Facebook’s year-old Events app hasn’t turned into the Google Calendar competitor it was primed to become. So the social network is relaunching it and redirecting its aim at local search platforms like Yelp and Foursquare.
On Friday, Facebook debuted Facebook Local, a refurbished version of its Events app that aims to help people find nearby things to do and places to go and make Facebook more of a player in local search.
Through Facebook Local — which is available on iOS and Android — people can search for places, such as restaurants and gyms, as well as events, like music concerts and art festivals. And since it requires people to log in with their Facebook accounts, the app can factor in the places a person’s friends have liked on Facebook and the events they have RSVPed to attend through the social network.
People can search for locations and events by name or category, or they can browse through Facebook’s listings. The app organizes events and locations into categories, such as food, drinks, games, fitness, film, music, religion and health. People can sort these results by relevance, popularity, distance and rating. They can also pick out places that their Facebook friends have liked and see which spots are open now. Selecting a location will show its hours, address, rating on Facebook, popular keywords people use when talking about it on Facebook and pictures of it posted to Facebook, as well as links to call it, get directions through a third-party maps app, view its Facebook Page or visit its website.
When people download the app, they are required to log in with their Facebook accounts, which is how Local can show which of their friends have liked a given location. They are also asked to let Facebook track their locations and can decline, and they can set a city as their preferred place for recommendations, regardless of whether they live there.
While positioned as a local search app, Facebook Local features many vestiges of its former self. Its maps tab defaults to listing nearby events, though people can change the search query to other categories, such as restaurants. And a calendar tab lists the events that a person has RSVPed to through Facebook.
Additionally, the app’s home tab is topped with a search bar and links to browse locations by category, but below that are lists nearby, upcoming events broken down into three sections. “For You” lists events that are trending nearby, as well as events that friends have RSVPed to through Facebook. “Events” lists nearby events sorted by day in chronological order. And “Guides” categorizes events by interest, such as arts and culture, causes and fundraisers, games and music.
A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email asking whether Facebook Local will feature ads. So, while it’s unclear how Local will directly contribute to the company’s business, its indirect benefit is more apparent.
Whether or not people opt to let the app track their location, they must set a location when searching or browsing through it, which can help Facebook gauge people’s interests in that area. Selecting specific locations further signals interest, especially if people opt to call a restaurant or get directions to a store through the app. And even if people don’t give Local permission to track their locations, they may have already permitted Facebook’s main app to do so, which Facebook can use to monitor whether a person viewing a place on Local ended up visiting it in real life. And just as Facebook has enabled brands to retarget people who have RSVPed to their events or visited their brick-and-mortar locations, the company could eventually add an option to retarget people who checked out their locations in Local.
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