Facebook and Cisco have teamed up to offer shoppers across the country free access to Wi-Fi, just in time for the holiday season. The only hitch: You need to check in to the restaurant, hotel or retailer using Facebook to access it.
The Cisco and Facebook partnership is an extension of a pilot that the social network ran last year with 25 businesses in the San Francisco area. The pilot, called Facebook Wi-Fi, found that businesses tripled their daily check-in numbers by using the system.
The Cisco-Facebook partnership, called "Cisco Connected Mobile Experience with Facebook Wi-Fi" -- or "CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi" for short -- uses a merchant's existing router and broadband subscription in conjunction with the CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi software to create a special landing page for anyone trying to access the business' Wi-Fi.
[ Facebook indexes more than you think. Read Facebook Graph Search: 5 Privacy Settings To Check. ]
When you visit a merchant that offers CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, open your browser on your mobile device to begin the log-in process. You'll be directed to a "check in with Facebook" page, where, after logging into your Facebook account, you'll be given access to the store's Wi-Fi network. Once you've logged into Facebook, you'll be brought to the store's Facebook page where you can check in, "like" the store, or use and share promotional information with your Facebook friends.
Checking in to a store using CMX for Facebook Wi-Fiis similar to a regular Facebook check in: With the former, you can opt in to being automatically checked in when you return to a business where you've previously checked in. If you don't want to broadcast your whereabouts, you can make your check-in private by changing the privacy setting on the login page from "public" or "friends" to "private." This will prevent it from being shared in your friends' news feeds. Another option: Facebook says you can always just ask the business for a Wi-Fi password if you don't want to check in using the app.
In return for offering CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, merchants should receive increased brand recognition through posts shared on users' timelines and news feeds. According to Sujai Hajela, VP and general manager of Cisco's wireless networking business unit, this could lead to "millions of free impressions for the business with every visitor announcing to hundreds of their friends they are at a particular store, hotel or restaurant," he said in a blog post.
Facebook also sends merchants demographic data from people who use CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, which includes age, gender and geolocation details. Hajela said that merchants can use this information to improve their marketing campaigns by delivering targeted advertisements and promotional deals based on the real-time information received from consumers in the venue. This also makes it easier to reach customers through merchants' Facebook pages to deliver the latest news, services and promotional information, Hajela said.
"Wi-Fi is quickly becoming the most effective way for companies to connect with their customers on mobile devices in real time," Hajela said. "In conjunction with this trend, the Cisco Customer Experience Report 2013shows that consumers have come to expect free Wi-Fi on the go, and half of consumers use mobile phones when shopping to compare prices and to use promotions/coupons."
Cisco said that CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi is rolling out to major retail, hospitality and other venues before launching more broadly.