When Facebook bought Glancee late last week, the development underscored how the social giant in its pre-IPO months has increasingly placed bets on local and mobile. Since December 2011, Facebook purchased mobile products Instagram and Gowalla, as well as TagTile, a loyalty platform for merchants.
In late February, Facebook introduced mobile ads to its marketing products suite. During more recent weeks, it's been rolling out Facebook Offers for local merchants nationally and worldwide. Unlike Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers, Facebook doesn't take a cut from redeemed deals. The free-to-use platform will likely attract local marketers in droves, and Facebook reckons they'll buy geo-targeted ads to push their Offers to more web and mobile eyeballs.
"Everyone, including Facebook, knows that location marketing is maturing," said Andy Ellwood, chief strategy officer at New York-based creative studio Goodpenny. "It is not ubiquitous the way that [social-local-mobile] experts want everyone to think it is. And nor [are location services] frankly even that good in most cases. But it is coming, and when you have the world's largest social graph that has a pretty decent interest graph associated with it, Facebook is primed to take advantage of it."
Ellwood understands the location-based mobile app industry better than most. He was Gowalla's VP of business development for two years, attempting to monetize the social app before it was sold to Facebook five months ago. CEO Mark Zuckerberg's company has done with Glancee what it did with Gowalla; it has shut the brand down while bringing its technology and technologists in-house.
Ellwood predicts the Glancee team will impact Facebook marketing, but it will take time before the results are evident. Glancee's system pulls Facebook and Twitter data to alert users when people with similar interests are nearby. A so-called friction-less app, it constantly runs in the background on a smart phone, sending push notifications when alike users are in the locale.
"That feature will merge nicely with Facebook Places," Ellwood said. "It will likely not be rolled out in a big way until the general public's sensitivities have decreased to 'lazy apps' that track what you're doing without you engaging them as they do. As far as business opportunities, there will be some test budgets for brands that want to see if they can get ahead of this game, but because of how deeply buried it is going to be as a feature within a feature of Facebook, I doubt we'll see much activity around it from a business standpoint in the short term."
Agencies Weigh In On Facebook's SoLoMo Moves
Menlo Park, CA-based Facebook didn't say how much it paid for Glancee, which was a South by Southwest 2012 buzz item, along with fellow social discovery app Highlight. Sav Banerjee, executive strategy director at ad agency Rokkan, said Glancee could infuse more interactivity into Facebook's mobile platform.
"Currently, check-ins via Facebook Places is very passive, and not exciting enough in comparison to other technology such as face recognition and others," Banerjee explained. "With the Glancee's 'stalking' technology, Facebook has an opportunity to tap into more engaging interactive experiences. This is very important, since Facebook needs to stay abreast of the latest developments that are happening in the social media and digital technology space."
Jeremy Lockhorn is VP of emerging media at digital shop Razorfish and a ClickZ mobile marketing columnist. He said the Instagram and Glancee purchases show Facebook has become more focused on the SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) space.
"The acquisition of Instagram is perhaps the clearest signal," Lockhorn said. "Glancee may be used to improve Facebook's 'nearby' functionality, among other things…[Facebook] might try and turn it into something like Foursquare's 'explore' function - trying to help connect users to local business and activities that may be relevant to their interests...It should create some very exciting marketing opportunities."
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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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