Ignite Social Media Explores Deals on Facebook Places

Last week several of us tried out the new Deals feature on Facebook Places. Several of us wrote about it on this blog. To some of you, this may seem like overkill on a single topic. However, it’s partly because we’re passionate about staying up to date with what’s new in the social media marketing landscape. But it’s also because this news could potentially be huge for brands and their social media marketing plans for 2011. One of our interns, Craig Carter and I ventured out on Friday morning to learn how Gap was using this new functionality and documented our experience in the video below. 


By lining up to win some Gap jeans, we also walked away with some great insight into how Deals on Facebook places is changing the landscape for mobile social media marketing. Here are some additional learnings from our “investigation”:

Expanding Demographic

This expands the niche demographic currently using location based services. When we standing in line at Gap several of the people in line had heard about the deal via Gap’s fan page, but had no idea how to actually use Facebook places. Other people in line were trying to help them by walking them through how to check-in using their phone. This caused us to realize why this new functionality is so major in the world of social media marketing- it expands the use of location based services. When a major entity like Facebook uses such a service, it isn’t long before people will come to know location based services like the back of their hand. (Similar to how “liking” something is now a term at least 85% of the population thinks of as synonymous with rating something.) 

Smart Phone Capability

Not all smart phones have this capability built into their Facebook app. One woman using a Blackberry had printed out the Gap Facebook Event information, but wasn’t able to check-in using her phone. I later found out that that was because her Blackberry does not allow this functionality within their native Facebook application. Instead, you have to visit touch.facebook.com on your browser to access Facebook Places. At least at first, this will be a very difficult thing to message to customers. Confusion (or denial of the deal for customers based on this confusion) may cause some people to resent Facebook Deals or give up on looking for such deals.

Employee Competency

Gap employees were shockingly well-informed. We’ve all been to events like this, where the marketers for the brand had a genius idea but did a terrible job of informing their employees on how the idea is actually implemented nationwide. We also understand that this is a difficult task for a national chain. However, we did not have this problem- at least at the location we visited. I can’t say that this was everyone’s experience, but it was a pleasant surprise for us. The employee at the door knew what he was looking for and how the campaign worked. The employee at the counter never hesitated when we handed her the coupon and showed her our phones. The one point of confusion was whether the discount was for the first 14 visitors who entered the store, or the first 14 who checked out (14 was the number of free jean coupons that were awarded at our location). We’re actually still not sure how that worked because we were among both groups.

AT&T’s Insufficiency

AT&T’s network may again become the number one complaint for iPhone users. Before, if you weren’t able to check-in on Facebook Places using your iPhone, you may have complained a little bit, but I kind of doubt it would have ruined your day. While standing outside of Gap on Friday morning, this was my experience. The mall we were in had very little service. In order to redeem the deal at H&M, I had to walk outside of the store in order to check-in and walk back inside to show my phone to the cashier. And this wasn’t just a “I have no wi-fi”. I literally had no service. If this had been a bigger giveaway, or more people had been in the area also trying to access the network, I would guess there would have (another) public outlashing at the AT&T network. 

Concept Outweighs Functionality

Facebook Deals could sadly be used as nothing more than a marketing ploy. Just as our experience was with the free jeans at Gap, checking-in may have very little to do with how the deal is actually redeemed. This could be because of the logistics of managing this across a national brand, varying timezones, etc. If Facebook continues to keep this functionality “locked-down” (currently the functionality is only available to a limited number of beta users, and Facebook is saying that all deals will need to be “approved” by Facebook) than the use of Facebook Deals may not ever see it’s full potential. The possibilities and benefits of Facebook Deals for local businesses and small brands far outreaches that of larger, nationwide brands. If only larger brands have the ability to use Facebook Deals, it’s possible that the logistics of basing a deal on a “check-in” may be too complicated and risky, and they may simply give you a coupon instead of using your check-in as the coupon.

Craig and Ryan Sweeney also explored how the Starbuck’s deal worked. Here is their video: 

Ignite Social Media