Does This Facebook Feature Pose A Threat to Yelp?

Chris CrumBusiness

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This week, it was discovered that Facebook has a new product called Facebook Professional Services. At the surface level, it basically looks like a Yelp competitor. Once news of the service made the rounds, it was billed by some publications as a "Yelp killer," and Yelp's stock began to tumble.

Do you believe this Facebook poses any direct threat to Yelp at all? Let us know what you think.

Personally, I don't think this product will have much of an effect on Yelp at all (as I noted in my initial coverage), but Blake Ross, Facebook's former director of product, appears to find the notion laughable.

Earlier this year, Facebook put out a new local search and discovery tool at Facebook.com/places, giving users a look at places with Facebook Pages, including those your friends have been to (with their comments) and others with reviews from strangers.

The directory lets you browse through restaurants, hotels, bars, cafes, public attractions, arts & entertainment, gyms, movie theaters, schools, theaters, grocery stores, and landmarks. So far, most people probably don't even know this exists, let alone turn to it over Yelp.

The new Professional Services feature, which you can find at Facebook.com/services,is very similar to Facebook Places. In fact, it looks almost identical, but has two fields to fill out – one for service, and one for city. There’s also a directory with different service categories at the bottom. These are in the following spaces: Arts & Marketing, Automotive, Business Services, Event Planning, Financial Services, Home Improvement, Lifestyle Services, Medical & Health, Pet Service, Spa, and Beauty & Personal Care.

Ross took to Medium to share his feelings about Facebook Professional Services. He makes a lot of great points about why not only is it not a Yelp killer, but how Facebook isn't even trying to make it one.

For one, they haven't even announced the feature. They made it a desktop feature rather than mobile-first. They don't even provide any way to get to it (i.e. a link on the homepage) without knowing the URL. I strongly suggest reading his full post, which really hammers home how ridiculous it is to consider this a Yelp killer.

So why did Facebook create it at all? It's entirely possible that it could evolve into something more, but Ross speculates that it's little more than an SEO play.

It’s more likely that FPS isn’t designed for you; it’s designed for you. The dense links to unrelated content. The pretty URLs. The huge signup call-to-action for non-users. The total lack of core product integration. The fact that it’s powered by the same template as another SEO play, the Facebook Places Directory.

To be sure, SEO is an important source of traffic. But it doesn’t represent a new existential threat to Yelp in a world where its other major competitor is already Google itself. It’s like shaving 10% off $GOOG for Facebook People Directory.

Ross even notes that if this was really viewed as Facebook's attempt at a Yelp killer, Yelp's stock should have gone up. Another good point.

Still, for businesses, the offering could prove useful. To what degree is to be determined, but anything that helps people find you has to be at least somewhat of a positive.

Do you think Facebook Professional Services is more than an SEO play as Ross suggests? Does anything about it suggest that it could be a Yelp Killer to you? Does Yelp face any threat from Facebook whatsoever? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.