Facebook Releases New “Places” Business Directory
Facebook recently launched a new “guided browsing” directory that takes existing Facebook pages for local businesses, and allows users to sift through the pages based on categories. Under the heading “Things To Do In [Your City]”, the directory divides the pages into the following primary categories:
- Public Attractions
- Arts & Entertainment
Businesses that don’t fall into these categories can be found under the “more” tab, which has secondary listings such as gyms and grocery stores. Once a category is selected, the user is given a list of local businesses ranked by a combination of user reviews and Facebook’s data on a particular user.
Facebook has also revamped business page listings for the new directory, placing user reviews and comments front and center, alongside operating hours and price ranges. The result is that navigating the directory more closely mimics the experience of browsing Yelp or TripAdvisor, although Facebook’s depth of rankings and information is currently much shallower than either competing website.
When performing a basic search such as “sushi bellingham,” using the main search bar, Facebook will often link you directly to a page rather than a list of local options. The Places directory, while not searchable itself, does include a filtering function that allows users to narrow the directory results. The filtering is also somewhat limited compared to other local business listings, but it does the job.
While the directory is currently in its infancy, with no real competitive advantages over the likes of Yelp, it’s an important start for Facebook. The next move will likely be to bring Places to mobile, where the directory is currently unavailable. By providing an alternative to other business review sites, Facebook is taking another step towards consolidating all online profiles into extensions of a user’s Facebook account. In making business pages a viable location to garner reviews and gain exposure to new customers, Facebook is also motivating more businesses to actively update their pages and advertise through the parent site.
Many Bellingham businesses are already in the listings, and those with reviews and comments are prominently featured. Well known restaurants like the Horseshoe Cafe and Bayou on the Bay rank at the top of the list, in part thanks to the many reviews and comments they have, and also because their high customer volume means a lot of customers have been geotagged at the location while posting to Facebook.
The Places directory is currently far from perfect, sometimes listing retirement homes under Public Attractions, or listing the entire Bellis Fair Mall as a restaurant. The service is well-integrated with personal accounts, however, highlighting reviews and geotags from people you know. The visual design is also very fluid, with basic information about each business, such as contact info, operating hours, and prices, accessible simply by hovering over their image in the directory. As Facebook works out the kinks in the system, and likely brings the service to mobile, it could provide real competition for Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other similar websites.
Do you think Facebook can overtake Yelp as the primary resource to find reviews and information for local businesses? Will the new Places directory cause you to curate your Facebook business page more frequently?
Let us know in the comments!