Facebook just got into local search. Ba-boom.
Later today the company will update the Nearby feature in its iPhone and Android apps to enable users to find nearby local businesses by name or by category. Results will be ranked by ratings, recommendations, check-ins and Likes.
Below is the “just the facts” version of the story. My slightly more embellished version of the announcement is at Search Engine Land.
Only those businesses (large or small) that have a Facebook Page will be listed. Accordingly you can imagine this represents a powerful new incentive to create a Facebook Page. It also means that the data source will be businesses themselves rather than third party data vendors.
It’s only mobile (for now). And there are no ads planned for the immediate future, but you can imagine that will change in all probability over time.
We will soon speak of local Facebook ranking factors. And here’s what Facebook recommends on that front:
- Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
- Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
- Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place
Only people who’ve checked-in to a business can rate it, which makes review fraud or other attempts to manipulate reviews harder. Foursquare is doing something similar, focusing on behavior rather than opinion.
The central notion and differentiator vs other local search providers is that your network will be the filter and you’ll see places rated and Liked by your friends before the anonymous Facebook community. Yelp, Foursquare and Google do offer versions of this today.
Before today Nearby showed you who among your network had checked-in to local places. It will still show that activity but now also allow you to browse or conduct local searches to find restaurants, cafes, hotels and so on.
Nearby is currently a hard-to-find feature under the left-hand apps menu. I suspect that the Check-in tab in Facebook’s mobile apps will also become a doorway into local search pretty quickly as well.
Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for not being “utilitarian.” This new functionality is in fact highly utilitarian. However, I haven’t yet used the app so I don’t know how effective it is.
Facebook has always been a sleeping giant in local and it took a big first step with this new functionality in realizing some of that potential. This is just the beginning says Facebook. Indeed.
I’m curious about your thoughts and reactions to this . . . Will it have a major impact or will it be one of those splashy announcements that doesn’t really affect the competitive balance in the marketplace?