In the blink of an eye, Facebook has quickly become a major player for connecting with local businesses.
Taking advantage of that huge opportunity, New York City-based Yext announced today that it will now let its users synchronize their local business information with Facebook. Yext’s platform lets business owners manage their listings across sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages from a single dashboard. (Which, hopefully, leads to less inaccurate data and more sales.)
“It’s a fairly long call thing … Half of local searches occur on mobile devices, and 24 percent of the time [for most users] is spent on Facebook,” said Howard Lerman, Yext’s chief executive and cofounder, describing how he believes Facebook will inevitably become a bigger local search player over time. “So, without really trying, Facebook has kind of captured the market with their Nearby product … that has profound implications for the local discovery ecosystem.”
Facebook last year upgraded the “Nearby” feature in its mobile apps to include local businesses (previously it only showed nearby friends). Last month, that feature was renamed to the more descriptive “Local search.” Facebook also revealed that it had two billion connections (mostly Likes) between users and local businesses, along with 645 million page views.
With its new Facebook integration, Yext lets its users manage their Facebook listings for local businesses with the same dashboard that manages information for other local listing sites. You can manage comments on the pages, as well as manage your own posts.
Best of all, Yext offers business owners a simple way to manage multiple Facebook pages for specific locations — making them more visible with Facebook’s Nearby feature. Yext also compiles data from all of those separate listings — like people currently checked into different locations — as a single figure in your main brand page.
I asked Lerman if Facebook actually wants companies to have multiple pages on its site (especially since many will appear identical, aside from things like address, phone number, and business hour differences).
“Facebook is clearly committed to local discovery experience, these are the pages that appear in their local search,” he told me. “It’s not the brand page. It doesn’t make sense to see there’s a brand nearby. It makes sense to see there’s a location nearby.”
The company began work on this Facebook integration shortly after releasing its Power Listings+ product in January, a massive update that lets businesses manage information like staff biographies and store maps.
Yext has raised more than $65 million from Marker, CrunchFund, Sutter Hill Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), WGI Group, and others. The company sold off its pay-per-call business last fall, and it’s now focusing entirely on local listings.
At this point, Lerman has gotten the “eccentric genius” startup founder vibe down pat. So I wasn’t surprised when he related his thoughts on Yext’s current standing through a surfing metaphor.
“I don’t surf, but I know some people who do, and I just had an image in my head of a guy on a board with no waves, swimming around to catch a wave,” he said, describing the typical situation of a startup founder. “Now there’s a giant crest — when that happens you have to stand up and not fall off your board.”