Facebook has built an application allowing users to create stand-alone web pages. These pages do not affect personal profiles or contacts and as such, are well targeted to businesses. Here's an example used on the FaceBook blog. It’s beginning to look a lot like a local search directory with photos, business hours and price ranges available right on the page. As an added bonus, Facebook has partnered with Opentables.com to allow users to make reservations directly from the Facebook environment.
The "Create a Page for your Business" application launches by asking the user to select between local business (and drops down a list of categories), a brand or product or an artist or public figure. This organization offers a glimpse of things to come.
- Users are able to post reviews on the business page and this is a feature that Facebook does not allow site owners to change.
- The viral potential is enormous as once a user has interacted with a business page, it shows up on the news feed as a recent user activity.
- This could potentially become a content-generating strategy that might feed into their recently added “local Picks” application that I blogged about last week.
- The SEO play is a given.
- Facebook has existing infrastructure (in the form of partnerships), to allow rich content like video.
- Offering brand pages may funnel into a marketplace or the current classifieds area the site currently operates. User reviews on brands and products has to date been left to the shopping sites.
The Social Networking environment is a double-edged sword for local search. If users post negative reviews, the impact could be devastating in this trusted environment. It could produce volatility that may lead to attrition. As no one has yet cracked the code on purity of reviews, this challenge remains real.
Directories and local search players are scrambling to get a piece of social networking pie. In Canada, Yellowpages.ca has added an “add to Facebook” button on their listings. This button allows you to send the listing straight to your own or anyone else’s Facebook inbox. In the US, it looks like the directories are fighting the battle and hoping to create their own communities.
The launch of this service sends a clear message. The interesting question will be whether 50 million loyal Facebook users will feel any need to use other sites to generate content like reviews or picture uploads.
From a user perspective, it’s easy to understand the progression of Facebook’s features but the ads themselves are a bit on an eye soar. When the same user looks at his or her relationship with an online directory (traditionally this has been a non-interactive environment), it becomes harder to justify the time and energy being asked of them to post reviews.
It's becoming a perfect storm...