Word-of-mouth recommendations from people you know are the most trusted source of advertising. Everybody knows this, of course - you, yourself, know that you're much more likely to act on a positive review or critique from a friend. But social media has expanded the reach of word-of-mouth, making it an advertising tool that can be utilized on a much wider scale. This has lead to the rise of influencer marketing - whereas once the reach of word-of-mouth was limited by your geographic radius or general sphere of awareness, social networks have made it possible for word-of-mouth recommendations to spread and reach a much wider audience.
And no platform is in a better position to capitalize on this than Facebook.
In an effort to do so, and to boost user activity, Facebook has today released a new set of tools that not only make it easier to elicit recommendations from your connections, but also to act on those tips, with new options to buy, book and get quotes within a few taps.
Here's how it works.
As explained by Facebook:
"Whether traveling to a new place, looking for a hair salon, or searching for the perfect place to eat, people already turn to their friends, family, and local Groups on Facebook for advice. We're rolling out a new tool that makes it easier to get and organize all those recommendations in one place."
That new tool is an option to put out a call for recommendations from your connections. When you're writing a status update seeking advice, Facebook will detect your query via its machine learning systems and suggest that you turn on recommendations for your post. If you do, a prominent request for suggestions call-out will appear in the News Feeds of your connections notifying them that you're looking for advice.
As you can see in the first image above, as your connections provide tips and include references to relevant business Pages on Facebook, they're plotted on a map, making it easier for you to see where each is relative to your location. You can also go to your Recommendations bookmark on Facebook to ask a new question or help your friends with their own queries.
The feature has been in test mode in recent weeks, with several users posting screenshots of the tool in action.
The focus here is on highlighting local businesses - you can switch on the feature for any post in which you're seeking recommendations, but the map feature only provides assistance when your query relates to geographic proximity.
For example, you can immediately see the benefit in a query like this:
But not so much in this one:
The tool provides additional discovery potential for local businesses, though the businesses themselves will have no control over how they're recommended or highlighted. Well, other than providing great service and making themselves worthy of recommendation.
Of course, it could also lead to businesses working with well-connected local influencers to have them recommend their services in any related query, but given the tool is built to work within your established friend networks, it'll likely be difficult to game - though it does underline why brands need to have a Facebook presence. You can't get mapped by the tool without it.
The second element announced today relates to events happening around you. Facebook's been working to improve their events offering, launching a new, dedicated events app recently in order to capitalize on the 650 million people who use Facebook Events every month.
In addition to the new app, Facebook's also re-vamped the Events bookmark within Facebook itself, making it easier to see what events are happening in your area, as well as those that your friends are either hosting or attending, and events that you're likely to be interested in, based on past activity.
Again, this amplifies that word-of-mouth element - you'll more likely be inclined to check out a local event if you know someone who's already going - while it also pushes that FOMO button. If several of your friends are attending, you won't want to miss out.
Essentially, the revised Events tab takes the best of the new app and puts it onto Facebook proper, which could provide more motivation for promoters and event organizers to post their functions on Facebook - and pay to promote them with Facebook ads.
The final new option announced today by Facebook - and the most significant in terms of actionable notes for businesses - relates to facilitating next steps based on the first two points. Now that users have a listing of recommended places to get their hair cut, buy dinner or head out to, Facebook's also making it easier for them take action on those tips immediately, with new, one-tap options to order, make an appointment or buy tickets.
As explained by Facebook:
"We're introducing some new ways for people to take action faster once they've found something they want to do or a place they want to go.
- Order food: You can now order food from restaurants directly from their Facebook Pages. Simply click "Start Order" on any restaurant's Facebook Page that uses Delivery.com or Slice.
- Request an appointment: For local businesses that require you to book an appointment, such as spas and salons, you can now request a time via the business' Facebook Page and view their entire slate of services and offerings. They'll then get back to you on Messenger to confirm your appointment.
- Get a quote: Some local business Pages will now have a "Get Quote" button at the top that lets you easily and quickly request a quote from the business.
- Get tickets to movies and events: For many new movies this fall, you can buy movie tickets straight from their Facebook Pages via Fandango. In partnership with Ticketmaster and Eventbrite, we're also making it possible for people to get tickets to other events - free or paid - directly from the event page on Facebook."
As noted by Marketing Land, these new options are made possible via third-party partnerships, which Facebook will grow over time.
"Launch partnerships include Booker, BookingBug, Front Desk, HomeAdvisor, MyTime, Pingup, Schedulicity, Setster and Simplybook.me. Users will be able to buy event tickets through EventBrite and Ticketmaster, as well as movie tickets through Fandango. Facebook users will also be able to request a quote from businesses using Porch or TalkLocal."
Some functions, like requesting an appointment, will be facilitated via Messenger, but the ordering process will be connected through integration with these providers, meaning local businesses will need to be connected to one of them to enable the functionality on their Page.
Eligible businesses can enable the new functions via the "Partner Apps and Services" section of your Facebook Page or via the 'Add Button' prompt on you Page.
Capitalizing on word-of-mouth is a clever play for Facebook. For one, it should help boost user interaction on the platform - and as we've noted previously, maintaining and increasing engagement is crucial to Facebook's ongoing growth plans and strategy. But more than that, these new recommendation tools will provide Facebook with stronger signals about what you like and are interested in, which will enable them to refine and improve their ad targeting over time.
It may even provide them with a new metric to display on Pages - as more people use the tool to recommend businesses, Facebook could display that to new Page visitors with a "Recommended by X people in your network" prompt.
For businesses, if you offer services that people can order or book in for via this new process, it's worth looking into how that new system works to ensure you're capitalizing on any attention gleaned through the new recommendation process.
The new Facebook Page functions are rolling out in the US from today, with more regions to be included, and functions to be added, "over the coming months". Developers and organizations interested in adding the new Page components can sign up to find out more and apply for access.