A new Facebook app currently in development promises to take the marriage of social media and business to the next level.
Facedeals is an app that uses facial recognition software to automatically check people into their favorite places on the popular social media site.
The app is an opt-in program developed by the Nashville based Redpepper Integrated marketing agency.
Though the app has not been rolled out yet, the creators hope to have it in Nashville locations for testing by the holidays.
“It is today's technology,” Redpepper CEO Tim McMullen said. “Whereas apps are kind of one touch away or a couple of clicks away, if you can make things more intuitive and intersect with people's lives as they are shopping and interacting out there in the retail space businesses have a better chance to grab them.”
Facebook users who choose to use the app upload pictures of themselves for the Facedeals database to use to recognize them at participating businesses.
When a participating user walks into a participating business the Facedeals camera scans their face.
If it recognizes the person, it automatically checks in the customer on Facebook. It will also send discounts and other promotions directly to the user's smartphone.
“When something is intuitive and knows what flavor Popsicle I like or what kind of popcorn I like, we appreciate that and this is the same thing at the restaurant and the retail level.” McMullen said.
Not everyone thinks the latest Facebook app is a positive thing.
Privacy advocates said it's too invasive and the gathered information could expose customers in unforeseen negative ways.
“We opt into a lot of things that collect and aggregate data about us,” Vanderbilt University Professor of Management Bruce Barry said. “The implications of aggregating all that data is not always apparent to us at the time it is collected”
McMullen points out that the app is optional. If a person does not participate, their picture is not stored in the Facedeals database.
He said similar concerns were raised when grocery stores started signing up customers for grocery saver cards.
“When the grocery store cards came out everyone was concerned with putting in all their information and now everyone is going to know exactly what kinds of food I eat,” he said. “The truth is we like marketing that is relevant to us; we don't like marketing that is irrelevant to us.”
He continued, “We have had conversations with Facebook to make sure our platforms follow all the security platform rules.”
Some business owners are not sure if the benefits are worth the risk of customer information being used in ways customers do not want.
“For me it's a little invasive,” owner of GoGo Sushi Greg James said. “If I'm walking into a place, I want to do it privately I don't necessarily need the world to know I am walking into a place.”
GoGo Sushi uses social networking sites to drive business. The business has more than 400 “Likes” on Facebook.
Customers can also check in on Facebook and Four Square. The eatery also has a Twitter and Instagram account.
“Friends will check in and friends will come meet each other [and] have a cocktail and sushi together,” James said.
The restaurant also rolled out a loyalty program that uses customers' mobile phone numbers to text special offers.
The program is designed to allow the restaurant to contact customers, but protect the customers' numbers from other marketers.
“We were very diligent in making sure our loyalty program didn't include any type of spam,” James said.
Facedeals is still in development. Redpepper is looking for more investors to help fund the completion of the app and testing.
If all goes well, the app could be in testing in Nashville and Atlanta later this year.