In November 2017, Facebook launched the Facebook Local app. The app, whilst useful for individual users of Facebook, also features tools that can be beneficial for local businesses wishing to broaden their reach and increase their impact.
This article will explain what Facebook Local is — how it works and will go deep on some of the tools the app offers. Next, we consider the benefits the app affords local businesses, and finally look at how a business can create and promote an event using Facebook Local.
Facebook Local is the reimagined version of the social media giant’s former Events app. Much like its predecessor, the app provides users with a feed of events and things to do in their vicinity at any given time. Facebook Local improves on events, by introducing listings and reviews for local businesses, such as restaurants and bars. According to the description on the App Store, FL helps users “discover places and things to do recommended by friends you know and trust”.
Facebook Local works in tandem with a user’s principal Facebook account, automatically suggesting events and places in the user’s location that are likely to appeal to the user based on their interests, past activity, pages they like and popularity amongst their friends. If a user’s friend has marked himself or herself as attending a particular event, or has liked a specific venue, these events and venues will likely be suggested to the user. Users can also consult curated guides, included with the app, to discover new places and events in cities they are not familiar with.
The two principal features offered by the app are the search function, which allows users to search for businesses by type or name, and the events discovery functionality. In many respects these two functions work hand in hand, and often one leads to the other. The ‘Explore’ function, for example, will display both events, and establishments under categories such as ‘Good for Drinks’ or ‘Top-rated’. A user can easily use the search function to find events, or if the user is looking at events already, the app can bring users information on particular establishments.
Let’s consider each aspect in more detail, while also examining the Home and Calendar tabs.
The search functionality on Facebook Local is has multiple search pathways for business, venues, and things to do in the user’s location.
A user can press the ‘Search’ button, to display the search tab. Here they can either select from a range of categories (such as ‘Restaurants’ or ‘Drinks’) or input the name of a particular establishment. If a user selects a category, the app produces a list of the most relevant places in that location.
In addition to this, the Home tab (discussed further below) also provides users with the option to search for places of businesses in their area.
With each method, the user can choose to vary the filters to produce different results. These include factors such as rating, distance, popularity, venues that are currently open at the time of the search, or venues that their friends have been to.
Cumulatively, the various search functionality options are great tools for users to find local businesses that meet their needs. It literally puts numerous hospitality establishments like restaurants, bars and cafes are at their fingertips.
Much like the search functionality of Facebook Local, users can discover events in multiple ways.
Users can choose time-related options that the user can select to narrow the events that will be shown, such as ‘Today’, ‘This week’, or ‘This weekend’. Having selected one of these, the user can then scroll down to discover events that his or her friends are interested in, events suggested by the app (based on ‘likes’, interests etc.) and popular events nearby. The same three categories of events are displayed when the user specifies an alternate time, such ‘This week’.
Alternatively, the user has the choice of selecting the type of event they are looking for. For instance, the user can choose from categories such as ‘Arts’ or ‘Music’ and then subcategories such as ‘Museums’ or ‘Galleries’. In short, a user can hone in on exactly the type of event they are looking for, then filter the results by factors such as date or time.
Finally, users can also elect to search for events using the map. A user can simply find a location on the map and press the ‘Search Here’ button, which causes the app to display events happening in that area.
The Home tab is the hub of the app, and as noted above, features a horizontal bar for easy selection of search categories, or time-related factors when looking for events. The bar also contains the ‘Explore’ function, which immediately brings up events that are popular nearby. Additionally, immediate shortcut buttons are available on the Home tab for items such as ‘Food’ or ‘Drinks’ and ‘Events’.
The calendar tab (accessed in the user’s ‘Profile’) lists all events that users have marked as attending, as well as those which they have been invited to. The user can RSVP to events directly within the calendar tab. Users also have the option to import their primary phone calendar (and other calendars) into the app — ensuring that all their events and appointments are all in one place.
Now that we know how Facebook Local works, let’s consider how local businesses can benefit from it.
As noted above, Facebook Local departed from the prior Events app by introducing local business listings, and a review system. This alone represents a benefit to local businesses, particularly in the hospitality/entertainment industry . In keeping with Facebook’s core principle of connecting friends, the app places a user’s friendships at the core of its functions. This is evident in the way it recommends places or events that a user’s friends have interacted with and prioritises reviews by friends — not to mention the inclusion of the check-in feature.
The business listings on Facebook Local are excellent and very comprehensive, featuring everything that would normally be found on a business’ Facebook page. That means information from basic details like opening hours and the location of the business to price guides, ratings and reviews, publications the business appears in, and, of course, which of the users friends have ‘liked’ the business’ Facebook page. If a user is following particular businesses on Facebook, the Local app will prioritise those listings, keeping the user advised of any events those businesses are holding.
The review system allows users to recommend a particular business, and read written reviews left by other users. As noted above, the app favours reviews left by friends of the user, figuring that users will trust their friends’ recommendations over those of complete strangers.
The check-in feature — made popular by FourSquare and now included in the main Facebook app — allows users to see what their friends are doing at any given moment and to share their own location or activities immediately. Coupled with the functions we discussed above, Facebook Local allows users to get a sense of what businesses and events are trending or popular at any given moment and therefore what sort of experiences they may wish to have next.
With its focus on friendships, the app does a good job of capitalising on hype generated amongst friends regarding establishments and events. You could say the app exploits social media users’ desire to be trendy and to ‘stay in the loop’ by making it easier for them to show their friends where they have been and what they are doing.
Facebook Local represents what it essentially a directory of events and local businesses, making it simpler for users to find all these informations in one spot.
On top of this, Facebook’s mobile app looks like it is set to become the next big search engine for people looking for local business information and their products. Combine these things together and you have some fairly powerful benefits for local businesses. Facebook Local is yet another reason for business owners to keep their Facebook presence active and up to date.
Business owners can also benefit by taking a more hands-on approach with Facebook Local by creating and promoting events. Let’s look at how a business owner can do this.
Creating an event on Facebook Local can be done in two ways. Because Facebook Local works in tandem a main Facebook account, events can be created on a business main Facebook page or directly in the app.
To create an event on a business’ main page, follow these steps:
To create an event directly in the Facebook Local app, simply do the following:
Promoting your event is important for two main reasons:
Before discussing how you can promote the event, it is worth considering the way that Facebook Local ranks events for given users. A high ranking on Facebook Local is important because this is what is going to give your event more visibility. If greater attendance at your event is the ultimate goal of promoting the event, consider obtaining a high ranking as the intermediate one.
There are various factors that affect an event’s ranking and ultimately, where it will show up in users’ event listings or search results. These include:
In short, the ranking of the event depends on the popularity of the event. Since the aim of promotion is to increase the event’s popularity, this can feel infuriatingly circular. It doesn’t mean there is nothing a business can do though.
A good place to start is by asking staff members to ‘like’ posts about the event and confirm that they are attending. If the event is public, it is also a great idea to ask them to share it with their friends. This can increase the event’s popularity and is a good way of capitalising on the hype that staff members can generate within their sphere of influence.
In-store promotional campaigns that ask customers to share and mark themselves as attending the event for the chance at a reward can also be effective, as can in-store promotional material, such as posters or flyers, that let customers know about the event.
Some other things a business can do include:
Additionally, a business can also promote the event with paid Facebook ads to drive engagement with it. It is not clear that purchasing an ad will increase the ranking of the event on Facebook Local on its own, but it will serve to broadcast the event to a wider audience. For an explanation on how you can create an ad on Facebook, see our Local Ads article here: ueni.com/local-business-ads.
Facebook Local is another great, free tool in the arsenal of local business owners, and for businesses that already have a Facebook presence, there is nothing to sign up for in order to take advantage of it. For businesses that do not yet have a presence on Facebook, the Local app is yet another reason to get involved. Facebook Local offers businesses the potential for big benefits and greater exposure at little cost. Get in touch with us if we can help you get in on the action. For more information about Facebook Local, see the official website here.