Yesterday, Facebook announced a bunch of upgrades to its mobile platform (200 million+ users and growing quickly), but most notably, they launched Deals. There are 4 different types of deals businesses can offer customers through Facebook Places now: individual deals for a discount, free merchandise or other reward; friend deals where you and your friends claim an offer together; loyalty deals for being a frequent visitor to a place; and charity deals where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when you check in. Deals are free for any business with a Facebook Place Page. Customers "check-in" to your location from their mobile phones to activate a deal, and then share it with their friends. Facebook will monetize this by offering businesses the opportunity to further advertise their deals once you create them. But creating deals and having them spread organicly through the Facebook ecosystem is free, and quite plausible for organizations of all sizes.
Because of Facebook's 600 million users worldwide and 200+million mobile users, Facebook's Deals brings instant scale and credibility to the location check-in rewards business introduced by Foursquare and others. Whether this new platform will hurt or help Foursquare and its several clones or even Groupon and its dozens of clones, remains to be seen. But there is no doubt that Facebook Deals will be a major force to be reckoned with.
For years, I've advocated the use of social media and a strong presence on social networks such as a Facebook and Twitter as excellent brand-building and reputation-building tools. But the sales funnel through social networks is longer: Instead of acquiring customers, it's acquiring likes, fans and followers, then engaging with them, then being likeable, then waiting until they're ready to buy, and then being there for them. It's a natural cycle, if done right, but it takes time.
But Deals changes that, or at least augments it. Facebook Deals allows you to create a compelling offer, and have it spread quickly through Facebook's powerful social graph and the virality of the News Feed. Facebook Deals allows you, for the first time ever, to acquire new customers quickly through social networks.
And before you tell me, "Dave, Deals is only for retail locations, what about online business?", think about this: When Facebook Deals is successful, and people en masse (not just fellow social-media people currently using location check-in services) are finally checking in to locations to activate great offers, will it be long before the super-smart product folks at Facebook begin to offer Facebook Deals for virtual check-ins? (Dave checked in to 1-800-Flowers.com with 10 friends to activate the 20% off deal.)
Yes, this is a VERY big deal. Marketers and businesspeople, take note.