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Nov 13, 2007

What Facebook Beacon means to you

While I believe in the value of Facebook as an engine for retailers to push their wares to buyers in new and novel ways, I'm not a member of the FB Hype Machine and I'm approaching this post in as neutral a light as possible.

Because as someone writing about CSE trends and news, I think it's my responsibility to summarize what exactly Facebook Beacon is and how you as a retailer or CSE operator should approach it.

Facebook Beacon: WTH?
Beacon is a system that connects Facebook with outside sites and allows users to share information back to their friends in Facebook about what they did on those sites.

Outside sites decide the most relevant information / actions that their users share back to their networks on Facebook.  Examples include "posting an item for sale, completing a purchase, scoring a high score in an online game or viewing of video." And all this information is voluntary -- each user gets a prompt asking if they want to share what they've done on the third-party site -- but is also used to hone advertising to that user back on the Facebook platform.

So what's the end result?  Your business is promoted in an organic way via someone's social network.  Within Facebook's News Feed, mini-stories are displayed about what your friends did at certain sites. 

It's essentially a way to integrate with Facebook without actually integrating -- in other words, it's a way to get involved on the site without actually building an app for the site.

So what's the point?
I continue to believe that Facebook (and now Google's OpenSocial efforts) is an essential new touchpoint for online retailers and providers, and should be approached as a new marketing channel.  While standards continue to emerge and technologies change, retailers can take advantage of this channel without spending a lot of cash.  It takes some ingenuity and time to be successful in this environment but shouldn't be overlooked.

To-dos
If you agree with me, here are some things you might do:

  • Sign up to be a Facebook Beacon partner.  There are already 44 participants -- including eBay, Fandango, Pronto, Travelocity, Overstock, Zappos, Yelp, Blockbuster, Bluefly, The Knot and more.  While the focus right now seems to be on large retailers / properties, it's worth exploring what you'll need to do to get involved.  If you're a large retailer, this is a no-brainer.  And if you're a CSE / social shopping site, this is a no-brainer, as well -- TheFind, ThisNext, Shop.com, Shopzilla, Kaboodle and more seem like good matches to me.
  • Talk with participating CSEs / marketplaces to offer more granular stories.  If you're a retailer but not of the scope of Zappos or Bluefly, you should be talking to eBay / Overstock / Shopping.com / Pronto to request that your store be mentioned in any feed item pushed back to Facebook. 
  • Keep learning and reading.  I recommend reading  Facebook's Blog, researching the Business Solutions page and diving into the Developers site.

Written by Scott Hurff -- scott.hurff at channeladvisorrr

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