More NewsFacebook Sets Sights on Location-Based Marketing

Facebook Sets Sights on Location-Based Marketing

McDonald's reportedly gets first dibs on Facebook's geo-social advertising platform. Will the Web giant put a halt to Foursquare or simply cause it to shift down a few gears?

Facebook will debut location-based features during the next month that will first be tested as a marketing platform by McDonald’s, according to an Advertising Age article published yesterday.

The social site will provide users the ability to employ status updates in a manner similar to how Foursquare users “check in.” The story said that users – when at a McDonald’s location – will be able to check in while featuring one of the quick-serve chain’s products, such as a Big Mac, in their activity feed.

McDonald’s digital agency Tribal DDB, Chicago, declined to comment about the story. The Palo Alto, CA-based Facebook provided a limited response via a spokesperson, saying it was “working on a product that enables people to share their location.” Alex Rainert, head of product at Foursquare, also declined to comment on the development.

After the report turned up late Thursday afternoon, industry players on Twitter were immediately tweeting about how Facebook’s move could be the death knell for Foursquare, as well as other location-based players like Gowalla, MyTown, and BrightKite. The tweeters’ collective speculation was largely based on Facebook’s scale – 425 million users – and how it will halt those upstarts in their tracks and likely kill them off.

Recently commenting on Foursquare, Mike Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media, suggested there still could be a niche for Foursquare if it abstains from “world-changing” aspirations and sticks to specific goals. “It’s not like Foursquare will completely go away,” he said. “It may be a profitable game. It may be a nice little marketing tool for small businesses… But it’s not going to be done at a global level like Facebook if [the social site] just turned it on.”

Indeed, with Facebook beginning to push a check-in platform and its sights apparently on big brands like McDonald’s, Foursquare may want to sharply brand itself as the go-to source for small businesses interested in geo-couponing and local networking. According to Ad Age’s story, Facebook is not charging McDonald’s for the location-based play, but seemingly giving it to the quick-serve brand as a value-add in a larger advertising purchase.

Interestingly, on Wednesday, Foursquare began testing Facebook’s Like buttons on its venue pages. ClickZ asked Rainert from Foursquare yesterday why the buttons were being installed three weeks after initially being offered to developers, while trailing other brands. He replied, “We wanted to think about both the initial implementation [and] also potential future iterations before we just slapped it up there because we could.”

Foursquare’s integration of Facebook’s Like button also revived recent speculation about whether or not Facebook would acquire the service. Yesterday’s revelation suggests there will be no such deal.

Meanwhile, Facebook also seems to be moving in on Google’s local advertising terrain. The social media giant’s location-based platform may combine geography with demographics – from Facebook user profiles – to add new targeting capabilities for advertisers.

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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