According to this article, it seems Facebook is looking into the possibility of using mobile phone location data to allow real-time location-specific advertising.
Coupled with Facebook Exchange (a real-time ad system where visitors to third-party websites can be shown real-time bid ads related to their web browsing when they return to Facebook), this could mean super-targeted advertising based on previous internet searches as well as the user’s physical location.
Whilst it seems that advertising for shops and restaurants may presently be Facebook’s focus, there is no reason why this technology can’t be a huge success for all manner of service business too. Indeed, it may even be better suited to the service sector than to retail. If a time based-business which for example charges by the hour (tennis coaches, beauticians, driving instructors etc.) has a last minute cancellation, and suddenly wants to fill it, who better to know about that availability than those who have shown a previous interest in the service offered by the business and are nearby?
User-generated social media has always been a powerful marketing tool for small businesses. We need only have a quick look on twitter or Facebook to see if any of our friends can give us an informal review of whatever business it is we’re asking about. However, this location-orientated service would essentially cut out the middleman, in that users opening their Facebook app on their phone would see a friend’s (sponsored) interaction with the nearby business in their timeline. The big differences between the current system and hyper-local advertising, it the former is not yet location specific and it must be searched for by the user. This new service would help to both promote the business in question to anyone nearby, as well as inform the user about its suitability to their needs and/or interests.
Whilst some data suggests that a sizeable proportion of small businesses still do not have an online presence, and this report highlights how many have not yet embraced the web as an important aspect of their business, things certainly seem to be changing. This unofficial Facebook blog paints quite a different picture, stating that 96% of small businesses are now on Facebook in some capacity, and 86% claim that social networking is a useful promotional tool. Even the most non-tech-savvy business owners are likely to be able to master Facebook, and, of course, most of it is free! It is for this reason that integrating location-based advertisements with Facebook will be much easier for small businesses than it perhaps would on other parts of the web.
The benefits of this service for the end user would be huge; if an individual’s interests and previous searches can be cross-referenced with their location at the time, then users could, exclusively, see ads for things they actually want that are close to their location, at any given time. The benefits for service businesses are even greater, as it would allow up-to-the-minute availability information to reach the exact target demographic, and specifically those who are close by, meaning available slots can be filled with nothing more than a smart phone and internet connection.
In short this could be a very interesting move from Facebook and potentially huge news for many of our customers. We’re certainly watching keenly for Facebook’s next move!