Facebook Inches Closer to Something That Looks Like Local Search
March 24, 2017 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
Yesterday TechCrunch wrote about the test of an “enhanced local search feature” on Facebook. It’s an expanded version of Nearby Places: e.g., “coffee nearby.” It’s difficult to tell precisely what’s new here. However TechCrunch says the following: it’s “a list of relevant businesses, along with their ratings on Facebook, a map, as well as which friends of yours have visited or like the places in question.”
My sense is much of that has been in place for awhile. However Facebook apparently confirmed that this was a test of something new.
Facebook has dabbled in local search and discovery for the past several years and has built out a number of features, tools and capabilities throughout the site. Most recently the site added new local discovery and booking/call to action capabilities.
Despite the opportunity in front of it, Facebook has never brought a coherent local search capability to market. Over the years, there have been several “entry points” into local results. For example, the PC site’s professional services search (above). Users can also do “name in mind” searches and get lots of information about an individual business, which people do quite routinely. But there still isn’t a very good category search tool.
In 2012, Facebook launched a mobile feature called “Nearby,” which subsequently became “Local Search” and later reverted to “Nearby Places.” Though potentially very useful, it’s buried and difficult to find in the mobile app unless you’re specifically looking for it.
Facebook has all the pieces, including a massive trove of reviews and its social graph, to create a very useful and powerful local search capability. It remains somewhat mysterious why it has never brought this to market. I suspect the company is taking its sweet time and will eventually become a full-blown competitor to Google, Yelp, YP and others in the segment.
I also hold the belief that to fully capitalize on the SMB opportunity the company needs to develop local search. I’ve had multiple direct conversations with people at Facebook, asking why they’ve been so slow in developing something along these lines. The answers are always evasive and unsatisfying.
What are your thoughts about whether and how soon (from now) Facebook will enter the market with something that looks more like a direct Yelp competitor?