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How Facebook Could Put Your Event's WiFi Within Reach

By / May 14, 2013 (Facebook screenshot)

Facebook is in the midst of launching a new wireless product with perks for both the social network and businesses at large. Could it be just the thing to make your event’s WiFi a little less of a burden?

With WiFi becoming one of the top demands of many conference attendees—while simultaneously complicating things for associations holding events (just check the comments on that link)—something has to give.

If Facebook can jump in and provide a way around the whole mess, I personally could see sacrificing a bit of my privacy to the big data gods to solve the problem of no WiFi.

Fortunately, Facebook seems to have a solution in the can that could prove just the tool to get people connected to your event’s WiFi and to provide benefits to venues. More details:

The concept: Last week, Cisco affiliate Meraki, which produces a number of cloud-enabled wireless devices, announced some new features for its networking products, including real-time location analytics and the ability to allow users to log into WiFi using Facebook. “With this integration, you will have access to Facebook page insights, which includes aggregate demographic information of the customers checking in (furthering your understanding of who your target customers or visitors are),” the company states. The concept, which Facebook has been testing since last year, is currently seeing wider release.

The perks: So why provide access to WiFi via Facebook, rather than directly? Simple—the product can help connect people to a Facebook page via the social network’s check-in system, which could help boost online engagement while people are in a specific physical place, such as a coffee shop or a meeting venue. (The check-in is optional, by the way, and Meraki emphasizes that privacy concerns would be considered.) The system also includes in-depth analytics, which could help you better understand factors such as foot traffic and engagement. “For example, a retailer can use this information to gauge how traffic drivers such as in-store promotions, window display changes, or new advertising impact foot traffic to your retail locations, and whether customers are spending more time in your store,” Meraki’s Emily Sporl explains. “If you correlate these data with revenue data, you can notice if any upticks in sales coincide with actions you’ve taken to enhance customer experience.” This approach, if it takes off, could also help Facebook, which has been trying to strengthen its foothold in the local advertising market.

Conference benefits? In a piece on the new Facebook feature, MMG’s Maggie McGary, a longtime association pro, shared a few ideas on the benefits of the setup for associations and conferences—notable because McGary is an admitted critic of Facebook. “Venues get away with charging a fortune [for WiFi] and conference planners are left grappling with finding sponsors to support what their own budgets can’t or dealing with attendees voicing their disapproval about the lack of WiFi onsite, via the conference’s social media channels and in their post-event survey comments,” she notes in a blog post. “If Facebook can jump in and provide a way around the whole mess, I personally could see sacrificing a bit of my privacy to the big data gods to solve the problem of no WiFi.”

Would you connect your event’s WiFi directly to Facebook like this? Leave us your thoughts below.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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