Check-in Discounts with Facebook Places

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Facebook announced this week that users checking-in to their favorite destinations can expect to see rewards and discounts from companies looking to draw in new business and lure in existing customers. The product, dubbed Facebook Deals, is an extension of the Places offering.

While the service will be attractive to many brick-and-mortar enterprises there remains a rather significant problem - the number of people using such services is small — just 4 percent of the U.S. Internet population have ever used it and just 1 percent on any given day, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Facebook said it will launch a test version of Deals with over 20 companies including the Gap, 24 Hour Fitness, and North Face. Businesses will be able to choose whether to reward customers for simply checking in, for bringing in friends or for repeat business. Instead of discounts, they can also offer charity deals. The gym chain 24 Hour Fitness, for example, plans to donate $1 to Kaboom, a charity that builds playgrounds, for each check-in made during a designated 24-hour period.

Smaller social services such as Foursquare and Gowalla already let businesses offer deals to their users, and Yelp announced Tuesday it plans to introduce “check-in offers” later this month. Facebook’s entry into the space is significant however because the company commands the attention of so many more people - 500 million at last count. As such, Facebook could help shift location-sharing from something embraced by few tech-savvy early adapters into something commonly used by a broad range of people.

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