In late 2017, the Local Search Association reached out to various Local Search professionals, asking for their 2018 predictions.
I contributed my thoughts, specifically as they pertained to Google and Facebook.
It feels like there’s a bit of a space-race in local between Google and Facebook.
The interesting thing about it is that they’re coming at the issue from two completely different paradigms. Google aims to be useful, practical, efficient. Facebook wants to be social. Google’s knowledge panel is objectively helpful. Facebook’s recommendations are based on your social network for the most parts (and the things that you’ve liked).
I predict this year we’ll see a continued maturation of both networks (with its knowledge graphs, Google is very much a network). They will both become more effective in the ways that they’re designed to be effective.
For Google, that might mean more high-quality local results — a better understanding of what you objectively are searching for. Google is going to continue replacing lead-gen and other middleman companies with their own booking services. For Facebook, that will mean more social discovery and connection — a stronger offline to online connection between Facebook and the community.
It only took until August (probably from dealing with all of the negative press with privacy and fake news,) but last week we finally saw Facebook start to role out additional tools for local small businesses to continue to use the platform for growing their companies.
Facebook Reviews are now Recommendations
What really stood out to us here at Grade.us was the way Facebook reviews are now becoming 'Recommendations.'
Recommendations: Your customers are your best ambassadors. When people look for places to eat, shop or book a service they often ask their friends and families where to go. That's why we’re making it easier for people to recommend your business by bringing Recommendations to your Page. People will now be able to post a Recommendation for your business including text, photos and tags directly on your Page. And Recommendations will also help you reach people while they're searching for or talking about your business.
So now, when you go to a local business's Facebook page, instead of the ability to rate them 5 stars, you will now be presented with the binary option of whether you'd like to recommend them or not:
Facebook's Rich Endorsements
Sometimes, people don't know what to write in their reviews. With the move to recommendations, it's helpful to be prompted what to write. A simple recommendation or non-recommendation isn't helpful for other friends or potential customers.
To avoid 'empty recommendations' Facebook has added prompted attributes which they're referring to as 'Rich Endorsements' to include in the recommendations, so far we're only seeing this for restaurants and coffee shops, but we can expect them to roll these endorsements to other industries.
Recommending customers will also be encouraged to include photos in their recommendations.
Will Recommendation Moderation Improve?
One major criticism of Facebook reviews in the past was the lack of moderation from Facebook. They tended to be the worst of review sites when it comes to fairness and having a support team to reach out to. There's no guarantee that anything has changed, but they're at least claiming to have authenticity on top of mind:
How is Grade.us Adjusting?
Since a new binary rating system had an effect on aggregate ratings like those provided by Grade.us, we made some adjustments.
Recommendations are not yet being exposed via Facebook's API, so it will be some time before changes are reflected there. Monitoring via the Grade.us API continues to work for Facebook reviews, but recommendations are currently invisible to us until this change is implemented.
We have updated Facebook's review monitoring such that if/when recommendations are made available on the public business page, we will collect them normally, assigning a 5.0 rating for recommendations and a 1.0 rating for dis-recommendations (We will implement something similar short-term if/when recommendations are exposed in the API).
We will implement long-term fixes that will separate out recommendation content to report and re-display it accurately in the platform, reports, and the review stream.
Additionally, we have gone ahead and updated our review funnel instructions so they reflect Facebook's change as you can see below:
This seems to be an adjustment period for Facebook.
With changes to their newsfeeds to focus on the social aspect of the user experience and less on the businesses that keep their shareholders happy and their company profitable, they're trying to find a balance.
Facebook recommendations are a change, but will become front and center for businesses. Not only do they provide a new form of social proof, they'll be valuable as a customer acquisition channel. When someone recommends a business, it will appear in their feed for their social network to see, amplifying businesses with each new recommendation.
Facebook is still providing businesses opportunities to advertise on the massive platform. Part of that is offering a more organic way of penetration for local businesses via social recommendations, customized business pages, call to actions, events, and job postings. It will be fascinating to see how these tools evolve and what role paid advertisements will continue to play in the Facebook business ecosystem.
To clarify, this change will actually be replacing reviews on Facebook. While businesses won't lost their past reviews, customers will no longer be able to leave a 'grade' on a 5 star scale.
Updated #2 (8/22/18):
At Grade.us, we've had a few different customers mention to our support team that the numbers of reviews and recommendations are not matching up with the actual numbers of recommendations on their Facebook business pages.
In all cases, the numbers have been higher, and customers are wondering "Where are all of these reviews and recommendations that I'm not seeing?"
Unfortunately, Facebook isn't super transparent when it comes to explaining their data (as most of us know at this point - even though they're trying to be better about it).
That said, recommendations have been around for over 6 months, but only in private feeds until recently.
My theory is that when people ask for recommendations on their private feeds, and someone recommends a business, that recommendation counts towards your total number of recommendations, but does not actually show up on your company's recommendations.
Check out the example below:
What do you think? Would that explain the uneven recommendation count?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below on Facebook's change from reviews to recommendations.
Updated #3 (8/30/18):
A couple of interesting things here
- Facebook will be prompting people who tag businesses in a photo or post to publicly recommend the company. (number 2)
- Existing reviews will be converted into recommendations (number 4)?
The way they phrase number 4, it's hard to know what they mean. Will the reviews still be rated as a 1-5 star and simply be called a recommendation or will the rating be removed? We don't know.
While we at Grade.us don't know yet whether that means a 3 star rating will be converted to a recommendation or a 'not recommended,' we're keeping our eyes on it.
So far, it looks like existing reviews have not yet been 'converted' into recommendations.
If you see a 3 star converted, let us know what you find!