Is Facebook becoming the new Foursquare or Yelp?

How companies need to re-think their customer review strategy

: By Scott Esmond and Tony Felice :

In a matter of weeks, Facebook became much more than a place where old high school friends keep in touch or talk about things that they "like" with one another. The introduction of Community pages combined now with the location-based Facebook Places service it launched just last month has put the relevancy and longevity of other outlets like Foursquare and Gowalla into question seemingly overnight. Moreover, the popular social media site's current testing of ratings and reviews functionality in their ads changes the playing field for the likes of Yelp and other similar outlets. In short, Facebook has become a bona fide, real-time, lead generation and customer feedback tool for companies around the world and in their backyard.

Organizations that are savvy and flexible enough to capitalize on this trend have much to gain in terms of increased brand equity, lead generation and customer loyalty, but only if they take certain steps to ensure that it happens. Here are some examples:

- Posting boring pictures or "hey guys" status updates won't cut it anymore - Simply blasting out the latest company updates won't increase followers or drive community engagement. While that may not be a new revelation, organizations now need to take it a step further by crafting their Facebook status updates and page content in such a way as to invite conversation among various target groups.

For instance, a trendy retail clothing chain can offer its fans a five percent discount if they provide reviews and feedback for a particular outlet in Downtown Denver. Such promotions can be not only fruitful, but packed with real-time trend data that the company can use for similar initiatives in other markets.

- Pay closer attention to feedback - Facebook's upcoming ratings and reviews feature will become a staple on the social media site in short order. Using the Denver clothing outlet as an example, people can now tell their friends to what degree they "like" the store, going so far as to qualify that on a rating scale and comment section. The expanded physical dimensions of Facebook's newest tentacles will create powerful waves online - shifting the focus from attitude to action.

- Control the message even less - As if marketers weren't having enough trouble controlling their message, Facebook just made its users even more powerful with these few features to now take over a brand by offering far greater opportunities for folks to discuss, review, comment and complain about the brand away from the company's corporate Website. Organizations will need to join in these conversations in a more frequent and personal manner than ever before, and avoid the perception of broadcasting. Listening and responding to questions and comments will be more important than ever before. Above all else, companies should respect customers for their new found social media capabilities.

- Dedicate Resources - Of course, organizations should establish solid social media policies up front, and clearly define the company's online voice. The executive team should seriously consider designating a seasoned Community Manager to track and converse with customers and interested parties on Facebook and other social media platforms. The ability to monitor and quickly respond to online comments is of even greater importance now, and shows no signs of waning. While Facebook's entrance into Yelp and Foursquare's territory won't necessarily mean that the other sites will go away, it does mean that marketers might want to adjust their thinking and approach to include Facebook places. It will be a matter of winning or losing business.

About the Authors: Scott Esmond is the Director of Business Development and Tony Felice is the Senior Strategist at Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in San Diego and Denver that helps organizations profit from their Web initiatives. Clients include Petco, Garden Fresh Corp, California Avocado Commission, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and Cricket Communications. Follow Scott and Tony on Twitter: @sesmond and @tonyfelice