You may now be able to find law firm reviews in a surprising place:
The company hasn’t made an announcement, but a recent article from SearchEngineLand says Facebook is rolling out a “Professional Services” directory. Like Yelp and Angie’s List, this new Facebook feature offers an extensive collection of reviewed local businesses and services.
SearchEngineLand’s Martin Beck reports the new feature is desktop-only at this point. He writes that Facebook has more than 80 business categories and businesses are rated with Facebook’s five-star system. Beck also writes that results aren’t ranked solely by how many good reviews a business or service has received. He notes users may get tailored results:
“Given Facebook’s deep knowledge of individual preferences, results are likely customized for users depending on their previous interactions with a business’s Page or whether someone they are connected with has reviewed a business on Facebook.”
Beck cites evidence of this in the slightly varied results he received when logged into or out of Facebook.
Here’s an example screenshot of what Facebook Professional Services currently looks like if you search for “Bankruptcy lawyers” in “Phoenix, AZ”:
What Facebook’s Directory May Mean For Law Firms
Facebook’s choice to start a services directory could be a smart move on the company’s part: Recent research suggests that more than 80 percent of people do research before they buy, and more than 60 percent of people look to online reviews to help them make that decision. People have often used word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends, but it seems that may be changing. A recent study shows nearly 80 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. With more than a billion active Facebook profiles, the company has the potential to reach a lot of people.
Not only are people using online directories more to inform their decisions, but they’re contributing their opinions more often, as well: Yelp had roughly 30 million reviews in 2012 — but as of 2015, there are more than 90 million reviews with no sign of slowing. Here’s a graph taken from Yelp’s website that shows the increase in their directory’s reviews over time:
The majority of Yelp’s users are between 18-34 (41.9 percent). With the majority of Facebook users being roughly in this age range (81 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 18-29), Facebook may be in a position to attract a lot of Yelp users if they find Facebook’s new directory valuable and easy to use.
Facebook’s choice to start a directory could reveal that social media is an increasingly “normal” part of our lives — so much so that we want other aspects of our web activity combined with it.
Facebook’s approach to the news may reveal something about this: 66 percent of American adults use Facebook, and 41 percent get their news from the social media site. That’s regardless of gender, race, age, and education level.
More people are getting their news from social media than ever before. Yet, when polled, these people do not consider Facebook as an “important” news source. Interestingly, it appears Facebook users aren’t actively seeking out the news — of those who read news on Facebook, about a fifth say that they think of Facebook as a useful place to get news and 78 percent say that they stumble upon the news while using Facebook for non-news related reasons. As one participant in the Pew Research study put it, “I believe Facebook is a good way to find out news without actually looking for it.”
Could Facebook’s directory affect Facebook users in a similar way?
Like the news that people read on Facebook, it’s possible the directory will be integrated in a natural way that encourages participation without users actively seeking out information. If Facebook users stumble upon news stories from friends, families or their favorite brands, it’s possible that they’ll find a similar way to interact with the directory. If the content there is useful and catches the attention of the many who use Facebook, it could shape decisions about which professional services web users pick.
While people in large cities may consult an online directory like Yelp to find a nice restaurant on a block where there may be several other restaurants, the Facebook directory could appeal to the needs of smaller, local audiences.
We’ve written before about the perils of ignoring online directories like Avvo, Yelp, and Google My Business. Now that a Facebook directory has been added, lawyers may want to start thinking about claiming profiles on popular directory sites if they haven’t already.
Picking the right directories is important. There are so many out there and filling out a complete profile can be time-consuming. As a result, lawyers may want to be selective about which directories they join. With such a large user base, Facebook’s Professional Services may be on the list of directories that law firms will want to be featured on.
We live in a world that increasingly prefers receiving tailored, customized content on the web. If the results in this directory are tailored to consider the preferences and interaction history of Facebook users, law firms may want to ensure they have a strong web presence — not just on search engines, but also on social media.
We’ll continue to report on developments to Facebook’s directory and other online directories as information becomes available and their long-term impact on law firms becomes clearer.