Facebook has been an important platform for local businesses since it exploded in popularity over the last decade. Pages can be designated as local business pages, which allows you to add details about the industry you’re targeting, plus specific details like your opening hours, contact details and so on. This is all very helpful for people visiting your page, and a Facebook page that’s filled in to a high standard can rank well on Google search result pages.
However, until recently people weren’t that likely to find your page within Facebook. Its search function still leaves something to be desired, since it’s trying to take into account people, pages, groups and more while heavily customising the results shown on a personal basis. Facebook business pages also feature customer reviews, but since there was no centralised place to see them all you would be unlikely to use the social network to shop around for different businesses in your area.
Now Facebook has rolled out a tool which aims to tackle this problem, although it’s in the early stages of development according to their spokesperson and it hasn’t had any promotion yet. People have stumbled across the new area, Facebook Professional Services, when trying to optimise their pages. It effectively functions as a business directory, and is being interpreted as an attempt to muscle in on the market for review-based business listing websites such as Yell and Trustpilot.
The system is fairly simple at the moment. You can search for a business or service you’re interested in, but for your query you are limited to a predefined list of options. These are the categories that business pages are allowed to be placed under when you set one up, and you might find that the business you’re looking for (or your own business, if you’re creating a page) doesn’t exactly fit into one of these. You have to simply choose the closest match, which is an issue we expect to see fixed in a future version of this tool.
Once you select a search term, however, the tool becomes more sophisticated. It takes into account a range of variables when deciding how to rank businesses, such as geographical location, average customer rating and other unknown factors. For every Facebook user, the results will also be personalised depending on your own history with the business pages shown. For example, if you or your connections have previously interacted with the page it is likely to appear higher for you than it would for someone else.
At the moment, Facebook has basically asserted that this tool isn’t ready yet. The fact that it launched without any fanfare was enough of a clue, but since it has been confirmed since we can assume that it’s going to keep an eye out for early feedback and make adjustments before promoting it nationally or globally. For now it’s a good idea to make sure you get your page in order, however, and see if you can encourage people to leave reviews for your business when they’ve had a good experience. Staying active on your company Facebook page is a good way to ensure you stay ahead of the curve, whatever changes the social network chooses to make later.