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Facebook made a significant move into the potentially lucrative local business advertising space on Monday with the launch in the UK and other European countries of Places Deals, which gives users discounts and benefits with nearby shops, restaurants and venues through their mobile phones.
Launched in the US last November, Facebook Deals lets users 'check in' to venues via the Places feature on its mobile app for iPhone, Android and through facebook.com on some smartphones.
Facebook says millions of users are already choosing to check in to venues, and its app is already the most popular in Apple's iTunes Store. More than 250 million people use Facebook every day from a membership of more than 500 million worldwide, and more than one third of those access the site through mobile.
Through deals with partners announced today, the first 30,000 Facebook users to check in at Starbucks stores in the UK can claim a free coffee, the first 1,000 to check in at Debenhams will receive a free mascara and makeover, and the first four to upgrade their contracts and check in at O2 stores will win a free Xbox or Playstation.
Here's the big problem with all this - privacy. There will be footprints left wherever you go; a marketing persons goldmine of data. Worse, a thiefs treasure chest.
White noted that brand pages on Facebook attract far higher traffic than official brand websites. Coca-Cola, she said, saw around 270,000 monthly unique users on its own sites but 22.5 million on Facebook.com.
UPDATE on Monday, January 31, 2011: Deals is now also available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Look for yellow or green tickets when you check in to places in those countries. We also launched a new Deals page at [facebook.com...] where you can learn more and find deals being offered near you.