Facebook just got a bit more magical. The social network has partnered with Walt Disney World to offer live event coverage, information and check-in features for the park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival, held at Epcot.
When park attendees open the Facebook mobile app, they will see a banner notification at the top of the News Feed. The page includes a map of the festival, special event information and sections for each of the 30 festival stands. The app shows menus and chef recipes, and allows guests to check in. Facebook users can also see which of their friends are at each location, akin to discovery and check-in app Foursquare.
The experience brings Disney’s traditional paper passports for navigating Epcot’s countries onto guests’ smartphones. While Disney has its own mobile app, this update is powered through Facebook and is accessible only to Facebook users. This week, Disney's Lucasfilm was the most featured partner in Facebook's launch of 360-degree videos on News Feed.
The social network has long been making experiences around places and live events more a part of Facebook’s offerings to its 1.49 billion monthly active users. In 2010, Facebook launched Places as a check-in feature. But the company disabled the setting one year later. The site has continued to experiment with location-based tests, most recently by launching Place Tips in January 2015.
“Place Tips was originally developed for use at places, and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Place Tips experience is just one example of the deeper, immersive Place Tips we’re developing for specialized events and other new applications too,” a Facebook representative said.
These banner notifications will occasionally appear on Facebook users' mobile app if they have their location tracking on and are near a place on the site’s system such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Disney World. The app will show users information from the business such as store hours and location, and then will show friends’ photos and posts from the location.
These features mimic the mobile app Foursquare, which provides tips and allows users to see where their friends are. Foursquare also partners with local businesses to present ads. Facebook has continued to expand on its small-business services as well. This month, the site released design changes and new features for Facebook Pages.
Live events have also been a new test market for Facebook. For its first major use of Place Tips, Facebook created a feed for the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. The page included posts from the official Facebook page, the schedule of artists and public photos from fans. User-submitted content based on live events has been a focus for the popular disappearing-photo and -video app Snapchat. The company curates submissions for Live Stories and has created them for Lollapalooza, the GOP debates and other events worldwide.
Facebook’s latest test shows content and check-ins only of friends of participating Facebook users. The other information was created in partnership with Walt Disney World. The feature will be live from Sept. 25 to the end of the festival Nov. 16. This year's International Food & Wine Festival marks the event’s 20th anniversary.