As we near the end of 2017, localised content continues to be paramount for the world’s search and social media giants.
Facebook is the latest in the pack to revise its local offering, relaunching its failed standalone Events app and renaming it Facebook Local, bringing it a step closer to Google’s local offering and other local business listings and reviews apps such as Yelp and Foursquare.
The original Facebook Events app (which launched just over a year ago) was a resounding flop and never made it above #139 on the social networking app charts while SensorTower estimates it only received 100,000 downloads. It simply didn’t work as a standalone app and became a bit redundant, with Facebook users preferring to use the ‘Event’s tab within the core Facebook app. It was potentially useful for accessing event invites more easily, but beyond that it served little purpose.
The re-branded Facebook Local app offers a lot more functionality, combining events and permanent places to a single search engine powered by Facebook’s 70 million business pages, along with reviews and friends’ check-ins. So much like Tripadvisor, uses can search for local bars and restaurants in their area, for example, read reviews from trusted friends, and decide where to go. Calendar invites are still accessible, with RSVPs, as they were before, and users can also import the calendar from their phone so that everything in the same place.
“The new app, Facebook Local, helps you easily find what to do, where to go, where to eat, or what you need — all recommended by the people you know and trust,” says product manager Aditya Koolwal.
Inside the main Facebook app, the Nearby feature that’s buried within the More tab is also being rebranded as ‘Local’, but will remain separate from Facebook Events.
Techcrunch also predicts that “the Facebook Local app could one day be a good home for Facebook’s Nearby Friends, which shows real-time locations of your friends similar to Snapchat’s Snap Map”.
What remains to be seen is whether uses will find the Local app appealing enough to download it in addition to the main Facebook app. One obvious benefit is ease of use – the Facebook app is so full of features that it might be simpler and more desirable to have local business listings and reviews available separately, making it a strong potential alternative to competing offerings.
How small businesses could prepare to use Facebook Local
The app is designed to help users pick where to go, for a coffee, a meal, a night out, etc, and will also show where ‘friends’ go. There’s a Trending Events feed, guides to music, nightlife, art, and other happenings, and options to see everything going on certain days. A Discover feed shows top suggestions and what’s popular with friends. Moving forward, we see potential for Facebook Local to become an environment reminiscent of Pokémon GO without the game functionality, but where businesses can ‘lure’ nearby individuals to stop by and maybe join some friends, in exchange for a tempting offer that expires within the hour for example, such as a free pastry with every hot drink, or a 10% off code.
Off the back of this launch, Facebook is likely to be further refining the search functionality for both its main app and Local, and this is certainly something that small businesses could benefit from. For example, if customers have the ability to search specifically for the best hot chocolate within a local vicinity, this could be an easy benefit for independent cafes.
Currently Facebook Local is ad-free, but this is likely to change further down the line, and is certainly something for businesses to keep watch for. Techcrunch speculates that, “if Facebook actually promotes the Facebook Local app, it could become a legitimate alternative to Yelp or Foursquare, using both Facebook’s wide range of local business data with your social graph and user generated content like photos and reviews. That in turn could convince businesses to invest more in their Facebook Pages, turn all their offline happenings into Facebook Events, and seek more social content from their customers.”
The combining of calendar and event listings also opens up additional interesting opportunities for businesses, and moving forward, should Facebook decide to make the app transactional, it could be a great place for ticket sales or advance reservations, etc.
With local content being so high up on the business agenda as we close 2017 and get ready to enter 2018, this latest offering by Facebook has great potential, if it is able to make Local fly as a standalone app.