LSA 2013: Facebook’s SMB Efforts: A Good Start But Expect Much More

To cap off the Local Search Association Conference, Facebook Director of Small Business Dan Levy fielded questions from Greg Sterling on the past, present and future of Facebook’s SMB marketing activity. In short, FB hasn’t actively done much, but lots can be expected.

So far the volume Facebook has reached among SMBs isn’t too shabby. Citing brand new statistics, Levy told the audience that 70 percent of Facebook users are connected to at least one local business on Facebook. There are also 645 million monthly page views for local business pages.

This comes soon after the Comscore/Neustar/15Miles study that showed Facebook has the second largest app usage for local search, behind only Google. This was surprising because Facebook Local Search (formerly “Nearby”) has mostly been buried in the UI. That’s by design according to Levy.

“[figures] were a pleasant surprise,” he said. “It’s a good sign for SMBs that people are turning to Facebook. We’ve been investing to have local business exposed, but the local search product is still under development and we want to make sure it’s ready before it’s front and center.”

In other words, Facebook’s local search share is more about overall reach and halo effect, than any direct product positioning.  This not only goes for user-facing local features but also more robust merchant facing tools to run campaigns. The latter will be a big area of development

This goes back to Levy’s comments at our ILM West Conference about building vertical-specific templates and features. Think: appointment scheduling for home services, more structured coupons and offers for retail and restaurants, or eCommerce functionality where it makes sense.

Of course this all gains additional relevance with Graph Search and its local implications. Panning back, if you triangulate Facebook’s moves with Nearby/Local search, Graph Search, and mobile news feed ads, there’s an opportunity to connect buyers and sellers in locally relevant ways.

Though it’s early, we can bet the format will be organic to the user experience, stressed Levy. With the familiar sounding philosophy that’s behind lots of Facebook monetizaiton efforts (i.e. sponsored stories), local search and advertising will merge with the user experience (dare I say “native”).

“We see people on Facebook asking friends for recommendations,” said Levy. “‘I’m in NYC, where should I eat?; I have a sick kid, who knows a good pediatrician?’  This is the word of mouth advertising people have been doing for years, but want put those queries in a structured format.”

The opportunity further bifurcates in mobile. With all the talk about SMB mobile presence, much can be inherently gained with Facebook asserted Levy. In other words mobile distribution is built in to the presence and active posting from a Facebook Page. It’s a key point in all of this.

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