Facebook Enters the Arena of Proximity Marketing with Bluetooth Beacons

Facebook is leveraging Bluetooth beacons to test a new service to send information to users based on their locations. The information can be about shops, landmarks, etc. near the user’s location. The service, dubbed as Place Tips, can make a mark in terms of users’digital presence and will be driven by the rising penetration of smartphones that can continuously broadcast the user’s location. Moreover, with more than 1.3 billion members, Facebook really has the power to expand the usage of beacons which have so far found usage primarily in sending ads and promotions to users.

The testing of the Place Tips service will begin in New York City in the coming weeks. As part of the pilot program, beacons will be placed across 8 shops including the Strand Book Store, The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien hotel, Dominique Ansel Bakery and few more. The service will also work for popular landmarks such as Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. For landmark zones, which are large in terms of area, Facebook would use a mix of GPS signals, cellphone towers and WiFi signals instead of beacons.

Place Tips will send information to users about the highlighted locations, as derived from their Facebook pages. This information would be displayed on top of news feeds on the user’s smartphone interface. This service is currently free for businesses. Facebook might look to selling ads related to the broadcasted information. This could further increase the relevance of the ads. Facebook is on the path which diminishes the distinction between content and marketing. Facebook already follows the practice of merging ads into news feeds, thus blending in the ads ling with personal/social content.

If users see this as an invasion of their privacy, they can opt out of the service by turning off the location services on the Facebook app. Facebook’s involvement in this proximity marketing initiative can have a multiplier effect and the social media giant can really push beacons into the mainstream. Beacon makers like GeLo and Estimote are seeing this as a huge opportunity and will definitely look to the Facebook platform to promote the use of their beacons.