Big Brother Has A New Name, Facebook

It’s a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie. You walk into your favorite store and there is a message on your smartphone about their latest sale...because Facebook knows you are in the store. Facebook will also display pictures, comments, and reviews your friends have posted about this store. As a consumer would you find this cool or creepy?

How Did They Do That?

It’s not science fiction, it’s happening now. Facebook is shipping free beacons to stores that request them, beginning in the New York City area. According to Facebook, “These beacons use Bluetooth® technology to send a signal to the Facebook app on your phone to help us show you the right place tips. Place tips show you more info about places you visit.” As an incentive, a business will be able to create a welcome note with a photo. Additionally the beacon will prompt users to Like the business’s Facebook Page and Check In.

For businesses in a high traffic area, the Facebook Beacon is a great idea. Get on the waitlist now by submitting a form at Facebook for Business. We especially recommend this new program for our hotel, retail, and bar/restaurant clients. It’s possible to change the welcome note any time although the character count is limited to 155. Imagine using the welcome note to announce happy hour with a picture of food & drink specials. With the help of the beacon, this message pops up in the Facebook app of customers and potential customers within approximately 500 feet of the beacon.

There are other ways to promote non-retail brands on Facebook with a free beacon. The Wall Street Journal offered, “Beyond such commercial uses, a street artist could place a beacon near a new work, broadcasting information extracted from the artist’s Facebook page. An architect could place a beacon on a new building and tell passersby about the construction process. Cities could place beacons on little-known historical sites that go otherwise unnoticed by tourists and unknown by locals.”

Is Big Brother Watching?

Unlike an earlier Facebook beacon program that collected private information about Facebook users’ online habits without their permission, this version offers privacy features. Facebook tells users, “Place Tips can be turned off or on at any time in settings. Viewing Place Tips won’t post on Facebook or show anyone the places a person visits. Place Tips only appear when people give Facebook permission to access their location on their phone.”

Even with the available privacy settings, Facebook will still be able to track significant market segments online and in real life in order to sell behavior-based advertising opportunities to marketers. Good news for businesses that use targeted Facebook advertising, bad news for those among the 1.3 billion active Facebook users who value privacy. The European Union continually battles Facebook over data privacy issues.

In the United States and Canada, Facebook seems to have freer reign. Is it time to start wearing tin foil hats? Let us know if you think Facebook beacons are cool or creepy on Twitter @ThinPigMedia.