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Facebook and Foursquare get into Local Search


Facebook and Foursquare are trying hard to enter the local search game. The two companies have been updating their mobile apps with features to help people discover new businesses to visit. Yelp and Google Maps may have a head start on the “nearby” and “recommendations” front, but the two social apps are gaining ground. Businesses looking to drive foot traffic should add Facebook and Foursquare to their local search efforts.

Facebook adds “Nearby” Feature to mobile app

Facebook Nearby

Note the “Places Nearby” search field and the stars for recommendations

Facebook began putting more emphasis on local search with the addition of the “Nearby” tab in within their mobile app. Clicking on this tab will display a map and business pages of nearby spots to check out. Facebook chooses what businesses to display based on your friends’ checkins, likes, and recommendations.

It is important to note that at this time Facebook does not provide support for all businesses that have multiple locations. Say your locally owned coffee shop has a location on the North, West, and East side of town. If you only have one Facebook business page for all locations, which is a best practice, Facebook will only display one location. This address is pulled from your company’s business page.

Facebook began testing a “parent-child” model back in July of 2011. This allows businesses to upload a list of all locations but still use one Facebook business page. It is currently available to a select number of large brands but expect this feature to be rolled out to all businesses as local search becomes a priority for the social network.

Foursquare’s “Super-specific” Search

Foursquare Search

Foursquare started way back when as “Dodgeball.” After being purchased by Google, ignored by Google, and leaving Google, the new app finally started collecting user data in 2009 by creating a location based checkin game. So what do you do after collecting data from over 3 billion checkins? You build a powerful recommendation search engine.

Foursquare beat Siri and Graph Search at their own game, providing search results for queries like a cheap sushi place that’s nearby and open now, but that I haven’t been to yet.” Foursquare was able to do this by changing how users converted through their app.

Step one was to get as many checkins as possible. This was done through a competitive points system and the ability to become the “mayor” of businesses. The app constantly showed you your score compared to your friends.

Foursquare eventually made the scoreboard harder to find. It instead asked users to write tips for places they frequented. “You’ve been here a lot! Why not leave a tip for your friends?” This common splash screen within the app helped Foursquare gather information about why people went to a business.

Foursquare now uses this data to help you find a good milkshake in town or the best place to get a bloody mary at brunch.

Yelp adds “Nearby” feature

Yelp Nearby

Facebook and Foursquare added features to try and compete with Yelp. One of the more popular apps for recommendations. Yelp responding with their new “Nearby” feature is a sign the “two f’s” are catching up.

What this means for your business

You should expect more local search features to be rolled out in 2013 within Facebook and Foursquare. Now is the time to ensure you have a presence on these two networks. Take advantage of all the currently available features such as Foursquare checkin-specials and Facebook business pages. Encourage your passionate customers to rate, recommend, and review your business. As the adoption rate for Facebook and Foursquare local search increases, your business will be ahead of the curve.

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About Eric Wortman

Eric Wortman is a PPC analyst at Pure Visibility. He specializes in ads for Search, Social, Mobile, as well as Local SEO. Eric is founding co-chair of SEMPO Michigan and an experienced speaker. He lives in sunny downtown Ann Arbor and is good at soccer, excellent on Facebook, and horrible at photography. You can find him on Google+.