Today Laura Betterly from Mobile Local Fusion passed on some interesting news for Small Business owners. Facebook is trying to promote local business as well as complete the data of their listings with two new features on Places Pages: Recommend This Place and Community Edits.
The Recommend This Place sidebar module on the Pages of local businesses lets users write a short recommendations which are published to the news feed and shown on the Page to friends. Meanwhile, Cities now display a native tab called Community Edits that asks users to fill information such as address and category of popular Places in that city. These new features open an important new viral channel for local businesses and franchises, and allow Facebook to crowd source improvements to its Places database.
For background, Facebook introduced Places and check-ins in August 2010, originally sourcing its local business database from Localeze. Changes to Localeze profiles are not necessarily synced with Places, though, leaving listings of new and evolving business out of date. After some scrapped attempts at allowing merges of Places and Pages for the same location, Facebook appears to have settled on adding Places functionality in the form of check-ins and maps to Pages listing a street address.
Recommend This Place
The site recently changed the Suggest to Friends feature for Pages so that only a Page’s admins could use it, and so the recommendations would appear in a sidebar module instead of the more prominent Requests channel. While fighting Page spam, it may have reduced the virality of Pages. But now with the launch of Recommend This Place, Pages with Places functionality have been given powerful new viral channel.
Appearing in the top right corner of Pages with a street address to users who live nearby, the module reads “Help your friends discover great places to visit by recommending [Page Name]” above a text field. Users can write a short recommendation, set its new feed visibility privacy setting, and submit it. The recommendation is then published to the news feed and displayed to friends browsing that Page in a “Recommendations From Friends” module in the right sidebar.
Recommend This Place will draw users to the Pages their friends prefer, and give users a social recommendation to Like the Page once they’re there. If Pages push their fans to complete the recommendations via Page updates and their info section, they could get viral exposure and grow their Like count for free.
In March Facebook began showing a small link on Places allowing users to “Suggest Edits”, or fill out missing data fields and submit them for approval. Now Facebook is looking to ensure that the most frequently checked in to locations provide useful information and are properly categorized. To do this, it has added a Community Edits tab the the left navigation menu of Pages for cities.
When clicked, the tab displays incomplete listing for five Places that receive a lot of check-ins in that city, and a header explains that “The Community Edits tab lets you share your knowledge about places in [city] and makes Facebook Places more useful. Add details about places, report duplicates, and more”. Users can then complete empty data fields such as ‘website’ and choose the proper category from a typeahead.
If users need help finding the data, a “Find on Bing” link beneath each entry brings up a Bing Maps search for the location, which sometimes includes the missing zip code or street address. It appears that Facebook’s maps deal with Bing does not cover automatically importing this data, so the social network is using this tab to task users with the chore. Unceremoniously, users are simply presented a new set of Places listings to complete when they finish a first, with no ‘thank you’ or ‘edits received’ message to inspire further assistance.
Users who explore the Community Edits tab and feel a deep loyalty to their city or to Facebook may be willing to perform data entry on their behalf. However, the feature doesn’t offer a clear reward such as authorship for a user’s contribution, nor does it properly applaud them. Facebook could improve the design and messaging of the feature to increase the potential volume of user generated edits the tab could drive.
Free Virality For Now
Recommend This Place and Community Edits may be a sign that Facebook knows helping small businesses get their Pages off the ground is in its own interest. As it did with games developers, offering early free viral exposure for Places could make return on investment cheap enough to lure businesses to market on the social network. Then by weening them off free virality, it could earn money switching them onto Facebook Ads to grow their fan base.