Facebook and Cisco are Trading Wi-Fi for Check-Ins

I hate Facebook. I love free Wi-Fi.

I don’t want to check in on Facebook wherever I go, but I need Internet access.

Facebook is bringing Wi-Fi to users as long as they check-in on their mobile devices first. With all of this information, Facebook and Cisco will be able to paint a better picture of consumer shopping habits and serve more relevant ads to users.

This tends to be a marketer’s dream come true and a conspiracy theorist’s worst nightmare.

Cisco announced the main benefits of this program yesterday, which was strategically planned as businesses are bracing for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season.

shutterstock_41845789At its roots, this is an incentive program for shoppers to check-in. Brands see an increase in check-ins, which translates to brand exposure in the form of Facebook posts on user News Feeds, with minimal effort on their part.

Next, when Facebook users check-in to a location, the brand can immediately offer a coupon, suggest a product, or prompt a page like. They may have just wandered into Macy’s to use the free Wi-Fi, but a coupon or shoe sale ad might prompt them to look around a little more.

More importantly, this is an opportunity to harvest information about the gender, age, and interests of shoppers. This information will be used to target them with personalized ads.

This partnership has the potential to increase ROI for brands that invest in Facebook ads and sponsored stories. If the ads are more customized to the individual’s desires then they’re more likely to interact with them than if the ads are based just off of demographic information.

For example, if a woman checks into Victoria’s Secret, she’s increasingly more inclined to like the brand page or click on targeted ads. Victoria’s Secret starts to see the payoff as more people interact with their sponsored posts – more social engagement, higher click-through rates – and thus increases their quarterly budget for Facebook ads. Facebook users win by not seeing irrelevant ads, and brands win when their message is in front of active brand advocates.

shutterstock_149327369Embracing free Wi-Fi opens the door for showrooming. The practice has become a plague upon stores – particularly in the tech fields where people do their research in the brick and mortar locations and then shop around for the best deal online. If users check-in at these locations, Facebook can show them ads and deals that would either bring them back to buy something or direct them to the company website.

Facebook is trying to make checking-in cool again. Checking-in to locations fell completely out of style before many users even started doing it. 74% of Americans were unfamiliar with the concept of checking-in as of 2012, and 25% of users gave up the practice in the course of a year. Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook are all trying to make it popular, and so far the best bet has been to offer Wi-Fi in exchange for check-in love.

Will you check-in for Wi-Fi?

About the author

Amanda Dodge