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1/31/2011
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Facebook Expands Places Deals To Europe

Social network users in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. can now get discounts by checking in at Starbucks, Mazda, and other partner businesses.

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Almost three months after unveiling the offering in the United States, Facebook Monday rolled out its Places Deals program to social media users in the United Kingdom and several other parts of Europe.

Places Deals, which debuted in the United States in November 2010, provides discounts and deals to Facebook accountholders who give information about their location to Facebook and participating businesses. Eventually, the service is expected to become available worldwide; Facebook currently offers the program in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States and Canada.

"The wisdom of friends has taken over from the wisdom of crowds, through a highly personal experience in the real world, and Facebook local enables users to take that Facebook identity out and about with them as they experience the real world -- likewise using that to inform that Facebook identity," said Emily White, Facebook's director of local, told the Guardian. "Places is the 'where' to 'what am I doing' and 'who am I with.' And it allows businesses to start joining the conversation."

Facebook's new Places Deals business partners include Starbucks, Argos, Alton Towers, O2, Debenhams, Benetton, and Mazda. Subscribers see a yellow icon next to participating companies' names. When users check in, they can see the deal and cash it in by showing their phone to the sales associate.

"We launched Places to let you share where you are with your friends and see who's nearby. Now with Deals, you also can see what offers are nearby and share those deals with your friends," said Jon Fougner, a principal on Facebook's product marketing team, writing in the company's blog when Facebook Deals first debuted in the U.S. "You'll see a few different types of Deals: individual deals for a discount, free merchandise or other reward; friend deals where you and your friends claim an offer together; loyalty deals for being a frequent visitor to a place; and charity deals where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when you check in."

In the latest geographic roll out, Starbucks, for example, is offering a free cup of coffee to anyone who checks in to Places Deals Monday, according to the company. Benetton will donate £2 or €2 to Architecture for Humanity for every person who checks in.

Mazda is giving users the chance to earn a 20% discount -- or more than £4,600 -- off its MX-5 sports car: To do so, car shoppers must check in at one of five of the automaker's dealerships in Glasgow, Twickenham, Manchester, Exeter, or Romford, U.K. Participating Facebook accountholders then must click on "claim the deal," and show the voucher to a sales representative to claim the discount, which is valid through March 7 at the five dealerships, according to Mazda.

Facebook does not take a percentage of the revenue, Joanna Shields, Facebook VP and managing director of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told the Wall Street Journal. Although the basic service is free to users, the company sells value-add services to businesses, she said.

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