SAN FRANCISCO: Small businesses stand to gain from a new advertising initiative from Facebook, which has rolled out a "local awareness" ad platform focused mainly on mobile consumers.

The new feature enables local businesses to target ads at consumers within the vicinity of a physical store and works by entering address details and the radius around which they want to advertise, which could be as little as a mile.

It comes as the latest annual Best Global Brands Report from Interbrand, the brand consultancy, ranks Facebook as the fastest growing brand over the past year in terms of value.

In addition to vicinity, the social network's new local offering enables advertisers to choose the age and gender of their audience as well as set a budget and duration for their ad. They can also add a photo and message.

"With local awareness ads, businesses can quickly and easily find new customers by showing ads to groups of people who are near that business's neighborhood," Facebook said.

"We think they're the best way for local businesses to reach people near them, and the best way for people who use Facebook to discover more useful things in their area," the company added.

However, perhaps mindful of ongoing consumer concerns about data privacy and the use companies make of such information, Facebook emphasised that its users will retain control over the recent location information they choose to share.

Individual users will not be identified and location-based ads will only appear in a user's feed if location services have been enabled.

A recent survey of 1,000 US consumers by digital marketing firm Gannett G/O Digital found 62% thought Facebook was the most useful social media channel to research products before visiting a local business, Marketing Land reported.

The study also found that ads with offers redeemable at a local store were the most effective tactic on Facebook to influence purchase decisions.

According to Interbrand, the world's largest social network improved its brand value by 86% to $14.35bn to place it #29 in the overall brand rankings, up from #52 in 2013.

Other technology firms also posted strong performances – Apple and Google maintain their positions at #1 and #2 respectively and both exceed $100bn in brand value.

Apple now has a brand value of $118.8bn, having grown 21% over the past year, while Google is valued at $107.5bn, up 15% over the year.

Rounding out the top ten are Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Samsung, Toyota, McDonald's and Mercedes-Benz.

Data sourced from Facebook, Marketing Land, Interbrand; additional content by Warc staff