Is Facebook’s new service really a big Deal?

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Facebook Deals launched in Europe earlier this week, with the social network lauding the service as “powerful”, “relevant” and “compelling”, but as the location-based marketing craze intensifies, Deals may not be the big ticket for long.

Facebook Deals is being touted as a “FourSquare killer” by the tech blogs (and a “Groupon killer” by those who don’t understand how Groupon works) but the arrival of near-field communications (NFC) and mobile contactless payment in the second half of this year could be the “Deals killer” Facebook didn’t pre-empt.

As O2’s managing director of financial services James le Brocq hinted earlier this week your mobile “wallet” could contain more than just a means for payment; it can include loyalty, ticketing, travel, price comparison, access to brand websites, discounts and potentially more.

And most importantly, all of these services do not require you to advertise your location to your friends in order to receive them – not everyone wants their friends, aunties and childhood sweethearts knowing they are dining alone at Yo! Sushi on a Friday night.

With Deals, in order to redeem an offer you must initially sacrifice a bit of your privacy (unless privacy settings are changed in the first instance), but with mobile your purchases are kept secret – this is the ultimate deal-breaker when it comes to location-based marketing.

Deals also requires pro-activity from the user; consumers must actively search out offers in order to find out they exist, but with NFC users can be alerted to money-saving offers and experiences they never knew they originally wanted.

For brands, the potential customer penetration of NFC is far vaster than Facebook. More people in the UK own a mobile than a Facebook account and even those with feature phones can be targeted, by sending out geo-location based SMS and MMS messages on services such as O2 More.

While Facebook is certainly important when it comes to engaging with consumers, firefighting negative PR and breaking new campaigns, marketers should be wary of betting the whole farm on just one social network as newer and more innovative forms of marketing come to the fore.

Despite its half a billion members worldwide and the fact that most big brands have more fans on their Facebook pages than visits to their own websites, NFC looks set to prove that Facebook is not a one-size-fits-all answer to digital marketing.

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