This article was originally published on MyCustomer by Rob Thomas (18/01/2016)

In the days leading up to last Christmas, Facebook quietly launched a new feature with no fanfare at all. This feature could have big consequences for Facebook users and business rivals alike. In the days following the discovery of Facebook Professional Services, the stock price of Yelp took a 9% dive.

What exactly is Facebook Professional Services?

Facebook has been keeping its cards close to their its with this release, and as such there has been speculation around certain aspects of the new feature. Here’s what we know so far.

There is a page which allows you to search for businesses that have a Facebook Business Page. It works worldwide and gives you suggestions for categories of business you might like to look for. The page uses your location data to tailor the search to you, however you can also pick any location to base the search in.

Facebook Professional Services

As you can see in the image above, you receive search results that display a map along with some of the top ranking businesses that match your search in your area. The search results for the individual businesses display:

  • Business name & photo
  • Five star rating
  • Tag line
  • Contact number
  • Opening hours
  • Location
  • Review snippet

Unfortunately we do not yet know how Facebook ranks these search results and Facebook has not yet given out any useful information on the subject. From these results you can easily click through to the ‘Reviews’ section of the business page in question and see what the public have to say about them and their services.

According to Facebook’s Terms of Service no moderation of reviews is allowed, except in cases where they break community standards, such as excessive profanity or abuse. This means you should get a true picture of how satisfied the customer base really is, as opposed to a sanitised selection of opinions. Facebook Professional Services will require many businesses to be more pro-active about seeking actual reviews on Facebook. Many people mistakenly believe Wall/Timeline posts are enough on their own. Such posts are great for Social Proof and give you a chance to showcase your great customer service, but they won’t affect your star rating. Star rating is the first thing most potential customers will see, it pays to make sure it’s given enough attention.

With over 50 million business pages worldwide this seems like a logical step for Facebook. With access to mountains of data that sites like Yelp can’t access and permission to use it built in by Facebook users it seems like Facebook could provide a highly personalised search function. There has been speculation that their search rankings may be influenced by demographic factors or whether friends have used a service or visited their page often. Doubtless the top spots of this new search function will, in the near future, be up for grabs to those willing to pay to top the results.

Facebook Professional Services seem to be a direct rival to both Yelp and Google Places, to a lesser extent sites such as TripAdvisor may also suffer. Facebook has a big advantage with its enormous user base, not having to visit a separate site to rate a business will help to capture reviews from even the laziest of customers! Yelp and TripAdvisor are both dedicated reviewing platforms. Such platforms may attract a higher quality of review than Facebook which is primarily a sharing platform, rather than one built for critique.

Facebook Review Professional Services

When a new service or feature like this pops up it only exemplifies the need for proper Online Reputation Management. If your business has neglected to collect reviews on Facebook then it is now immediately at a disadvantage to those that have. Having a diverse and wide range of reviews on various review platforms is essential for many reasons. Firstly knowing that different people use different places to get informed about a business allows you to know that you must appear in all of those places to reach all potential customers. Secondly, by having reviews in many places you can mitigate the impact of any changes or problems arising with any one platform.

4 top tips to optimise your business pages

  • Ask your customers to leave reviews. The more reviews you have the better. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review, a satisfied customer will often be happy to leave a review in at least one place.
  • Ensure your Business Page is completely filled out. Not finding opening hours or a map marker can be enough to lose a potential customer.
  • Respond to reviews and comments often. Don’t fall into the trap of only responding to negative comments, a response makes customers feel valued and shows you care to potential customers.
  • Until we know how Facebook is ranking search results it pays to think about how platforms like Google Places do. Keeping your Business Page active by posting content, keeping info up-to-date and interacting with customers may all affect your rank.

It’s important to be proactive in managing your reputation online. It’s far easier to deal with a negative review if you have a large bank of positive reviews to outweigh them. Bad reviews happen to even the best of businesses, and being proactive will help you to keep your stellar reputation intact. There are various programs and platforms available to help small businesses manage their reputation and make the most of the reviews their satisfied customers are willing to leave.

With this update it’s clearer than ever that there is a direct link between your social media management, reputation management and sales. A single, disgruntled customer or employee can leave a review on your Facebook Business Page that you can’t remove without significant time and effort, and in some cases you may not be able to remove it at all. By consistently seeking out reviews from satisfied customers you not only increase the social proof around your business but insulate yourself from malicious actions.

Social media is a key area to consider when it comes to online reputation management. Facebook is seeking to introduce ‘Buy Buttons’ and encourage entire transactions to take place over Facebook. If you are neglecting to properly optimise and maintain your social media presence then you may soon find yourself at a real, tangible disadvantage to your competitors.

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