Facebook today upped the ante in the local discovery and search game with updates to Nearby, which is designed to make it easy for users of its Android and iOS apps to find places recommended by friends. The app expands on familiar check-in features by adding data such as ratings and business information, and it enables users to browse categories and sub-categories as well as searching businesses by name.
The promising segment of local search also includes major players such as Google, Yelp and Foursquare, all of whom are building compelling businesses. Perhaps no competitor can match Facebook’s muscle, however: Not only does the social network claim a massive base of more than 1 billion users — many of whom access the network on their phones — it continues to build out a huge network of local businesses (including huge chains).
Facebook’s struggles to monetize mobile have been well documented, and those problems stem largely from the fact that traditional banner ads don’t offer much value to users. But if Facebook can deliver effective marketing pitches based on a user’s location as well as other vital information, it can take the lead in what may be the most lucrative consumer segment in mobile.