How do Facebook's deals stack up?
Facebook Deals is emphasizing offers that allow friends to do fun things together. But are they better than more-established deal sites?
As if Groupon didn't have enough competition to deal with, it just got a competitor with a built-in user base of 500 million people: Facebook.
While the social network had previously stuck a toe in the deal water through its Facebook Places feature (meant as a competitor to Foursquare), the launch of Facebook Deals represents a full-blown cannonball into the deep end, with the company offering special limited-time offers in five urban markets: San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta, Austin and Dallas.
Facebook is touting the social aspects of its service as setting it apart from the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial, saying that group-based deals like whitewater rafting will be king and that users can easily share news of the deals they've purchased. Still, the service will sink or swim on the strength of its deals, so we took a look at what deals Facebook offered on Day One.
First, it's clear that there is indeed a focus on more socially oriented deals. In Atlanta, for instance, five of the nine deals are expressly for two or more people, and the rest are for group activities like horseback riding lessons. Post continues after video.
Compare the deals
The actual discounts your group will get, though, are a mixed bag. There's a deal for $100 off an "extravagant birthday party for four kids," which seems like a great deal until you realize that it's originally priced at $799; while the cupcake bar and personalized bathrobes certainly sound fun, you're still talking about spending $700 on a children's birthday that only three friends can attend.
On the other hand, there are some lower-priced deals of the sort made popular by Groupon, like $20 worth of barbecue for just $8.
Meanwhile, the Dallas section of the site has slightly better discounts: All but two of the nine deals featured there give you 50% or more off your purchase. Compare that with Groupon Dallas, where you can get more than 50% off carpet cleaning services and pizza, as well as 60% off soccer tickets; and LivingSocial Dallas, where you can get an almost identical deal on carpet cleaning as well as deals on food and magazine subscriptions.
Some deals definitely don't stack up to those available on Groupon and LivingSocial, but in general Facebook's deals are hanging in there with the established heavyweights. And it does seem that Facebook's social emphasis could indeed put it over the edge.
In discussing the new service, Emily White, director of local for Facebook, said there would be no "teeth whitening" deals -- a thinly veiled shot at Groupon, which seems to feature a deal on dental services every day.
And indeed, the Groupon pages for each of the five Facebook launch markets do indeed feature either teeth whitening or some sort of cosmetic treatment like laser hair removal. Even LivingSocial has such nonsocial deals as carpet cleaning and home décor. By contrast, every deal for Facebook's new service is for something that looks like it would be fun to do with friends.
That's not to say that Facebook's model is superior. After all, if nobody were buying teeth whitening Groupons, Groupon wouldn't keep featuring them. But the focus on social deals suggests that Facebook is sticking to what it knows best, which can only bode well for the service.
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