Apparently Facebook is not content with only taking over the web, but wants to get some penetration into the physical world as well. Taking a cue from another dominant company, Google, Facebook is now giving brick and mortar businesses decals to put in their windows. While Facebook tells WebProNews the decals are currently only a test with a small number of businesses, I would expect this to be expanded in the future.
Is Facebook a worthy competitor to Google? Tell us what you think.
Increasing Competition with Google
Google has been sending decals to businesses as part of its Favorite Places program. In fact, they even just announced the expansion of this last week. Whereas Google's decals include a QR code pointing to the business' "Place Page," Facebook's include a link to the business' Facebook Page.
Google has its fair share of competition from a variety of angles. Apple is getting a great deal of the attention in this regard (making two big moves yesterday), but Facebook is up there as well. Facebook is already a key competitor in terms of where people spend their time online. Facebook expanding its presence all over the web only increases that, and will likely play a big role in the diversification of how people obtain information - in other words, maybe a little less Googling. Some of us have even speculated on the possibility that Facebook could one day create it's own AdSense-like network.
Implications for Local Search
In a recent article, we already touched upon the idea that Facebook is positioning itself to have a greater presence in how people find information at the local level. Even before Facebook's latest announcements, business pages have been a great way to engage with local customers.
In that article, I referenced a quote from Search Engine Land contributing editor Greg Sterling, who says, "It [Facebook] could do nothing in particular or it could build the single most effective local directory and search site that exists. This data will be more valuable than anything Google has or any individual local publisher-partner possesses. That includes Yelp, YPG or anyone else that joins the Open Graph and implements these new Facebook platform tools."
All of the "liking" of local businesses that will be facilitated by Facebook's new Open Graph strategy may be further facilitated by these decals. We don't know at this point how many businesses are getting these, but if this becomes widespread, it could be pretty powerful for businesses, and perhaps even more so for Facebook itself. As Facebook notes in a letter to those who receive the decals, businesses are already including their Page URLs on various materials - receipts, napkins, storefronts, etc.
Does Facebook Want to Replace the Website?
There has been some discussion lately that perhaps Facebook was going to make Facebook Pages obsolete by putting the "like" button all over the web and changing the "become a fan" button on Facebook Pages to "like". The thinking here would be, what's the point of liking a Facebook Page for a brand, when you can just like that brand's site? I think Facebook has the opposite in mind.
As I've discussed in the past with regard to Google's Place Pages (and to some extent, Facebook Pages), maybe they'd rather make the website obsolete and have the Facebook Page (or Google Place Page in previous examples) take their place. If Facebook wants to be the new web, and it wants "likes" to be the new links, why wouldn't they want Pages to be the new sites? The decals point to Facebook Pages.
In reality, businesses are not going to be giving up their websites anytime soon and handing over full control to Facebook. However, businesses that don't even have a website may find that a Facebook Page is pretty easy to set up and can connect them with a whole lot of people (much like Google's Place Pages can). Maintenance is much less of a hassle when it comes to a Facebook Page as well, and some may find that attractive in itself.
Mashable suggests that in the battle for the more dominant decal (in terms of what businesses actually want to display), Facebook may have a leg up with its 400 million+ users and "the value of an instant Fan". While Google has no shortage of users, that "instant fan" concept carries a great deal of weight. When someone visits a Place Page on Google, they can find information about the business, sure. But if they're already at the business, how much value does that really have, when compared to the one which will put that person essentially on the business' mailing list - the Facebook version. When they're a fan, you can communicate to them and with them directly.
Facebook says businesses that promote their Page off-Facebook tend to see a 20% or greater increase in connections.
Which would you rather have in your window, a Facebook decal or a Google decal? Would you display both or either? Let us know.