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Posted at 7:48 AM ET, 11/24/2010

Yelp introduces check-in offers, following Foursquare and Facebook's leads

By Rob Pegoraro

It used to be that Yelp users had little motivation to use the rating site's smartphone applications to check into hotels, save for the opportunity to use fictitious titles of nobility when doing so. Now, however, they might get something for free in the bargain.

Tuesday, the San Francisco-based company upgraded its check-in feature--which had previously only offered users the chance to become the "duke" or "duchess" of an establishment by logging enough visits--to allow merchants to offer discounts or freebies to Yelpers who announce their patronage through its apps.

yelp_logo.jpg

For now, only Yelp's Android app supports this feature, courtesy of an update pushed out around 6 p.m. Tuesday. An iPhone update awaits approval from Apple; company representatives said Monday that its BlackBerry app would get this feature as well, while other versions would have to wait.

Yelp is adopting this concept later than competing sites. Foursquare has allowed merchants to post specials for frequent customers since its March 2009 debut, while Facebook launched its Deals feature earlier this month.

Yelp falls between those two sites in popularity. It counts 38 million visitors a month (2.6 million on its mobile apps) compared to Foursquare's 4.5 million users or Facebook's 500 million users (200 million mobile).

To see if Yelp's mid-sized audience would persuade any nearby proprietors to offer discounts, I did a quick test on my way home from the office. I launched the newly-updated Android program, tapped its "Check-Ins" button and then tapped its Check-Ins screen's "Check-In" button (you need to sign into the app to do this). In a long list of local establishments, a blue bar highlighted one offer: a free beer from a bar two blocks from my office, which I could claim by showing the app's offer page to a bartender.

Naturally, last night I was already running late for dinner. So I still have yet to get anything for free in return for all of the time I've put in on various check-in services.

Have you had better luck? If so, please check into our comments and tell me about what offers you've seen and claimed--on Yelp, in Facebook, over Foursquare or at any other social-media site. Which of these companies, if any, would you prefer to run a check-in service?

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 24, 2010; 7:48 AM ET
Categories:  Location awareness, Social media  
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