Facebook to Offer Online Group Discounts

Facebook is prepping a localized, group-sharing discount service as an extension of its Deals program that currently allows businesses to offer special prices to users.

The online discount program is slated to be rolled out in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta and Austin and will involve Facebook’s staff working with local firms to promote deals and then to encourage Facebook members to share them with friends.

“We will test a new feature for our Deals product that allows people to buy deals on Facebook and share them with their friends. Local businesses will be able to sign up to use this feature soon and people will be able to find Deals in the coming weeks,” a Facebook spokesperson told InternetNews.

Facebook will be selling deals through their own sales team and working with 9 partners to aggregate deals on the site. These partners are Gilt City, Home Run, OpenTable, Pop Sugar City, Tippr, KGB Deals, Plum District, Reach Local and Zozi.

The move appears to be aimed at grabbing some of the nascent group online coupon market now being dominated by firms such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Groupon comprises 79 percent of U.S. visits to the group buying category, whereas No. 2 site LivingSocial only has an 8 percent share, according to December 2010 research compiled by Hitwise.

However Amazon recently invested $175 million in LivingSocial, showing that Facebook isn’t the only Internet firm interested in the market.

The expanded deals service also comes at a time when Facebook is experimenting with an online movie rental offering in conjunction with Warner Bros. in an effort to extend it’s revenue source beyond display ads.

The Batman movie “The Dark Knight” will be offered as an online movie rental on Facebook for $3, or 30 Facebook credits, which is the social utility’s virtual currency. Fans who click the “Like” button on the movie’s Facebook page have 48 hours to watch the film through their Facebook account, with Facebook getting a share of the revenue.

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