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Deal or No Deal: Facebook is about to disrupt the small business sector… again

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Facebook is changing the world… again.

By now you’ve probably heard of Facebook Places, the application that allows you to ‘Check In’ to places you’re visiting, alerting all of your Friends where you are (a bit like Foursquare).

Starting yesterday, businesses can also now offer customers special deals when they ‘Check In’ to their place on Facebook (again, a bit like Foursquare but with the functionality to manage the entire process).

Here’s how it works.

Facebook Nearby Places

Imagine the following scenario.

You’re out and about, using Facebook on your smart phone or iPad, searching through ‘Nearby Places’, because you’re hungry or thirsty and want to know what restaurants, café and bars your friends have ‘checked into’. The Nearby Places application looks like this.

What is different from last week is that you might now notice the addition of some yellow boxes. If you haven’t already guessed, these Nearby Places have a special deal they’d like to offer.

You click on Sharp’s Coffee.

What next? Sharp’s Coffee has a “50% off a Cup of Coffee” deal for anyone who visits its café and uses their Facebook account to ‘Check In’. So, you check in…

…and just like that, you’ve scored a digital coupon to get 50% off your coffee.

What does Facebook Deals mean for small business?

Why might a business want to do this, you ask?

Sure, it’s nice to get a new customer. But the real benefit comes from the viral nature of Facebook. A business using this application wants you to indirectly tell your Friends you’re there.

Anyone who sees your Facebok status updates or uses Facebook’s Check In feature will now know you’re at Sharps. Next time they’re in the area and looking for coffee, where are they likely to go? This feature allows offline businesses to make their offers sharable online.

This is one of the few times that Facebook has created something specifically for the small business sector. It also offers a firm answer to those who still today believe that Facebook is not relevant to their business because they operate in the real world.

It might sound like a bold statement but this application has the potential to disrupt the way businesses, particularly offline retail businesses, manage all their marketing.

Right now, Facebook Deals is available in the US and will be available in Australia in coming months, giving us time to track the success of campaigns before deciding which ones are best to adopt.

Some of the deals already underway in the US include:

  • American Eagle Outfitters: Offering 20 percent off.
  • Chipotle: Giving its Facebook guests two entrees for the price of one.
  • Gap: Giving blue jeans to the first 10,000 customers to claim their deal.
  • Cinema: Hosting a free screening at whichever of its movie theaters gets the most check-ins, as well as giving free souvenir Facebook Places pint glasses just for showing that you’ve claimed the deal.

And if you’re still not convinced…

Here’s a short video from July 2009 about the rapid growth of social media.

Can you imagine what’s happened since then? How this statistics are likely to have changed?

So what will determine whether customers come to you or your competitors? The future of offline retail might be as simple as… Deal or no deal.

In 2009, Jack Delosa built one of Australia’s fastest growing ventures, MBE Education. He is also one of Anthill’s 30under30 winners two years running. Today, Delosa heads up The Entourage, a movement which connects “Australia’s best entrepreneurs with Australia’s next entrepreneurs”.

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