A couple of months after launching the location-based service called Places, Facebook has made the mobile application available to major merchants and thousands of small and mid-sized businesses in the United States.  The service called Facebook Deals, which is now available, is designed to connect users of Facebook Places to deals and specials from the likes of 24 Hour Fitness, Gap and Palms Casino Resort  etc. The deals are delivered directly to your iPhone, iPod Touch and Smartphones.  Deals is available as part of a new update in Facebook’s iPhone application or for Smartphone users via the site http://touch.facebook.com.  “Millions of people are living their lives (through Places), and merchants wanted to get involved,” says Emily White, director of local at Facebook.  She declined to say how many of Facebook’s 200 million active mobile users are on Places.

Facebook Deals is really an extension of Places.  Facebook Places lets Smartphone owners with Facebook accounts share their exact location and find the whereabouts of their friends.  Only this time, with Deals they will be notified of discounts and deals at selected merchants near them.  Facebook Deals not only boosts the company’s big presence on mobile devices, it is very significant for marketers, retailers and local businesses.  “Generally, I think people will respond positively to it,” says Sterling who is an independent analyst who closely follows Facebook.  “Coupons have become one of the most desirable forms of mobile advertising from a consumer perspective.”  Millions of Smartphone owners are using Places, Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and others to shop, communicate, socialize and play games. Such services are vying for a slice of revenue for mobile advertising, which is expected to boom in the U.S. to $3.1 billion in 2013 from $320 million in 2009, according to market researcher BIA/Kelsey.  Still, some Facebook members may be uneasy about their privacy with the launch of Deals — as they have been with previous new Facebook features, Sterling says.

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