Facebook Wi-Fi: A Free Hotspot Second Coming?
FreeHotspots.com initiated CPR on the free Wi-Fi hotspots a year ago, a decade-old word-of-mouth ad revenue mode. More recently, Facebook and Cisco are attempting to breathe life into the free Wi-Fi hotspots revenue model. Both Facebook Wi-Fi and FreeHotspot.com give participating merchants the option of Like-gating their free Wi-Fi hotspots, but customers will also have the option (a very small link) to connect without ‘checking-in’ to Facebook. Pitched as a win-win for both merchants and customers, the viability of this ad revenue model remains to be seen.
Cisco’s Meraki Router is the router that’s making the spots hot. Cisco’s Presence Dashboard delivers to merchants, with no additional costs, real-time, 100% cloud-based, out-of-the-box analytics: engagement (in-store promotions); appeal (impact of display changes or new advertising on foot traffic); loyalty of visitors (are customers spending more time in a store).
According to InsideFacebook.com, the Facebook and Cisco team-up is a continuation of a beta test of a Wi-Fi router done with a few local area businesses. The true origins of this dynamic Wi-Fi duo can be traced back to a Seattle Facebook Hackathon. In Fact, Seattle-based Facebook engineering duo, Adrian Potra and Mohit Talwar, launched the project at the Facebook Hackathon held the night before Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) on May 18, 2012, according to Geekwire.com.
With Facebook Wi-Fi, Facebook and Cisco are betting that there is enough consumer demand: shopping mavens, foodies, club-goers, and posh social diners’ callouts to make Facebook Wi-Fi a long-term trending, if not everlasting, social-media-sphere. If their gamble pays off, this word-of-mouth marketing ad revenue engine would give Facebook a toehold in converting merchants into Facebook advertisers.
Does Facebook have a formulaic ‘lock’ on digital socialism? Are there enough social consumers willing to ‘check-in’ (serve-up their own anonymous aggregate demographic data) for free Internet access while out and about? Will Facebook Wi-Fi put food critics in the unemployment line? Only time will tell.