New Facebook Search: Local Ignored Again — Big Mistake
Graph Search successor fails to seize the local-mobile opportunity.
Facebook just launched its successor to Graph Search: Facebook Search. Facebook Search is the evolution of Graph Search and benefits from lots of user feedback since the launch of Graph Search in early 2013.
It’s available in US English for the PC and mobile app for the time being. Users can now search Facebook for posts by friends or people/entities that they follow. The results are personalized.
Users can only search for what they can already see on the site. The exception is hashtags. Facebook Search will allow anyone to search for particular hashtags and see results from outside their networks.
Facebook told us that that people on the site currently search for “people, photos and places.” Therefore it’s confounding and completely mysterious why the company hasn’t put a bigger emphasis on local search — or any emphasis for that matter. Facebook Search, at launch, emphases “people and posts” but not places.
Places was allegedly a primary category for Graph Search. But places have not been prioritized in this release of the new Facebook Search. You can still search for places as in the past. There’s just no local search upgrade.
Above is a screenshot of a Nearby Restaurants search under the previous Graph Search functionality. The new results (if I’m seeing them now) look pretty similar. I haven’t yet tested mobile.
Facebook has an enormous opportunity in local search. It has more than 20 million business pages and tons of ratings and review-like content on the site. People currently use it to validate businesses and to help them make decisions about where to spend. One can argue that Facebook has more “reviews” (defined to include ratings) than anyone else online.
Therefore it’s kind of inconceivable that the company doesn’t seem to be pursuing local more aggressively.
I’ve been waiting for a “Places app” for a couple of years and have had numerous conversations with people at Facebook about this and the corresponding opportunity. In fact, I don’t believe that Facebook can truly realize its small business advertising ambitions without developing a local search consumer experience.
It’s clear to me and others that were Facebook to create a more functional and user-friendly local search experience that the site/app would see massive, immediate usage — and all that implies for local and paid-search advertising.
Yet Facebook doesn’t seem to be fully attuned — dare I say “clued in” — to this. They’re not making local search a priority. However the recent launch (in July, 2014) of an upgraded Places Directory indicates that they’re not totally clueless about the opportunity. But the company needs to prioritize and push it further.
It won’t be able to compete successfully with the current, tepid Places search capability.
Especially in mobile, local search is a primary use case. Google and Bing have previously indicated that up to half of all mobile queries carry a local intent. Facebook could thus put itself right in the epicenter of this critical market with an new and more visible local search feature of the existing app or a stand-alone Places app — or both.
After listening to me rant for 20 minutes Facebook didn’t rule this out. However they seem to be considering local to be part of the longer-term opportunity. Yet opportunities don’t last forever.