How to Leverage Facebook Nearby for Business – 5 Actions to Take Now


Image Source: Facebook

With the recent announcements of Facebook’s Nearby and Graph Search, the power of Location-Based Marketing and Social Search has been amplified.

Put simply, information about where your friends are coupled with what they like and what they recommend can both influence behaviour and drive consumer actions.

Users are demonstrating this.

Facebook knows this.

Those businesses that get this, are in the perfect position to benefit.

In this post we take a closer look at Facebook Nearby, how it works, what it all means, and 5 Actions businesses can take now in order to benefit from this Location Based Marketing Tool.

What is Facebook Nearby?

Facebook describes Nearby as making it “easy to discover what your friends like”.  With their recent upgrade to Nearby for iOS and Android Mobile Apps,  users can now do so much more than just “check in” to a place or business.

Nearby now allows for likes, ratings and recommendations about places or businesses in your local area. It also allows you to search on local businesses by category, place, or location as well as seeing where your friends have visited (or checked-in to).    

It is word of mouth…mobile, and in your pocket.

Image Source: Facebook.

How does Nearby Work? 

Nearby is simple to use. All you have to do is open the Facebook App on your Smartphone, choose Nearby and then it will guide you to find the local places or businesses in your area.

Nearby provides an instant map presentation with suggested “places”. These places are provided based on your activity and the activity of friends – namely if they have:

  1. liked
  2. visited (checked in)
  3. recommended
  4. rated (using a simple star rating), a place or business.

Using the map function, all the user needs to do is simply tap on locations on the screen.  The process is quite intuitive and provides for a number of choices or functions by toggling between screens.

User-experience is encouraged by buttons enticing you to take action such as:

  • “Search this Area”
  • “Recommend this Place”
  • “Tap to Rate this Place”.
  • “Check in”
  • “Like”
  • “Call”

Nearby tells if you have been to a place before (and how many times you have been there). It also tells you if your friends have been to a place, or if they have liked a place.

Businesses can be browsed by list or located by map with a simple swipe of the screen. Just one click will enable you to switch to:

  • a mobile version of the Facebook Page Newsfeed
  • the About Section of the Business (showing profile picture, mini-Timeline cover image, likes, check-ins, friends that have visited, recommendations, ratings, business hours and address)
  • your own default map app for further directions.

2013-01-18 20.18.25The search function allows for search by categories and sub-categories.  For example, you can search on a range of categories like Restaurants, Nightlife, Outdoors and Shopping as shown in the image to the right.

Some categories are then broken down into further sub-categories:

  • Restaurant >  Italian/Ice-Cream/Indian…
  • Shopping > Books/Clothing/Computers & Electronics/Convenience Store…

A history of popular searches is also populated, so you can easily find places you love.

All in all, Nearby is user friendly.  Although it may still have the odd glitch, it appears that Facebook plans to add more functionality, while fine-tuning the current platform.  So far, it gets the thumbs-up from me.

What does Nearby mean for Business?  

The addition of both ratings and recommendation to check-ins and search functionality could provide huge potential for local businesses.   Basically, if you are a local business with:

  • a physical location and
  • a Facebook Page, you can benefit from Facebook Nearby.

“If you have a Page on Facebook with a location, your business now has another way to be discovered by Facebook’s 600 million-plus mobile consumers” Facebook.

5 Actions for Businesses to Take Now  

In order for businesses to leverage the power of Local Mobile Marketing with Nearby, it is important to start to think in terms of the following:

1.   Be Discoverable

In a recent Social Fresh article Location Based Marketing 2012 – A Year in Review, Rob Reed from Moment Feed projected that having a presence on location based marketing platforms is a “strategic imperative for brick-and-mortar brands”.  According to Rob, this means that Businesses will need to optimize for “search, engagement and discovery at the local level”. The following actions will help businesses prepare and be “discoverable” on Nearby:

  1. Claim your Business Page

    If you are a bricks-and-mortar business and you don’t have a Facebook Page yet…get one.  People will search for you whether you are on Facebook or not. Make sure that when they find you, they are landing on a connected, established, optimized Facebook Page link that allows them to like, check in, rate and recommend you right from their smartphone.

  2. Report any rogue (random) pages to Facebook for deletion

    These pages pop up on Facebook where eager customers “check-in” but the business or place has not been claimed by the actual business owner. A “rogue” location is set up when this occurs, and other people may then check in to it as time goes by. These pages will not necessarily do harm. To bring people to your official page, it is a simple process via Facebook to claim and merge any “rogue” pages with your main page.

  3. Ensure that the following is updated on your Timeline and About Section
  • Profile Picture and Timeline cover photo
  • Correct Map Location
  • Address
  • Store hours
  • Phone Number
  • Correct category

If your business has not claimed your “place” as a business page,then you should consider doing so immediately.  On my travels with Nearby, I found a number of “favourite” locations, restaurants, shops and cafes that are missing out on huge exposure by not having claimed their page. When I went to rate or recommend the business, I was unable to find them easily.  Marketing opportunity missed.

2.   Be Local

Bigger brands who can think in terms of being local (rather than just national, or international) will be well ahead of the game when it comes to Location Based Marketing on Facebook.

The question may not be “how do we market on Facebook to everybody” but rather “how do we ensure we are ready when people want to find us where they are”.

AllFacebook posted about how Nearby provides a unique chance for large companies to drive people to individual stores.  This included some excellent insights on the implications of “local” pages for national brands.

Put simply, brands with multi-locations need to consider establishing Facebook Pages in local regions and re-focusing marketing efforts to where they have individual stores – separate to, but associated with their national brand page.

They also need to think about how to maintain those pages and provide:

  • Relevant local content.
  • Opportunities for engagement with local users
  • Marketing that focuses on local promotions (taking advantage of Location-Based Marketing platforms like Nearby).
  • Social media management for local pages.  More pages require more content and increased time for moderation of comments.

This is not just important in terms of targeting consumers in a local area or city, but also for customers further afield.

Let me elaborate.

Nearby = Awesome when it comes to the potential for planning and experiencing domestic or international travel.

In doing some research for an upcoming trip to the States with my family, I was able to zoom in on any part of the world map using Nearby. Think Trip Advisor linked to 1 Billion potential users.  I used Nearby to find the answers to some of the location-based questions I had for our journey:

Is our Westin Hotel at Market Street (San Francisco) near shops, restaurants, attractions and some great vibe?  Yes, it is.

2013-01-06 08.38.17

Does Whole Foods have a store filled with organic, natural goodness near our holiday rental in La Jolla near San Diego?  Oh yes, they do!

2013-01-06 08.32.46

There is much potential for using Nearby wherever you are in the world.  You can use it to:

  • follow the recommendations of friends who live locally
  • search on particular places, or
  • check the ratings of strangers half way across the world.

2013-01-20 14.22.45Heck, I can even use it to see if there are some great coffee shops around Social Fresh, just in case I decide to pop in on their awesome team when I next get back to New York:

My pick would go to L.A. Burdick New York.


Because they stood out from all the Starbucks by having both their Facebook Page and Physical Location Optimized with:

  • their local page established
  • detailed store information, opening hours and website
  • check ins, likes and recommendations
  • linked Facebook Timeline that I could check from right here in Australia.

OK, so it may also have also been the words Salted Caramel + Chocolate that attracted me to this cafe....

Nearby has potential for both Bricks-and-Mortar small businesses “on the ground” selling to local customers,  just as much as it does for bigger brands who can “be local”.

3.   Be Social

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.  Nearby leverages the power of Social Proof. Your clients and customers do the marketing for you!

Encourage Word-of-Mouth Sharing with Nearby:  
  • Make it easy for people to find you online. Display your Facebook link both on your website and other social media platforms as well as offline (in-store and in-print).
  • Be active on your Facebook Timeline.  Fresh, engaging content is part of the Nearby experience,  just as it is with any of the social media platforms.
  • Ask valued customers to rate and recommend your business.  There is no better way to market your business than through the eyes of a happy customer.
  • Listen to what customers are saying about you.  Monitor comments about your business and acknowledge the feedback.  Respond to comments, suggestions and even complaints.
    • From a reputation management point of view this is a perfect way to join the conversation, recognize what customers are saying about you and improve upon your services.
    • From a marketing point of view Nearby provides an excellent opportunity to reward your customers in real-time for talking about you!
  • Encourage check ins.  I posted recently about a simple location-based promotion by Australia’s Zarraffa’s Coffee, based on incentives to customers for checking in.  They offered a simple coffee upsize in return for an on-the-spot check in to their local store.  A check-in promotion can be cost-effective and provides immediate results.  When somebody “checks in” their friends see the activity on their own newsfeed.Zarraffas Coffee Promotion - Socially Sorted
  • Offer incentives for customers who show that they have rated or recommended you in-store.
  • Run a photo-sharing or check-in promotion to showcase your products or services but promote it from in-store or offline media.  Not only will you comply with Facebook’s promotion guidelines, but you will be engaging fans to share with their friends on-the-spot.

At the very least, encourage fans and customers to get on Nearby and check you out.

The app is intuitive and will encourage users to rate, recommend and check in:

Screen shot 2013-01-18 at 10.54.15 PM

4.   Be Mobile

Businesses with a Physical Location and Facebook Page should embrace the ever-growing number of people using online search, location and social media services on their mobile devices.

Facebook has 1 billion+ users.  600 million of these people are now sharing and connecting on Facebook every month using mobile devices. Foursquare, Yelp and Google aside, you can not ignore the fact that 1 billion people have the capability to start searching for, recommending, rating and checking in to their favourite places around the world. No other platform has the people + the platform tied into the one bundle in quite the same way.

Think in terms of promotions, specials or offers that provide “on-the-spot” appeal for mobile users who like:

  • convenience
  • the appeal of gamification (with immediate rewards)
  • instant gratification.

With Social Graph being rolled out very soon, there are more and more reasons to look at what and how your business appears on mobile search.  When friends, and friends of friends search for places, people and businesses on Facebook, how will your business show up?

Start thinking in terms of location-based mobile marketing and ask these questions:

  • How can our business be found on mobile and how do we show up?
  • Is our website mobile-friendly?
  • Is our Facebook Page optimized for mobile and for Nearby?
  • How can we help users share information about our business, while they are actually standing in our store?

5.   Be Proactive

Local Businesses that do not have a Facebook Page optimized for location will not show up in search results.  Don’t just wait for mobile to take off in your area. Be Proactive about it!

  • Encourage customers and fans to get on to Nearby. Once they are on there, the user experience leads them into making recommendations and rating their experiences.
  • Think about how you can integrate location based marketing into your marketing strategies both online and offline.  Put up flyers in your physical place of business advertising a check in reward, or perhaps offer incentives for rating your business or posting a photo on the timeline.
  • Get ready for Social Graph. Facebook describes this as a new way of searching whereby you can find more of what you’re looking for through your friends and connections (based on your relationship with people, places and objects in the Facebook “ecosystem”).   Click here to watch it in action, and Click here for Facebook’s overview.

Why not start now by encouraging customers to engage with your location/s via the functionality on Nearby?  Why not stand out? …not only on Nearby but also on the upcoming Social Graph.

Showing up in the top results for organic location-based search on Facebook, may be directly related to how well you think in terms of these 5 actions.

Over to you. What is your experience of Nearby, so far?  Does your business have a location based marketing plan?  Will it change now?  


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