Facebook Professional Services helps users locate reputable businesses

Facebook's unannounced Professional Services portal could help SMBs

Facebook's unannounced new feature could make it even more appealing to local businesses. The social media giant is working on a recommendations and reviews section of its desktop website to take on services like Yelp, Foursquare, Google and Angie's List, providing users with recommendations to find the best local contractor or service provider in an area.

Sreedev Sharma, Social Media Manager of Acodez IT Solutions, accidentally stumbled on the Professional Services portal on Facebook's website, and discovered that the site's design and layout is similar to Facebook Places, a directory of the top-rated businesses by location.

At this point, Facebook Places is similar to Yelp and Foursquare, while Professional Services would be a direct competitor to Angie's List and Amazon Home Services. It's unclear if Facebook intends to combine Places and Professional Services into a single portal.

A destination for small businesses

Facebook's reviews and recommendations for businesses may prove to be a more valuable tool than Yelp. That's because unlike Yelp's more anonymous ratings, Facebook could build greater trust into its recommendations because the reviews come from friends in a user's network. Reputable businesses could use these ratings to attract new customers.

Additionally, the portal could serve as an alternative to a standalone website for local businesses. Social sites like Facebook and Yelp allow businesses to post their hours, promotions and menus. And unlike a static website, users can comment and provide direct feedback to the business. Businesses could also leverage social sharing for broader engagement with potential customers.

In addition to Yelp and Angie's List, Facebook will also compete with Google's efforts in the business recommendation space. Google integrates business recommendations into its services, like Google Maps, by leveraging reviews of local businesses conducted by members of the Google+ community. Facebook's larger and more active social network could give it an edge, but the popularity of Google Maps also works in Google's favor.

The discovery of Facebook's Professional Services feature comes after users noticed Facebook's unannounced Local Market service in the app. Facebook Local Market is designed as a local marketplace for users and businesses to sell goods in a local area.

Social-savvy businesses could leverage these social networks for free or low-cost advertising and marketing. Rather than traditional marketing campaigns, marketing on social networks can be more targeted and relevant.

Source: Search Engine Land