Look out Foursquare - Facebook has just announced Facebook Deals, which will allow you to get discounts and restaurants and shops you "check in" to using the Facebook mobile app.
Hitting Places will bring up a list of retailers near your GPS location. Those with deals will show a 'golden ticket'. By checking in and claiming a deal at a partner retailer, this action is published in your news feed, offering what Facebook is calling 'word of mouth at scale' for the relevant brand. There are three types of deals - Loyalty deals, Friend deals and Charity Deals. Loyalty deals will offer you gifts or discounts after a number of check-ins, rather like Foursquare's deals for the 'mayors' of its participating places, while Friend Deals allow you to check in and claim a gift for you and any friends that are with you. We had a quick go on some dummy deals set up on sample iPhones and all you need to do is check in and show the resulting screen to the cashier. You can also tag friends to share the deal with them, which will then show up on their news feed for more of that word of mouth action.
Meanwhile, charity deals cater for the couch philantropher in some of us, with partners like Argos and Benetton donating money to charity funds for every check-in.
A few of the launch deals are: Today in the UK, all Starbucks branches are offering a free tall filter coffee for the first 30,000 people to check in. Another UK partner is Yo! Sushi, who is offering the first 1000 diners to get free food and drink for them and a friend. Alton Towers is offering free entry for anyone who checks in on Feb 18, along with up to three friends' free entry too. The first 100 people will get a free night's stay at one of its Resort hotels.
Interestingly, this feature is available only on the iPhone and Android Facebook apps. BlackBerry users will have to go via the mobile version of the website, along with the rest of the Symbian and feature-phone users.
Facebook would not confirm the number of people currently using the Places feature but if participating retailers actually offer compelling deals, it could seriously skyrocket - and of course, take over competitor Foursquare whose similar offering hasn't quite taken off.
200 million people currently use Facebook's mobile app to access the social network. Facebook Deals launches in UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy today.