market products and services has massive potential – Argos launched its own Facebook page just 3 weeks ago and already it has over 63,000 "likes".

Harnessing that sort of social networking power to drive an awareness of small, local businesses could be a real boost for UK SMEs, so it will be interesting to see how the Facebook Places Deals service works for its initial big brands. Hopefully Facebook Deals will be available to smaller businesses and allow them access to the clout that the "big boys" have. Foursquare has been a great platform with which to promote an awereness of otherwise unknown small businesses but it doesn’t seem to have quite the same "traction" that Facebook has (Foursquare has at least 6 milllion users, Facebook has more than 500 million users!)

Joanna Shields, head of Facebook Europe, said that some people have more friends than some businesses have visits to their webpages, so by leveraging Places Deals, small businesses can not only get themselves "on the map" (as so many are locally in Foursquare already) but by offering deals for checkins they can potentially increase business too (Unlike Foursquare’s "Mayor Specials" where only the top check-in receives deals)

Places Deals, whilst new to the UK and some parts of Europe, has been available in the US since November 2010 and, based on the success of the service in such a short time, many businesses are signing up for their 2nd promotion on Places Deals.

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