Facebook Testing Places Check-In Incentive Deals and Rewards

Facebook is testing a new Places check-in rewards system called Deals which allows companies to incentivize check-ins to a Place. The system was discovered when AllFacebook received a copy of an email confirming approval of a social check-in Deals promotion from Facebook to one of the limited partners with access. The email reveals that users can receive rewards by tagging friends in a check-in to a Place then showing a Deals confirmation page to an employee. The Deal can be shared with those connected to that Place’s Page, and companies can monitor use of the Deal through an admin interface.

Places was launched in August 2010 as a simple location service without any of the badges, itineraries, or incentives present in some existing third-party location services. Instead, the service was socially focused, allowing users to check their friends in with them. Now that social feature is being used to power an incentive system. Facebook also tested the ability for companies to post product information along with a user’s location to their feed before Places launched.

With each additional friend checked into a Place, the check-in story, and the company who owns the Place, receives more exposure by being posted to an additional stream. There is also an increase in prominence of the story in the feeds of those who are friends with multiple users who were checked-in. This exposure in the news feed may be worth offering a reward to incentivize. In the Deal confirmed in the email, the business will offer a “Free [censored] with [censored] Purchase when you tag 3 of your friends”. It appears that a free physical product is being offered as a reward.

It appears that companies will be able to set start and end dates for the Deal, select if and how many  additional friends need to be tagged to earn the reward, and set a number of times each user can earn that reward. Once the Deal has been activated, admins can view how many times the Deal has been redeemed. Facebook notes that “Over time, this information will help you refine your deal offers.” Best practices, tips, and information to help companies maximize the effectiveness of their Deals will be available at facebook.com/deals, That URL is currently inactive, though Deals partners may be able to access it.

There could be significant potential for abuse of the Deals system. Users could create multiple fake accounts and check them in, limiting the exposure of the check-in. Users could also check-in friends who aren’t present, as check-ins don’t require a confirmation from those tagged once they authorize friend check-ins upon first using Places. If rewards can be redeemed immediately, users could collect their reward before a friend sees and delete’s their tag in the check-in. Facebook will need to provide safeguards against these types of abuse if it wants companies to participate and offer compelling, valuable rewards.

Deals could be a new revenue stream for Facebook, depending on how companies are charged for running promotions and whether it can prevent abuse. The rewards system could also create the need for companies which help businesses manage their Deals. As more details become available, we’ll provide news, walk-throughs, and reactions from the ecosystem.