One day in the near future, Facebook says, Gap will give away a free pair of jeans for the first 10,000 check-ins via Places. And that's how Facebook today announced - among other measures - a "Deals" platform for business promotions that was recently rumored to be in development.
In the coming weeks, the self-service platform will be made available to the thousands of businesses with a Facebook Page, according to the Palo Alto, CA-based social media giant. In addition to the Gap promotion, Facebook said The North Face will give $1 to charity for any user who checks in at a store or a national park. Other launch partners include Palms Casino Resort, Alamo Drafthouse, and the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
After unveiling the five premiere launch partners, Facebook showed a slide depicting 22 brands - from a wide variety of niches - that it says will soon be using "Deals." They included McDonald's, Starbucks, H&M, Macy's, National Park Foundation, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, and universities like Texas Tech and Nebraska.
The platform was also built with small businesses in mind and will surely create greater competition for their digital market share. "We are encouraging merchants to push out deals to their current customers," said Tim Kendall, Facebook's director of monetization. "And hopefully, [they will] attract proximate new customers."
Mobile users will be able to locate retailers with deals in their proximity via the Places app. Merchants can run "Individual" deals, such as getting a free appetizer by checking in at a restaurant. Or they can run "Friends" deals, where groups are rewarded for collectively checking in at a location. A third variation to the platform is called "Charity," demonstrated by The North Face example. To prevent location fraud, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform mandates users show merchants their phone screens after they claim a deal.
Zuckerberg added, "We don't get paid for the deals. The deals are user value and business value."
A free, self-service marketing platform on Facebook would seem to spell trouble for location-based players like Foursquare and Gowalla, which would like to start charging local businesses in order to monetize their services. Local advertisers might have little reason to pay those players when they can reach a larger audience free-of-cost via Facebook Places/Deals.
Also at the one-hour press conference, Facebook announced that Places and Groups were available on its Android app. This development should dramatically extend the reach of Places in particular, since the Google mobile OS has recently had hundreds of thousands of devices activated each day. Previously, Places was only available to iPhone users. More than 100 million consumers reportedly had downloaded the general Facebook app for iPhones by the time Places was launched in August.
Zuckerberg said Facebook now has 200 million mobile users per month - up from the 150 million it most recently claimed. "I want to say something about the velocity of all of this," the CEO commented. "We just launched Places two months ago. And we are a small team. For what we are doing...a really small team."
In addition, Facebook head of mobile Erick Tseng explained a new button that lets a third-party developer give users a one-click way to sign on with their mobile devices. "It removes the need to ever have to type a username or password again," Tseng said. "[It will save] you time from things you have to do, to the stuff you want to do."
Lastly, Facebook announced Places APIs for developers to build a variety of mobile apps on.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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