Let me preface the following by saying that while I’m not a local search expert, I did pretend to be one on TV for a while, while doing an extended marketing communications consulting gig for the cool local search peeps at Localeze.com. (Hi guys!)
Now, with that consumer warning in mind, check this out. Having poked around Facebook’s advertising options for a week or so, I’ve drawn the conclusion that they may be competitors in the local search space before you know it. Specifically, if you look at their free “Facebook Pages” advertising option, you’ll see that it allows businesses to offer as much information on themselves as many basic Yellow Pages or directory listings.
To see what I mean, visit my sample Facebook page, “My Business.” If you’ll check out the “Information” section, you’ll see that I’ve entered a dummy address and one set of business hours just to illustrate my point. When I set things up, Facebook collected this information into a back-end database. Given this set-up, Facebook’s almost certainly capable of indexing local business data and spitting the information out in the way, say, Yahoo Local does when it’s ready.
Don’t get me wrong, Yahoo Local and its ilk are way, way ahead of Facebook in this regard, as they’ve already developed beautiful local search interfaces, amassed tons of local reviews and integrated mapping, tag clouds, sophisticated business classification schemes and other cool functions.
More importantly, to my knowledge Facebook entries aren’t currently searchable from the outside Web, which limits their current value despite the social network’s huge size and reach (69 million current reasonably engaged users at last count). That’s certainly a large obstacle.
Still, I don’t think a company with Facebook’s clout and resources will be held back by technical issues when they’re ready to fight for local business/search market share. All they’ll have to do is figure out how to monetize the pages effectively, and you know what, I’m pretty sure that they will.
Watch out, local search folks! Facebook’s a’ comin, mark my words.
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