- Facebook expanded its services for local businesses with several updates to mobile Pages, public profiles created for businesses, brands, celebrities, causes and other organizations. The social network also introduced a standalone Facebook Local app and a "Local" section to its main Facebook app to help users find nearby businesses, according to a company blog post.
- Businesses can add actionable features to their mobile pages like booking appointments and reservations, along with posting notices of upcoming events, offers and job openings. Facebook also made recommendations more prominent on Pages to help people find personalized suggestions for nearby businesses.
- Meanwhile, Facebook has become the third-most popular way for U.S. mobile users to browse the internet as they use the social network to consume content, according to a study by analytics firm Mixpanel. Apple's Safari is the leader with 58% of mobile browser traffic, followed by Google's Chrome at 33% and Facebook at 7.6% in the U.S., although usage varies slightly by state.
Facebook's latest updates to Pages are another part of the social network's greater emphasis on all things local: businesses, communities and events. More than 1.6 billion people worldwide are connected to a small business on Facebook, per its blog post, suggesting that the feature may be a welcome addition for more than half of the social giant's user base. In the U.S., 30.2 million small businesses employ 58.9 million workers and are strong in industries like food services, hotels, construction and real estate, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Because many of them don't have big budgets to spend on marketing, setting up a Facebook Page is an easy, low-cost way to publicize their products and services while connecting with a variety of customers on a large scale. Facebook this year similarly added more features to its Messenger chat service aimed at small businesses, and added referrals to homes services companies in an expansion to offer more commerce opportunities for users and brands.
As Facebook becomes the third-most popular way for U.S. mobile users to browse the internet, it's poised to become even more competitive. Its updated Pages position the company to compete more directly with review sites like Yelp, Angie's List and Foursquare that depend on user-generated recommendations of local businesses and restaurants. Facebook's local job postings could have a negative effect on job posting sites like Indeed and classified sales for local newspapers. The social network said about 700 million people worldwide use Facebook Events to find nearby things to do. Its bigger push into local events will create greater competition for apps like Eventbrite, Craigslist and Meetup.
Facebook's biggest rival for digital ad dollars, search giant Google, also has pushed into localized services with crowd-sourced news apps like Google Bulletin, and a "See What's In Store" feature aimed at brick-and-mortar retailers that seek to drive foot traffic to their stores. Google last year overhauled its Local Guides, the feature in Google Maps that rewards points to people who provide data and photo uploads of local venues, to give participants additional levels and awards. It also updated its mobile app and website to show nearby happenings like sporting events, concerts, art exhibits and festivals.