Facebook ‘Professional Services’ Takes on Yelp

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Takes on Yelp, But Doesn’t Get a Thumbs Up Yet.

Facebook Inc has quietly debuted a feature on its social networking site that helps users find local businesses based on customer reviews, bringing it in direct competition with similar services from Yelp Inc and Angie’s List Inc. The webpage for the new feature, which reads “Find local businesses with the best Facebook reviews and ratings”, can be accessed through the URL, http://www.facebook.com/services.

It’s ambitious, to say the least; 84 distinct categories of service providers where I live, ranging from animal shelters to wedding planning, with no shortage of DJs and food consultants in between. The listings also aren’t limited to those listed on the professional services landing page; the search box will return results for restaurants, bars, golf courses, and any other business category you can think of. This fusion of both leisure and handiwork positions Facebook squarely against both Angie’s List and Yelp, the two established incumbents in the expansively popular world of people assigning stars and/or grades to things they like or don’t like on the Internet. Facebook’s timing may also prove to be auspicious; Angie’s List has been under intense shareholder pressure to sell, while Yelp appears to riding an endless gerbil wheel of lawsuits. Chang’s shows up as one of the best Asian restaurants in my city,” says Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, when asked her initial impressions of the service.

Similarly, a local search for best child care returned a top result that focused on autism spectrum disorders, followed by several traditional day care centers that received between 4.2 and 5.0 stars, in an inscrutable order, including one location that had zero stars and zero ratings. It’s not clear how Facebook prioritizes its rankings, or whether they’re personalized based on friend reviews, or geographical proximity, or… anything, really. You might “Like” a business’s Facebook page, particularly if you have some sort of emotional attachment to it, but how many have you ranked on a five-star scale? And with over a billion active users, you won’t find a bigger crowd. “I think this is consistent with Facebook’s commerce vision over the years—to give people solid recommendations for anything they are looking to buy or consume,” says Mulpuru-Kodali. “The problem with asking your friends was that there was a scarcity of data problem, and aggregating reviews does solve that because you are pulling info from a much bigger pool of local people.” Until Facebook gets where it needs to go, you may be better off just querying News Feed.

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