Facebook just gave local businesses a big boost

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Facebook made a splash this week when it took its mobile ad network out of beta and introduced it to the public, enabling developers to integrate ads into their apps via an API. But the headlines seemed to overshadow the launch of a new offering that could give local businesses a big boost and should help Facebook grow its network of advertisers in a big way.

The massive social network also introduced Local Awareness ads, which enable brick-and-mortar businesses to present ads to targeted groups of Facebook users within a specific proximity (the radius can be as small as one mile). The offering is available through Facebook’s Ad Create tool and allows advertisers to set their budgets, determine how long their campaigns will run, upload images and messages and choose the age and gender of users they want to present the ad to. U.S. advertisers will be able to use the ads “in the coming weeks,” with global roll-out to follow.

Digital ad networks have struggled to find sufficient local businesses, which is why users continue to see ads through Facebook, Groupon, Yelp and countless others for businesses far from where they typically live and work. Local Awareness ads should be particularly compelling for mom-and-pop stores that aren’t interested in building their own mobile apps or even a mobile-optimized site. Not only could that help Facebook users take advantage of nearby businesses they may have been unaware of, it should help Facebook expand its ad network in big ways.