Facebook–the next big search engine?

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Adotas talks with Tom Lynch, VP of Agency Development, at Location3, about Facebook’s becoming the next big search engine and local marketing platform for franchise systems and multi-location businesses.

Q: With Facebook spending more efforts and money in implementing its search function, how do you think this will impact users?

A: Facebook has dabbled in local search in the past, as far back as five years ago, and ever since then they’ve been taking incremental steps forward. This not only benefits the local businesses who have Facebook Pages (and Places), but Facebook users. How? They are able to use the popular “near me” searches to find recommendations on restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and other local businesses in the area. For example, when I search for “happy hour nearby” in Facebook’s search bar, it returns a list of restaurants with happy hour specials in the area along with a map and the restaurant’s’ star rating on Facebook. That’s a very social search example done in a very social app of course, which highlights some of the limitations of Facebook as a local search engine. However with Facebook’s audience information, localizing search relevance for users creates a social network, news resource, planning tool, and a local search environment. That makes users lives easier.

Q: How will Facebook be able to compete with Google for market share?

A: With Facebook’s move into local search, the two companies have become real competitors.In most cases, people will turn to Google when conducting a search. This can be done through the Google homepage, Maps, the Chrome app, etc. But with Facebook’s move into local search, users don’t have to leave the app that US users spend on average 40 minutes per day in already. Not only does this prevent the user from leaving Facebook to do a search in Google, it benefits businesses because they now have another huge audience to target potential customers on.

What does Facebook’s “near me” searches mean for local franchises and small businesses? Why does the move into local search make sense for Facebook?

A: We at Location3 are strong advocates for local franchises and small businesses including Facebook in their marketing strategies. Simply having a Facebook page that includes your address and phone number can go a long way for users who rely on reviews and feedback from their peers. With the ability to find your business through the Facebook search bar, franchises can now reach a wider audience. Facebook’s near me searches mean a whole new frontier of SEO opportunity, where a top ranking on Places and City Guides is becoming coveted as a top ranking on Google would be.

The move makes sense for Facebook because it’s giving the platform another leg up on its competitors. For years, Facebook has been adamant that it’s not a “traditional media company.” What better way to reinforce this notion then to act as a search engine for users? The social giant already generates ad dollars from businesses, but is now behaving a lot more like a search company in which businesses can further connect with their consumers and create profits. Google’s ad revenue numbers are daunting and Facebook has been successful in making itself the next greatest competitor for digital ad dollars, so much so that the media world looks at the two as an ad duopoly. Money makes sense.
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