If you're looking for the best sushi burrito in NYC, chances are you'll head to Google or TripAdvisor for recommendations. Review sites like these are also where your inner food critic will likely speak out after a disappointing visit to the most expensive restaurant in town.
Meanwhile, you'll probably go on Facebook for cute baby pics, your friends' thoughts on the latest Walking Dead episode, or photos of the recent birthday party you threw your BFF last weekend.
But times are a-changin', especially now that Facebook has grown to become much more than just a social network. Apart from serving as a place for liking, sharing, and commenting on others' updates and goings-on, the platform has also evolved into an option for discovering great brands, products, and services, and for connecting with relevant businesses along the same lines.
Facebook has also been upping its reviews and recommendations game, finding unique ways to get its users to share customer feedback and introducing a range of new features designed, it seems, to challenge today's most popular online review sites.
And there's good reason behind that increased focus from the Social Network.
Facebook posts the highest growth rate in reviews
Ever since Facebook allowed users to post online reviews and ratings of local businesses, the volume of reviews on Facebook has steadily increased, with more and people looking to use the social media platform in the same way they use, say, TripAdvisor - as a tool for reading or sharing customer reviews.
In fact, according to the 2015 Social Recommendations Index by advocacy activation company Social Media Link, 2 in 3 consumers are more likely to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions on Facebook after a purchase.
Another study found that 80% of consumers were more likely to purchase from local businesses when positive reviews were present on their Facebook Page.
It's little surprise that Facebook has emerged as a top legitimate alternative in the online reviews space. After analyzing reviews of 250 restaurants over a 6-month period, the research team at customer feedback management company ReviewTrackers noticed an interesting trend in review velocity (the speed at which new reviews are generated): among major restaurant review sites - including Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato, and Foursquare - Facebook reflected the highest growth rate in reviews, with new reviews coming in at a pace that was 4X faster than on those other platforms.
It's also worth noting that, unlike other sites and apps that may filter reviews written by less established users, Facebook makes it relatively easy to review and rate a business.
The interface is familiar, it's simple enough from a log-in perspective to get started, and users need only to click the Review button on a business' Facebook Page to start typing. The review filters, for better or for worse, are also less strict.
Facebook rolls out new features
In response to this rising trend, Facebook has rolled out a range of new options to better facilitate reviews and ratings.
Facebook's Professional Services feature, launched late last year, lists businesses with the best reviews and ratings and helps guide users as they look for new products and services in their geographical area. For businesses, getting listed in Professional Services can be a game-changer, with better reviews (and therefore higher rankings) having the potential to create more meaningful opportunities than a status update or a dozen likes can.
Recently, Facebook also introduced friend-based recommendations, which enables users to turn to their friends and family for information, advice, and feedback on local businesses or services - then organizes all these recommendations in one place.
According to Facebook:
"When you write a Facebook post looking for advice on local places or services, you'll have the option to turn on Recommendations for that post. If you turn on the feature, your friends can comment on your post with suggestions, and you'll see all of them mapped out and saved in one place. You can also go to your Recommendations bookmark on Facebook to ask a new question or help your friends."
The new feature makes a compelling case for choosing Facebook over other popular review sites: would you really rather trust the opinions of anonymous reviewers over that of your friends and family?
Along with friend-based recommendations, Facebook also introduced a feature that enables direct transactions on its website and app. It enables users to do things like order food, book an appointment, get a quote, or buy tickets - all directly through Facebook.
A result of partnerships with Delivery.com, Slice, Ticketmaster, and Eventbrite, Facebook's new feature for direct transactions again seems to take aim at other online review sites, which likewise promote business discovery and transactions, but without necessarily factoring in the social component and influence that friends and family have on consumers' purchase decisions.
Harnessing the impressive shelf life of online reviews
Given the growth in review activity, it makes sense that Facebook has increased focus on this area and is challenging established players in the market. Reviews and ratings play a major role in shaping consumer behavior, and they can make the kind of lasting impact that social media content alone isn't necessarily conducive to.
In fact, according to research by Wiselytics, 75% of engagement on a Facebook post occurs within the first 5 hours. Reach is even worse: 75% of the people who get to see a business' Facebook post will have seen it in the first 2 hours after being posted.
Contrast this with the shelf life of online reviews. According to a report published by Search Engine Land, 69% of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant, and approximately 15% believe that the only relevant reviews are the ones written within the last two weeks.
These numbers help explain why Facebook is looking to strengthen its online review capacity and incorporating recommendation tools into users' social media experience.
There's far more to the world's largest social media platform than cute baby pics and the Walking Dead memes. The next time you have a craving for the best sushi in NYC, or feel like rating a business, Facebook wants you to head to Facebook.