Could The New Facebook Nearby Feature Become A Game Changer For Local Search?

facebook nearby

Facebook recently announced Nearby, a new local business discovery feature for IOS and Android that challenges Foursquare and Yelp. The new app makes it easier to discover everything from restaurants to shopping based on the Likes, recommendations and check-ins from your personal network and others. Given that each month 250 million Facebook users tag posts with a specific location, it was only a matter of time before Facebook strategically consolidated this valuable data to their advantage.
Facebook NearbyWhen you open Nearby in your navigation menu on Facebook, you will see a list of local business and landmarks sorted by relevancy (what Facebook thinks you’ll be interested in). In this case, I’m assuming that Facebook is using a similar algorithm to how they rank stories in your newsfeed.  Some of these signals may include friends who have interacted with that particular place by recommending, commenting, rating or checking-in. As you can see in the image to the left, when I searched for restaurants in my current area, Facebook decided to show me a couple places that some of my friends have Liked.
Also included in Nearby is the option to search for a specific place or browse through its 7 different categories including Coffee, Nightlife and Arts. They even break some of the categories down into sub-categories. For instance, the category Arts breaks down into: Art Gallery, Movie Theatre, Museum and Music Venues.
When you click on the place you want, you will see one of two things. The first is a map with its location and your current distance away from it. The second is bunch of information including ratings, Likes, visits, check-ins from friends, recommendations, contact info and the option to click through to their Facebook Timeline.

Is Nearby Worth  My Time?

Yes. I think that Facebook Nearby is a very powerful tool that will become extremely popular. In essence, Facebook is replicating exactly what Google is doing with Google+ with the personalization of results. When you search for something on Google while signed into your Google+ account, you will get personalized/relevant results based on the data from your Google+ network.  The same goes for when a search is done on Facebook’s Nearby. There seems to be one big difference, though. I’m assuming that more of your friends have Facebook than Google+, thus giving Nearby the ability to deliver more relevant results given their larger network.

The Future Of Nearby

Moving forward, I bet Facebook will start flooding this space with advertising. I’m sure that they will start allowing businesses to pay for sponsored placements within the 1st and 2nd results similar to Google’s Adwords. If this is the case, it has the potential to drive a ton of traffic and sales for businesses.  Facebook should also consider showing us hyper-local ads that recommend places that are within a half mile radius of where you just checked-in.  This ad can show up in our news feed and when clicked, can link us to that particular places mobile website. I’m sure the ROI for that businesses ad would be pretty killer.
This only strengthens the reason why local business should have a Facebook page. I think that everybody should keep a serious eye on Nearby’s advancements as it could become a potential game-changer. I already spend so much time on Facebook (and so do you, lets be honest) that what’s an extra minute or two searching for a local business? Personally, I’d rather not open up another app like Foursquare if I can do everything in one fell swoop – especially if most of my friends are already here in the first place.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s new Nearby feature? Will it be able to compete in local search? Spill your guts.

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