Google Launches Geo-Social ‘Offers’ at SXSWi

google-offersAustin, Texas — Google’s “Offers” initiative went live on March 10, creating a geo-social platform that lets restaurants and shops create discounts and other rewards to consumers who check in. The Mountain View, CA-based company blogged the announcement the day before South By Southwest Interactive kicked off.

While the search giant apparently didn’t want to create a huge stir with the move during SXSWi, the first 60 retail establishments to participate in the program are in Austin, TX. An example: A trio of Bird’s Barbershop locations are offering $3 off a men’s haircut and $5 for women. And Austin Land and Cattle is rewarding check-ins with a complimentary burger, pork sandwich, or “frito pie” with the purchase of two beverages.

Android users have been able to check in via Google Latitude since Feb. 1. So during the last six weeks, industry watchers have been anticipating “Offers,” which because of its geo-social nature has more in common with Foursquare’s “Specials” platform than it does daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News is reporting that Facebook is developing a Groupon-inspired feature that lets businesses offer specials. Launch cities include San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta, and Austin, TX. The feature will be part of Facebook’s existing “Deals” program, which allows businesses to pitch specials to users in a self-service fashion. Now, according to Bloomberg, Facebook’s sales staff will work more closely with businesses.

“Local businesses will be able to sign up to use this feature soon, and people will be able to find Deals in the coming weeks,” the Palo Alto, CA-based company said in a statement, according to the report.

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