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updated 12/21/2012 1:46:21 PM ET 2012-12-21T18:46:21

Social network giant Facebook announced yesterday that it has updated its "Nearby" feature, which is accessed through the Facebook iOS and Android mobile apps. With the update, Nearby now helps people find local businesses based on feedback from their Facebook friends. The feedback can be in the form of recommendations, a star rating system where friends rate a business from 1 to 5 and where friends have checked into or liked on Facebook.

Unlike other review applications, people need to have checked into a business before they can rate it.

This update could be a boon to local businesses that have a presence on Facebook as hundreds of millions of people access Facebook on their mobile devices. People can use Nearby to search for specific businesses or search by categories such as Restaurants, Coffee or Shopping. They can also search on sub-categories such as brunch or clothing. The suggestions people receive become more personalized the more they and their friends recommend, rate and check into places. 

Related: What You Need to Know About Facebook's New Privacy Controls

Facebook says it's an early release of the new local search tool, and improvements are planned. The social network intends for results to get better the more people use it. Facebook also says it plans to add data about places from third-party services in the near future.

As Nearby rolls out, there are a few things that your small business can do to become more visible on Facebook:

1. Update your Page. Assuming you've already set up your company's Facebook Page, make sure it is completely updated with your latest info. This should include all of your basic information like your address, store hours, phone number and details about your business in the About section.

2. Update your Category. Ensuring your business is properly categorized can allow you to appear in the results when people are looking for your specific type of business. To update your category, go to your Page's Admin Panel, click Edit Page and then select Update Info. You can choose your category under Basic Information.

3. Talk to Your Customers. Since results are based on customer feedback and ratings, encourage them to like, check into, rate and recommend your business on Facebook whenever possible. This, again, can help you appear higher in the search results.

Related: New Facebook Option Can Help Brands Regain Fan Engagement

Will you encourage your customers to recommend you on Facebook more? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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