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Facebook Testing a Local Search Feature Similar to Yelp & Google Maps

By March 23, 2017 June 26th, 2019 No Comments

Facebook seems to be conducting a spate of tests with different features. A few weeks ago the social network was reported to be testing the ‘dislike’ button in Messenger. This week it is testing an improved local search and discovery feature that provides suggestions to businesses. If it goes ahead with implementation, this feature could bring it closer to Yelp and Google Maps.

What the Feature Does?

When users will now enter queries in the Facebook search box, they will see relevant businesses near them. The results will also show additional elements like:

  • Map
  • Ratings of the business in Facebook
  • Friends who have visited the place
  • Friends who have liked the place

The test feature is expected to be made available only to a small percentage of Facebook users. The new feature is being tested on both mobile and desktop versions. It seems to be an extension of Facebook’s ‘Nearby Places’.

The feature displays the suggestions in a small box with a pink-coloured pin drop icon.

Considerations about the New Feature

What makes this feature unique is that it is not clear what factors are used to determine the order of the results. Users who have experienced the feature so far cannot find proximity, ratings, or reviews as the determining factors for the suggestions. Similarly, friends’ activities also didn’t influence the results. Places visited by more friends were often shown below the ones visited by a few friends.

There is an option to ‘see all’ that allows you to see the full list. The key information provided includes the following:

  • Business name
  • Phone
  • Address
  • Photos
  • Star ratings
  • Number of people rating the business
  • Pricing (in ratings)
  • Open now
  • Social data (likes and visits by friends)

Evaluation of Reviews

Facebook is also reportedly scanning data from reviews to highlight a business’ specialties. It is also using this technology to learn what people have to say about the reviews. From the results that have appeared so far, it seems the social site has to work more on this aspect of the algorithm.

It can take some time before Facebook can fully develop this feature and refine it. Once it’s out, it can give a tough competition to Google Maps, Yelp and Foursquare by creating new promotional opportunities for businesses.

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