I received a message on my Facebook iPhone app today...it wanted me to download Facebook Local - a new app that is designed to help me find local businesses that offer what I'm looking for.
Facebook has been working on this for awhile - once upon a time it was the Facebook Events app that they re-fashioned into Facebook Local - and it looks like they're pushing it fairly aggressively these days. I'd be interested to see adoption/usage rates - because I don't think the real value in Facebook for Local is where Facebook thinks it is.
Don't get me wrong...I think claiming your listing, posting, updating, interacting, obtaining reviews, etc is all important - but in many communities - a Facebook app is not where people go to find a local business or recommendation..... They go to Facebook Groups.
I live in a fairly small mountain community in Colorado. Our valley - roughly a 70 mile stretch of interstate and highway - has a lot of bedroom communities to one pretty affluent area. We have a HUGELY active local group that over 40% of our valley (Adult population is +/- 60,000 in that 70 mile stretch) is a member of. The Group is an online "Swap Meet" and it was first created as a way for locals to sell/recycle items they didn't want anymore, or for people to buy used when a new item either isn't available here, or too expensive for their budgets.
What it has evolved into is a whole other animal. Need an accountant? Go ask the group who they recommend in the area. Need to fill a daycare slot? Post your availability in the group. Get overcharged by the local hospital and can't get anyone there to help? Tell everyone in the group about it - because I guarantee - you'll get 150+ comments and the commenters WILL call that hospital out until they respond.
I think this is an evolution of consumers understanding that sites like Yelp, Google, and even Facebook have reviews - but those reviews can be gamed - and a 5-star review doesn't mean nearly as much as a recommendation from Ray down the road, who you don't really know, but is still more trusted than an anonymous review. He's used the same snow plowing company for years and vouches for their quality & pricing, and four other local people chimed in that that plowing company is awesome - who wouldn't trust that?
Some groups allow advertising - the tiny Facebook Group for my little town does - but others don't. That big swap group for our valley? No advertising - unless you're trying to fill a job or daycare spot - those are kosher. So how does a business thrive in an environment where word of mouth is more valuable than a sponsored ad or a Facebook review? Be the best.
Influencers who recommend your products and services are the ones who get the word out in these groups that don't allow advertising. By giving your customers stellar service - they're much more likely to mention your name when the local group comes calling for recommendations. It seems to be okay to hop in after a recommendation and like the comment, then post your own reply with a "Hey give us a call, we'll take care of you" with your phone number in the comments. I see more success with this tactic when you are the business owner post rather than posting via your business profile. Representing your business as a person is what's key here - not as a faceless corporate entity.
They also complain - and while you could afford a negative review or two on your Facebook business profile - those are easy to negate with really good reviews - if the influencers on the groups start talking bad about your business - you'll see an impact. Even if the 24,000 people in the group don't like or comment, they do remember - so you need to get in there and mitigate that negativity with an honest dialogue to fix the situation A.S.A.P. Luckily you can set an alert to notify you when there's a result for a specific query like "plumber" or "toyota" or even your brand name, so you can keep track of brand/business related mentions that way.
So not only should you claim your profile and make sure it's built out correctly on Facebook - if you have a local/hyper-local business, getting involved in those community groups is an invaluable way to monitor your brand within the community as well!