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With all of the interest in local and mobile advertising going on right now, Facebook has been quickly preparing its own location-based check-in feature. And now it looks like the social network could be close to launching.
And Facebook is seeking the help of McDonald's as an initial launch partner. When check-in to McDonald's from their status updates — which could happen as soon as this month — they'll also be able to feature a McDonald's product in their post. Doesn't that sound like fun?
According to AdAge:
"As early as this month, the social-networking site will give users the ability to post their location within a status update. McDonald's, through digital agency Tribal DDB, Chicago, is building an app with Facebook would allow users to check in at one of its restaurants and have a featured product appear in the post, such as an Angus Quarter Pounder, say execs close to the deal."
This initial assessment of Facebook's new location feature seems surprisingly like advertising. One of the things that make a service like Foursquare appealing for users is the ability to find specials and discounts at their favorite locations. Providing free advertising for McDonald's when you check-in on Facebook does not sound as inviting.
At least initially, it looks like companies won't be paying for these ads people will be adding to their newsfeed. Apparently, Facebook did not charge McDonald's to be its premiere location brand. AdAge says the company negotiated the deal as part of a larger media buy with Facebook, which has no immediate plans to monetize local check-ins.
Kevin Colleran, director-national sales at Facebook, tells AdAge:
"We never launch a functionality with the intent of monetizing it. The best case in point would be [advertisers] are frustrated. We will not allow them to buy an ad on mobile."
But what about users? Will they enjoy sharing their location information in their status updates? Well, the network's mobile application has 100 million users a day. Considering that Facebook users are already comfortable sharing other information from their phones, it's not a big jump to imagine they'll also enjoy sharing their location.
But the implementation of this feature is important. If users will be adding an advertisement into their newsfeed every time they check into a location that has partnered with Facebook, their friends could very quickly experience check-in fatigue. Many Twitters have already expressed frustrations when friends tweet their location through existing services. Adding an ad to that could hasten the process on Facebook.
Considering how many Facebook users have become adept at tuning out branding and other information on Facebook, it should be easy for them to avoid location updates. But for Facebook, the value proposition lies in getting this right and making people want to add their location to status updates.
Services like Foursquare and Gowalla have quickly been gaining traction with social media users and businesses alike. McDonald's, for instance, recently took part in "Foursquare Day" on April 16 (4/16).
If Facebook can get its mass quantity of users to check in from different venues, it could cut off the growth to these companies. The social network waited a long time to launch a public status update to rival Twitter's rapid growth, and clearly doesn't want to make the same mistake here.
But adding advertising to location check-ins (regardless of whether it is paid) stands to do more than simply frustrate advertisers, it could be another flatfooted implementation from Facebook that could prevent it from reaching its full potential in the mobile space.