You've no doubt heard of Foursquare, the mobile service that allows people to "check-in" at a location and tell their social networking friends where they've arrived.
I can usually get into most of the newest tech trends. I was on Facebook the first day the service would welcome me. Same with Twitter, long before I had any idea what I was doing there. But "checking-in" was something that was just never appealing to me.
The new Deals Platform, announced by Facebook as part of a larger mobile platform news event yesterday, offers just enough of an incentive for a guy like me - I prefer "frugal" over "cheap," thank you very much - to start playing with location-based services. On countless occasions, I have used the search feature on the Google Maps app on my Android phone to find nearby gas stations, coffee shops, ATMs, grocery stores, sports bars and more.
Likewise, I've used the reviews on Yelp to help make some impromptu decisions on where to grab a late breakfast or lunch on the run, though clicking and reading reviews while the family is waiting to eat is hardly ideal.
That brings me back to my frugal side. If there were a coffee shop or deli offering some sort of financial promotion - maybe a 50 percent off sandwich or a free pastry with the purchase of a cup of coffee, you can bet your last dollar that I would work my way to that business.
And so Facebook finds itself not only bridging a gap by bringing value to these check-in services but also finding a way to expand the potential audience to include those who otherwise might not be inclined to play along. It also helps bring some validation to sites like Foursquare, as well as brand new startups, such as CheckPoints, a mobile shopping app that offers real rewards, such as gift cards, airline miles or gadgets in exchange for checking in to locations and checking out products. CheckPoints explained the impact of Facebook Deals this way:
Facebook’s emphasis on mobile and location-based deals will increase general awareness of the category among its huge, highly engaged userbase. Category awareness will be a positive for smaller startups looking to carve out their niche, and CheckPoints will benefit from the attention that Facebook’s platform brings. Facebook Deals is providing consumers with real incentive to visit locations. The act of “checking in” without real value has been around for a while, but the general consumer will require more than just “bragging rights” to participate.
The bragging rights, such as the ability to become a Foursquare mayor, may be fun - but a guy like me really doesn't care too much about things like that. But bargains, discounts and other freebies are another story. Heck, I'm even checking my Groupon mobile app daily just to make sure I'm not missing some great deal.
At the event yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the growth of both mobile and social is creating opportunities for new companies to be built and industries to get disrupted. For the brick-and-mortar businesses that have invested in technology as a way of bringing in new business, finally there's a mobile offering that can push real people through the doors.
Even they're just frugal guys like me, who are simply looking for a quick bargain.