Facebook Deals Out Another Winner

After a packed day of participating in webinars and victory parades, it’s time to catch up on a full slate of news items. Chief among them is Facebook’s “mobile” press event during which it announced updated apps, a single sign-on process, and new write and search APIs.

But the biggest announcement made from Facebook HQ today was the introduction of its new Deals product. This is a natural extension of Facebook Places and one we knew was coming. It will let users collect rewards and promotions for checking in at certain places.

On the other end, it will let merchants manage the deals that incentivize users to check in. Having both local and national components, this will be available at first to 22 premium (brand) partners and 20,000 SMBs. They’ll immediately have access to the new deal creation tool.

Who’s On Board?

Some of the deals spotlighted today that we’ll see roll out soon include (via TechCrunch):

— Gap is giving away 10,000 free pairs of blue jeans. And when they run out of those, they’re giving 40 percent off of any product when someone checks-in to any of their nationwide stores.

— A smaller cinema chain, Alamo Draft House, is giving away a free pint glass when you check in. And they’ll have offers for special events for friends.

— The North Face is giving $1 to charity for a store check-in or a check-in to a number of national parks.

— The Palms hotel in Las Vegas is giving away a free third night when you stay for two nights. Or you can get a room upgrade.

— The Golden State Warriors are giving away access to a free event with players if you check-in to a game.

One of the interesting things here is that the deals are free for businesses to create. Facebook positioned this as providing benefit in bringing in more users, and also in developing advertiser relationships that will bear fruit in other ways (i.e., display).

But more likely, it’s keeping it free and simple to get the ball rolling; the monetization switch will be flipped soon. This is similar to what Foursquare and others in the check-in space are doing. But notably, they’re now at the mercy of Facebook’s “roadmap.”

In other words, plans to start charging advertisers could be dashed by the fact that Facebook — with its much greater reach — offers free deal creation. This might not be an issue, as Foursquare probably isn’t close to the time (or the need) to start charging merchants.

On the Bright Side

Ultimately, this could also do more good than harm to Foursquare and other check-in services. Just like we said about Facebook Places “mainstreaming” check-ins on the user side, the Deals platform could popularize it among advertisers.

Put another way, the concept of creating and managing check-in deals is now exposed to a massively larger segment than Foursquare or anyone else could accomplish through its own marketing channels. Will this “rise all boats”?

Deals will also virally spread much further than check-ins carry within Foursquare’s much smaller social graph. Unlocking deals, publishing them to your wall, and sharing them with friends will boost deal exposure via network effect. Facebook has made it easy to tag friends for deals.

There’s no question it’s a big boon for the emerging local check-in/deals space. Like we said for the original Places launch, if this is something that has mainstream potential, Facebook’s half a billion users is how it’s going to get there. We’ll know soon enough if it has the legs to do so.

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