Facebook updates SME offering

Thursday 10 September 2015

Facebook has launched a selection of new tools that are designed to help small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to market themselves on the social media site.

Benji Shomair, director of global partnerships at Facebook, revealed that there are now 45 million SMEs with active pages around the world, up from 40 million in April 2015.

Mr Shomair explained that the update was the first major change to business pages since 2013, when they received the timelines previously only seen on personal pages.

The latest changes can be largely split into two categories: new calls to action and new page sections.

The single biggest innovation is the “shop” feature, where companies will be able to display their products and services in a dedicated section, without needing to create a photo album with links and descriptions.

For SMEs that don’t provide physical products, there is also the option of a “services” section, which allows them to showcase what they have to offer in a similar way.

Both the “services” and “shop” section will come with “buy” buttons, thanks to a collaboration between Facebook and Shopify.

In terms of new features, Facebook will now allow SMEs to add a number of call to action buttons to their page. The new functions will include “contact us”, “send a message” and “call now”. Furthermore, businesses will be able to use a feature that lets them reply to Facebook comments with a private message.

Of course, this is a good way to manage potentially awkward customer complaints. However, in addition to this, Facebook will also award a green tick (visible on the business page) to businesses that respond to at least 90 per cent of comments and messages within five minutes.

If you are able to have someone to focus on social media, this could be a good way of demonstrating excellent customer service credentials. However, SMEs with only a few members of staff may not be able to offer this level of customer engagement, which could be perceived negatively by users. Businesses in this position can therefore opt out of the system, although this does seem to mean they would not be able to privately reply to comments.

It has been suggested that the SME-friendly update is a response to complaints made earlier in the year, when some small companies claimed that Facebook had been unfairly limiting their reach, possibly in a bid to encourage them to purchase paid advertising instead of posting for free.

However, given the importance of social media to SME marketing, it seems unlikely that Facebook’s power will wane in the near future. The company recently hit the news when it revealed that one billion people had used its site over the course of a single day. This kind of reach, particularly on a platform that is free to use, is invaluable to SMEs with limited marketing budgets, but plenty of enthusiasm and creativity.

All of the latest batch of updates will be available to business users for free.

By Victoria McDonnell

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