Facebook has a new pitch for small businesses: Forget mobile apps and even your own website and build your online presence on, well, Facebook.
Facebook released design changes and new features, including call-to-action buttons for all Page owners, to a group of small-business owners at a live event in Menlo Park, California, on Tuesday. Page creators can now choose a one-tap display, right below the cover photo, that lists “Contact Us,” “Send Message” and “Call Now.” Below that bar, there are new section options such as “Services,” “Photos, “Shop,” “Posts” and “Reviews.”
With these updates, Facebook is broadening the ability for small-business owners to rely on their Facebook pages as the one-stop shop for evaluating and contacting a business. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced there are now 45 million pages active each month -- up from 40 million in April -- but the company is after more. As Sandberg noted in her presentation, 35 percent of businesses in the United States do not have an online presence, according to data from Ipsos.
“You know this but the world is going mobile,” Sandberg said. “Facebook pages are the mobile-Web presence for small businesses. [We want to help you] be a part of the revolution which is happening in communication.”
Indeed, Facebook has added new tools that not only provide a general view of what a business can offer a potential customer, but also ways that a company and a customer can communicate. Facebook opened up “saved replies” -- drafted responses to frequently asked questions -- and response rate banners -- tags on frequency in answering customer inquiries -- to all page owners. Page operators also can take conversations from a public thread directly to a private message with the Facebook users.
These changes to Facebook follow what microblogging site Twitter has repeatedly been seen as. Twitter users often rely on the network as a way to air grievances on delayed flights, and some companies, such as Apple’s Beats headphones, will reach out to customers over product issues.
@kerrymflynn We have a service option for your broken Beats. Let us know if you're interested.
— Beats by Dre Support (@BeatsSupport) August 5, 2015
“We’re making calls-to-action on pages. Why? Because these are your objectives,” said Michael Sharon, head of product development for Pages. “Each one of those will enable you to have a meaningful conversation with people.”
Facebook’s mobile messaging app Messenger has become a big potential revenue source for customers, as the company allows mobile payments between Facebook users and allows transactions for shops. For now, Facebook is pushing its pages as “free” offerings to owners.
What Facebook pages may not be able to compete with, however, is a company’s discovery on search -- something that has become the niche of review site Yelp and app Foursquare. In the past, Facebook page owners have expressed concern over falling victim to Facebook’s algorithm on News Feed.
Small-business owners in the audience at Menlo Park inquired about their pages’ potential reach. Benji Shomair, Facebook director of global partnerships, said he is “working with the design team to improve searchability.” He continued, “We do feel like search is an important part for having your page be visible.”
For now, Facebook users can see “Nearby Pages” on their News Feeds but cannot search for categories such as plumbers, beauticians and restaurants like you would see in the Yellow Pages.