Facebook Gets into Local Search with ‘Nearby’

Facebook nearbyFacebook 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

Facebook Nearby

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?

You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed.

16 Responses to “Facebook Gets into Local Search with ‘Nearby’”

  1. David Mihm says at

    Big, big deal, for sure.  However, just HOW big depends largely on how much Facebook pushes this feature on both desktop and in-app experience.  I wonder if the Google Maps release on Friday delayed or hastened this announcement…

  2. Greg says at

    Think there’s no relationship between Google Maps and this announcement really. No PC version of this for the immediate future. Right now it’s kind of buried on mobile unless they put the new experience behind the Check-in tab. 

  3. David Mihm says at

    I have only been able to see screenshots so far; not showing as an update in my Apple Store just yet.

  4. Greg says at

    Me too. I only have seen the screens and talked to them. Haven’t actually used the app/capability, which makes all the difference. 

  5. David Deering says at

    As David said, it could be big, but it will depend on how much Facebook pushes this.  At least they’re beginning to understand how important local search is and the potential within it for them.

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Everything is contingent on execution and commitment over the long term. If this is an experiment it may be destined to fail. But if they’re really interested in the space it’s a huge opportunity for them to created a local marketplace. They’re also in a stronger position than Google was/is in some respects.

  7. David Deering says at

    I agree, Greg.  If they are really committed to it, they can definitely make it work and use it to create another powerful source of revenue.  They certainly have the user base already.

  8. Greg Sterling says at

    They quickly got out of daily deals, which now looks smart in retrospect. I still think they could’ve done something interesting in that space. We’ll see how long their attention span is with this.

  9. David Mihm says at

    Daily Deals was always a terrible business model, though. I think they just got caught up in the frenzy like everyone else.  Local Discovery => Social Loyalty is an AMAZING business model.  I think they’ll be in this one for much longer.

  10. Greg says at

    Yes, daily deals is not a great business model. However, coupons and voucher remain popular and Facebook can still do something very interesting there. The local search business is proven but requires a long-term commitment.

  11. Shiri says at

    I’ve checked it on my Sumsung SII – it is already working in the Israeli version, in Hebrew

  12. Shiri says at

    …and about your question – the tool itself is very user friendly and inviting. I would definitely use it. If Facebook wants to push SMBs into their platform, this is a very effective way to do so. Is it important for them to do it? We don’t know yet. I can tell you that – we’re working on a social maintenance tool for SMBs, here at Amdocs, and ‘Nearby’ would make the sale to SMBs much easier.

  13. Greg says at

    One of the objectives of this initiative is to get more SMBs to create Pages. This is a huge incentive to do so if it is used. I think Nearby is going to make the whole conversation around “social media” quite different for SMBs. 

  14. Mark says at

    I’ve been using Nearby on my Android… it’s going to be big (imo)

  15. Greg says at

    I now have it on one of my Android phones and I agree. Nearby will have a potentially significant impact. It could become a leading product for Facebook.

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     Right now it’s kind of buried on mobile unless they put the new experience behind the Check-in tab. 

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