By Steven Jacobs, SEO Director
The name of the (nearly) new player is FACEBOOK LOCAL, which is blending the lines between social media and online local search. The introduction of Facebook Local Search could become a battle for digital turf —between search engine giant Google and social media giant Facebook—and it may morph into an important new trend. In time, it could eat other apps and impact healthcare marketing and advertising in a major way.
The one predictable factor with the Internet is its constant development and change. For marketing professionals, watching and tracking change, especially as an advertising option—is an ongoing sport. The crossover between search and social is not entirely new. But two powerful industry leaders are now involved.
Facebook Local: When search engines and social platforms overlap…
On one hand, Google dominates the search business with more than 80 percent of the market share. And Facebook is connected with over two billion active users worldwide. The Facebook Local app claims to be the first integration of the social platform with the search business, and there’s an obvious advertising opportunity.
This new-and-improved app [previously their Events App] begins with a search for events and activities that are in the vicinity of the user. By searching various Facebook social data points (clicks, comments, ratings and reviews, user check-ins, and others) the app presents an integrated social and search results in one place.
What’s more, the results include places to go, events, and businesses that carry the social proof of other Facebook users. Hence, FB says, you “discover places to go near you,” that are “all powered by the people you know and trust.” It has yet to grow, but the new app version presents local events PLUS nearby restaurants, shopping, retail locations and service facilities.
If this sounds familiar, here are some of the reasons that you’ll want to watch what happens in this new Facebook App + Google mash-up.
- The search function skips using Google. Presumably, that adds to Facebook’s social-and-search time with the audience and draws down on Google’s search superiority.
- Watch out Yelp. It’s no accident that the Facebook system of reviews and information is similar to Yelp, except that the notes and reviews are based on your (perhaps more trusted) friends and connections.
- Business, including health care providers, can more directly connect to FB users. Local visibility is enhanced, with the ability to enlarge their prospective network.
- Facebook Local taps into Google, Yelp, maps, locations, events, social proof, calendars and recommendations. Not to mention Bing other search engines and social platforms.
- Marketing profiles, data and demographics. User activities, interests and local business information, habits, reviews and comments will accrue over time for a more tightly integrated social and search responses.
- User profiles enhance advertising power. As Facebook continues to know the likes, interests and activities of its gigantic audience, the detailed profiles become selective advertising targets. Brands can zero in on individuals by location, age, interests and other demographics.
Marketing and advertising options will emerge…
So far, hospitals and healthcare providers are not yet a major part of this emerging trend. It’s only prudent to continue to watch has this change continues to evolve.
The ultimate reason for the Facebook Local app to challenge Google and others in search is to expand the time and dominance with the local audience. And by expanding time and involvement with an audience group, it can command and expand advertising revenues.
What’s more, it’s increasingly important for business entities—including hospitals and providers—to manage and direct their online reputation and digital visibility. Your reputation is a direct reflection of what the user finds online.