Facebook has announced a new feature that allows users to make their location visible to their friends and in turn, see where their friends are. The goal behind the new Nearby Friends feature, according to Facebook, is to foster more in-person communication and interaction and to spark online conversations about places.
The feature is optional and users can turn it on or off. They can also control exactly who can see their location and even set time limits for their visibility. The idea is that as people use Facebook from their smartphones while they are on the go, they can meet up with friends who happen to be in the same area. Users can also give recommendations for restaurants, shops and other sites when they see their friends are in a specific neighbourhood.
When the feature is activated on Facebook’s mobile app, users will be able to see the locations of their friends on a map, so finding friends is very easy. Nearby Friends will become available to users in the United States first in the coming weeks, and then it’s likely that all users will have access to it soon after.
Nearby Friends and Your Business
So, will this new feature impact your business? It has the potential to, but the question is how will you leverage it?
To use Nearby Friends, you’ll need to encourage organic interaction. You can’t set up a page, activate the feature for your audience or even actively use it in a way that benefits your business. What you can do is be aware that your market may be more inclined to talk about your brick-and-mortar locations on Facebook if they use the feature.
Also remember that friends are extremely influential and their opinions often mean more to people than messages and tactics from your business. For example, some people may be more easily swayed by a friend who sees they are in the same neighbourhood as your shop and recommends it than they will be by your own Facebook posts.
Keep in mind that not all of your potential customers, if any, are following you on Facebook. If your Facebook following mostly consists of current and past customers, the Nearby Friends feature could be a way for you to tap into the group of people who are likely to become your customers as people recommend and mention your business.
Businesses won’t be able to actively use this feature to promote their products and services, but the feature could make them more visible to a new audience on Facebook. The key is with the users. If your customers love your business enough to recommend it to their friends through Facebook, you may benefit from the Nearby Friends feature.
Whether or not this new feature will catch on and be embraced by users remains to be seen. How heavy Facebook users choose to use Nearby Friends, and how actively they participate, will determine whether or not your business will benefit.
In the meantime, you can encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends, offer perks to customers who refer new customers and continue to build your Facebook presence and community.