Small business owner taking photos of clothing for an online store.
From Facebook Shops to the more recently released Facebook Business Suite, social platform Facebook aims to help small businesses turn more leads into sales. — Getty Images/svetikd

Why it matters:

  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says the site aims to give entrepreneurs and small businesses the same tools that historically only the big companies can access.
  • The social network is helping businesses turn leads into sales by identifying shoppers poised to spend via analytics.
  • Facebook is also testing a new feature in its News Feed that will allow users to tap on topics such as beauty, fitness or restaurants, and view content from businesses in those categories.

Facebook has added new tools to make it easier for small businesses to get more attention online, schedule and edit their posts across all Facebook platforms and connect with more customers.

The new features are part of Facebook’s ongoing campaign to become small businesses’ best friend on social media.

Facebook has a strong incentive to keep small businesses happy. Small businesses generate a significant, and growing, portion of its advertising revenue.

Time saved on posting content has given me so much more time to focus on other projects. I estimate saving about 10 hours a week after switching to Facebook Business Suite.

Nita Cooper, owner and founder, Star N Skyes Travel

Wooing the loyalty of small businesses

Facebook has benefited during the pandemic as consumers began spending more time online and on social media, and as advertisers shifted their spending to catch their attention. That trend has continued into 2021, with Facebook reporting that ad revenue rose 46% during the first quarter of this year to $25.4 billion, with the average price per ad and the number of ads increasing.

It also needs to keep small businesses loyal to its platforms at a time when Apple is preparing new privacy features to make it more difficult for apps like Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) to track what its iPhone users are viewing, and thus harder to target ads to those users.

“Our goal here is to give every individual entrepreneur and small business access to the same kinds of tools that historically only the big companies have had access to,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said during earnings call in January. “We've always cared about this, but the pandemic has made it more urgent,” Zuckerberg said.

More than 200 million businesses use the company’s Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp platforms each month.

The new tools build on a series of initiatives begun a year ago. In May 2020, Facebook launched Facebook Shops, which allows businesses to sell directly from their Facebook and Instagram pages. In September, it released Facebook Business Suite, which helps businesses coordinate their sales and customer interactions simultaneously across Facebook, Instagram and its WhatsApp messaging platform. In November, it purchased customer service platform Kustomer to bolster its plans to enable businesses to sell via message on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

The latest tools Facebook is adding focus on three functions: discovery, convenience and conversion.

Discovery: New feature helps consumers find businesses they might like

Facebook is testing a new experience in its News Feed that will allow users, while viewing posts or ads, to tap on topics such as beauty, fitness or restaurants and view content from other businesses in those categories.

The feature, which is being tested with a small number of U.S. businesses currently, is intended to help users discover businesses they are interested in, while giving the businesses a new way to catch the attention of potential customers.

Convenience: A single dashboard of professional business tools

Facebook has made it easier for business owners to comment, post and engage with users, including a dedicated news feed for businesses, and a professional dashboard that aggregates all of the tools in one place.

Businesses also will be able to schedule posts and Facebook stories in advance, save posts as drafts and edit schedule posts, making it easier to prepare a steady flow of content.

Conversion: Turning leads into sales by identifying shoppers poised to spend

Facebook is giving businesses new ways to identify and connect with the most interested potential customers through features like the conversion leads optimization program, which identifies the leads, or potential customers, most likely to become spending customers.

Businesses can also add a “Call Now” button to their ads to connect with customers in real time, or contact them through Facebook Messenger.

Facebook shared comments from two small business owners who said they’ve benefited from the enhanced features.

“Time saved on posting content has given me so much more time to focus on other projects,” said Nita Cooper, owner and founder of Star N Skyes Travel in Fayetteville, Georgia. “I estimate saving about 10 hours a week after switching to Facebook Business Suite.”

Niki Libarios, co-owner of Hawaiian Doggie Bakery in Honolulu, Hawaii, said “we’re able to do everything in one place, which saves us so much time.”

“We love being able to see analytics for both platforms [Facebook and Instagram] in one place, and the comments as well. I’m more confident that we’re not missing any interactions or chances to connect with our customers,” Libarios said.

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Published May 18, 2021