It has been a long time that we’ve all been waiting for Facebook to give local search more attention and give local businesses more opportunities on the social media giant. What makes Facebook so powerful here is the number of its users; with over 2 billion users per month, the social media giant could revolutionize the local search industry. For years, Google has been the pioneer of local search with no serious competitors but Facebook is closer than ever to change that.
The problem here is that searching for a business on Facebook hasn’t been really reliable despite the number of users and the huge database. Facebook’s negligence toward local search reinforced Google’s dominance as the first and most used local search engine. While this is all in the past, Facebook is now showing many signs that things are about to change. Facebook Marketplace
is expected to be the change in Facebook’s local search efforts and position.
Marketplace is Not the Same Anymore
Marketplace was launched in 2007 to give Facebook users the option to post ads in the same way as Craigslist’s users. Marketplace failed to attract the number of users Facebook expected and people still chose to use “Buy and Sell” groups.
Facebook’s second attempt came in 2016 as Marketplace was relaunched with more visibility on the Facebook navigation tab bar (which was the small detail the platform needed). In May 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that marketplace is no longer the Facebook service only a few people use, he announced that the platform had 800 million monthly users across 70 countries.
This potential encouraged Facebook to work on new benefits from the platform. The social media giant didn’t want to make Marketplace exclusive to local customers and retailers. Facebook’s changes included:
In October 2017, Facebook began to partner with third-party publishers to provide Marketplace with their own vehicle listings. To make the process more practical and successful, Facebook also worked on improving its Marketplace search filters. Facebook wanted marketplace to make it easier for users to find the most suitable vehicles and dealerships near them. Also, the partnership with third-party publishers made Facebook benefit from their credible vetting instead of taking care of it on its own.
In May 2018, Facebook announced another important step for Marketplace with the launch of home services on the platform. With this step, Marketplace made it possible for users to find plumbers, cleaners, and all kinds of home service providers. Again, the Marketplace filters simplified the searching process. With the same strategy implemented in automotive dealerships, Facebook has been working with third-parties to vet the professionals that get featured on Marketplace. Facebook Product Manager Bowen Pan declared that “More people ask for recommendations related to home services on Facebook in the US than any other topic. By partnering with Handy, HomeAdvisor, and Porch, people will now have a place on Marketplace to find the right professional to help with their next home project.”
Organization is Key
While most of the services have been offered on Facebook’s private groups for so long before relaunching Marketplace, Facebook still wanted to organize the process. Through Marketplace, Facebook now offers that organization of very specific vetted services and deals. Marketplace users can specify their needs through filters (for example, how many rooms they want a cleaner to clean). Even though the platform gives users all the filters they need to specify their needs, it still enables them to communicate with their service providers on Messenger.
While Facebook doesn’t collect any fees for the services it provides with Marketplace, its most important goal from the service is to attract as many engaged users as possible. Facebook is making very high profits from ads sales but the declining numbers in user engagement make it inevitable for the platform to provide new free services. In another context, developments on the Marketplace platform makes Facebook a serious competitor for Google when it comes to this kind of services.
Facebook’s Advantage in Comparison with Google
In spite of Google’s position in local search and local business listings, Facebook has one main advantage to compete with the giant search engine. User reviews are easier and simpler on Facebook, therefore, more users vet products and create a higher social proof than Google’s. Another important element in this part is that it’s more likely that customers find people they know whom they can ask for product reviews. Even if they don’t know any of them, they can always ask people they don’t know. This is very different from other platforms that are struggling to fight fake reviews.