Facebook’s new, “professional services” search is likely not the game-changer many are making it out to be – but it’s more because the hype doesn’t seem to have an accurate grasp on what the game is to begin with.
The “new” Facebook.com/services may seem ambitious, but it essentially just builds a storefront window on what many already used Facebook for: gathering opinions and doing some lurking to see what people thought of companies, services, etc.
It’s more amazing that Facebook hadn’t done this sooner. But there’s also a problem in calling it a direct competitor to Yelp: Yelp isn’t always all that great for services – in fact in our research we have found that Yelp’s use for non-restaurants can vary wildly by geography (and so, the context of how important it is for what brands can differ). It certainly takes on Angie’s List – but so does “The Internet” to be honest (the idea of subscribing in order to get peer opinions of something is one of the most unnecessary actions one could take online – there’s no short supply of opinions that you’d need to pay for them).
That supply is even underlined by this very debut: Facebook isn’t unveiling that they are going to start organizing thoughts and asking for more, they’re acknowledging and asking you to browse the library they have to start with.
So while Facebook’s new way to comb through the reviews and opinions they’ve had for years IS helpful, it’s not a game-changer. It’s a game-enhancer. Yelp HAS the interface already, what they need is reviews (for services and certain industries). For example, in a recent project for a hospital system in the southwest, an entire cache of major hospitals had hundreds if not thousands of reviews on Facebook while some of the same facilities had fewer than ten reviews on Yelp. Facebook, prior to this update, just made you look up each individually.
When we give our, “Activation to Advocacy” speech we emphasize there’s a big difference between an audience doing their homework and looking for options within a category (discovering, led by searching within a category and being influenced by what brands they are already, “activated” by) versus knowing some brands and then doing research on them directly. Previously Facebook’s reviews were locked behind behavioral doors that put them squarely in that second stage – now they have an entrance on the first. Discovery and activation without having to ask your friends for the names first – you might stumble on their review honestly to begin with.
by: Dean Browell, Executive Vice President and Founder