Facebook has made a deal with Cisco to roll out a program that gives store, hotel and restaurant customers free Wi-Fi access in return for “checking in” on Facebook.
The idea has already been tested in a small number of locations and will now be made available to all businesses. Facebook itself won’t be putting any money into the project or providing any equipment.
However, it will pass on anonymized demographic data about the customers checking in and allow the businesses to offer special deals to Facebook users. One big problem there is is that the demographic data isn’t simply a guide to the type of people visiting a business, but rather only covers the type of people who want to use Wi-Fi, are on Facebook, and are prepared to check in, which may be a very different demographic to the average user.
The business will of course also get the benefit — whatever it’s worth — of the customer’s Facebook friends reading the riveting news of the check-in. In turn, Facebook hopes that businesses having more details about their Facebook-using customers will encourage them to pay for targeted ads.
To use the system, a business must buy a Cisco router with the relevant tech built-in. If a customer checks in, they’ll get access straight away. However, the business has the option to also make Wi-Fi available to non-Facebook users who type in a passcode provided by the business, for example after making a purchase in a coffee shop.
According to Facebook, an initial trial in California saw participating businesses get three times their usual level of check-ins from Facebook users. Of course, that may not have been a particularly high number.
Facebook insists that once the customer’s Facebook details are checked for the log-in, it has no access whatsoever to the customer’s Wi-Fi connection or their browsing activity.
(Image credit: Facebook)