Facebook recently released Paper, a new “stand-alone” app that does many of the same things as the flagship Facebook app but in a more visually appealing way. The company has said that it will be producing more such stand-alone apps in the future.
Other current stand-alone Facebook apps include Messenger, Instagram and the ill-fated Home. In addition, on the recent Facebook earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the company would be rolling out Graph Search in mobile (it has now started) and ultimately competing against Google in search.
All this has me thinking about whether Facebook will release a local search app. Its current “Nearby” functionality is buried within the main Facebook app — the name was changed to “local search” and then back to Nearby. Regardless of what it’s called, the experience is quite weak and hidden in the “left menu.”
The potential is huge however.
First, Facebook would need to acquire or implement a local database (at one point it was licensing Localeze data). That would be relatively simple. Cleaning up the data and ensuring its accuracy wouldn’t be as simple; but all the business locations already in Facebook would be a big help in that process.
Facebook could then combine local search and discovery with Q&A. A local app (Nearby) could incorporate the ability to query one’s network for recommendations. Indeed, a local database with reviews and social recommendations would be complemented by quasi-real time Q&A capabilities.
By separating out local from the main Facebook app the company could really build a strong consumer experience with features that were specifically about places. It could also add content and features that would make it broader than a pure local services directory (e.g., events, travel) and potentially unique.
Creating such an app, or at least a better local discovery and search experience somewhere, is a key part of bringing more of Facebook’s 25 million SMBs into the advertiser fold. Accordingly, there are several reasons for the company to do something like what I’m suggesting. However I’m not sure it will.
If Facebook really committed (that’s the key) to building such an experience it could be competitive with Google and Yelp within a year I believe.
What do you think about the following questions:
- Whether Facebook will or should build out a stand-alone local app
- Whether that’s important to attract more SMB advertisers