Facebook is in the beginning stages of testing a new interaction tool called Social WiFi. It seems that the new capabilities will allow businesses to increase their social visibility through check-ins at their WiFi hotspot. According to Facebook:
“Facebook Social WiFi is a wireless hotspot provider that integrates social media marketing, branding, and direct marketing into a WiFi platform to help hospitality and service-based businesses organically increase their visibility, sales, and customer engagement.”
Facebook Social WiFi Discovery
This research and testing was not initially announced by the social media network. Facebook Social WiFi came to light after a young Scottish developer, Tom Waddington, noticed an interesting piece of code:
“In the code used to build the graphs and charts for page insights, there’s a list of all of the possible sources for new Likes. Adverts, Like Buttons, Like Boxes, search results, and the pages wizard top the list.
However, there’s a new entry – social_wifi. It’s (so far), the only reference I can find for it, so it’s tough to work out exactly how the feature might work.
The explanation for the graph tooltip currently reads “People who liked your Page after checking in via Facebook WiFi.”.
I’d suggest that page owners of local businesses would be able to associate their public WiFi hotspots with their Facebook page. Then, a callout on the Facebook homepage could suggest WiFi users become a fan of that page.
It’s possible Facebook could be developing a Like-gated free WiFi product – similar to HotSpotSystem. However, I think forcing new connections just to use some WiFi isn’t going to make for useful social data.
The Facebook Social WiFi product is defiantly under development – the description was changed in the last week – so, hopefully, we’ll hear more about it.
I’m excited to see something to encourage more businesses to make use of their hotspots. After all, what are you meant to do in a coffee shop other than check Facebook? :)”
Facebook Social WiFi Conformation
Mr Waddington was proven correct in his assessment, when InsideFacebook.com was able to get this conformation statement from Facebook:
“We are currently running a small test with a few local businesses of a WiFi router that is designed to offer a quick and easy way to access free WiFi after checking in on Facebook. When you access Facebook Social WiFi by checking in, you are directed to your local business’s Facebook Page.”
InsideFacebook.com goes on to explain:
“Waddington correctly speculated whether Facebook was testing Like-gated free Wi-Fi, though he also wondered if this was part of a bigger effort where page owners of local businesses would be able to associate their Wi-Fi hotspots with their Facebook page. Then, a prompt on the Facebook homepage might suggest Wi-Fi users become a fan of the page. This could be an interesting ad type in the future, but it doesn’t seem to be what Facebook is testing now.
It’s important to note that Facebook Wi-Fi is a limited test that is not necessarily going to be rolled out wider any time soon. We’ve heard that this began as a hackathon project.”
Facebook Social WiFi: The Big Picture
Facebook is grappling with its new found position as a public company in need of new ways to increase revenue generation from its massive base of over 1 Billion users. By joining forces with local business and brands, the capability of Facebook Social WiFi to increase user social interaction could offer great opportunities for new advertising revenues.