December 16, 2015

Facebook Makes A Local Search Move, Again, Challenging Yelp and Google

The first page of Facebook “Professional Services.”  Image snipped from Facebook. 

By Megan G.

Facebook has released a desktop-only feature to their website that allows users to search for the highest-rated businesses in a certain area.  The site has been dubbed “Facebook Professional Services” and, while the feature might not get any points for originality with that name, it could achieve massive sway in the arena of local marketing. 

Image from 
With 50 million business pages on Facebook containing customer reviews and a focus on local, this feature could have those Googlers and Yelpers collectively crying out:  “Ay Carumba!”

This is not the first of Facebook’s attempts to reel in small business search traffic from competitors like Yelp and Google.  The company has had its sights set on the search industry since October, which you can read about in our post Tech Tango: Google Takes on Mobile, Facebook Takes On Search

Let’s dive into what makes this feature such a shakeup (or not) for competitors of the tech industry.

Facebook Speaks Softly for a Social Experience

First of all, it should be known that Facebook is not advertising this new product.  While the company has been traditionally forthright about their company updates, it has not yet officially announced this feature.  Professional Services was first discovered and calmly blogged about by Sreedev Sharma of Acodez, and then the story subsequently blew up when reported by Search Engine Land. 

The folks at Business Insider actually contacted a Facebook spokesperson who revealed that the network is currently “in the early stages of testing a way for people to easily find more pages for the services they’re interested in.”

Here’s a snip of what searching Professional Services looks like.
What we can gather now is that Facebook is not cornering the search market as much as the industry of small business and local marketing—and I would venture to say this throws a punch at Yelp even more so than Google.  Facebook speaks softly and carries a big stick, making Teddy Roosevelt proud. 

Bully!  Image from Serve To Lead.

What does everyone go to Yelp for?  Images.  Our coworker tells us about a new pizza joint and we immediately want to see photos of cheesy masterpieces flooding our screen.  Usually, we Yelp for that stuff.  But Facebook has the photo albums and user tagging chops to totally crush that aspect of online search. 

Tagging in photos especially could be a huge advantage that Facebook offers.  It sort of falls in line with Instagram “foodstagrams,” where users often tag the restaurant where they are eating and the people with them in the photo.  Not only does tagging, or “checking in,”  give the restaurant reach to your follower base, it also potentially reaches the followers of those friends you tag.  

Imagine that feature on Facebook—my mind’s eye says it will work like a charm.

Think about it, Yelp is cool for looking up photos and funny one-star reviews, but how many of your friends connect with you through Yelp?  Facebook adds a bigger dose of ‘social’ than Yelp or Google does.  

Location, Location, Location

Small business advertisers are clamoring for “true” location-based ads according to Street Fight Magazine.  Often, publishers “dress up” the ads to make them appear more location-specific when actually they’re not.   Facebook’s Professional Services acts as the direct answer to that concern by providing an entirely location-based service on a highly popular social media platform. 

Yes, Google My Business and Yelp both offer that same exact service, as well.  However, it is projected that in the coming year small business owners will gravitate more towards social networks because so many of those platforms are working tirelessly to become more accessible to every user—Facebook, especially. 

According to COO Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook is also arguably the strongest mobile force for SMBs, which we all know is a crucial marketing stage in this age of smartphones, tablets, and wearable tech.  Facebook has boasted a successful mobile app far longer than Google Now, On Tap or otherwise.  Mobile apps are also the key to location-based marketing.  Facebook could start adding beacon alerts and rewards to customers passing by a favorite, local shop!
Most people have a comfortable relationship with Facebook on mobile, so it’s a little curious that this feature “local search test” was released on desktop only.  Maybe this is similar to a ‘beta on PC, full game on consoles’ kind of mentality, and we’ll see the full version blossom on all the screens.   

ALL THE SCREENS. Image from Meme Generator.

Google:  What Have They Got That I Ain’t Got? 

Not much, actually.  At least not yet!  
Image from The Tim Harris Website.

Let’s not be hasty.  As we all know, Google is the monolithic emperor of online search no matter how many divisions it has in its Alphabet soup.  On mobile or desktop, the tech giant is sure to remain a huge part of our lives for a long time coming. 

After all, despite the Facebook app’s presence on my own smartphone, I still go to Google for all the answers.  Once people start saying, “Hey, that new pizza place looks cool.  Let’s Facebook it,” then Google and Yelp may have to worry. 

Have you checked out the new search feature on Facebook?  What are your thoughts, as a user or a small business owner?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments!

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