In the wake of the iOS14-Pocalypse (Yes, it’s a crap name, but we’re committed now), we were all waiting for Facebook’s response, and we’re now starting to get a picture of what that could look like.

Facebook recently announced a raft of new features that they hope will help businesses establish more direct connections with their customers, centred around personalised messaging, making it easier for customers to discover new businesses, and provide new ways for business owners to manage their businesses.

It’s part of a wider push to get people spending more money on-platform which includes the recent expansion of Facebook Shops. If you asked the Big Blue ‘F’ to articulate it themselves, they want to ensure that ‘the best dollar businesses spend each day’ is on Facebook.

It’s a bit of an odd way to put it, but that weird statement aside, there is some juicy and potentially important new stuff happening in this new release, so let’s dive in.

The announcement can be broken down into three broad sections: Communication, Control, and Discovery.

Communication

  • Start valuable conversations with ads that click to message

First off are changes to the click-to-message ad options, making it easier to get in direct contact with customers regardless of which platform they prefer. As Facebook put it:

“Businesses can already buy ads that encourage people to message them, whether in Messenger, Instagram Direct or WhatsApp. Now, businesses can choose all the messaging platforms where they’re available to chat, and we’ll default the chat app in your ad based on where a conversation is most likely to happen.”

Facebook for Business Announcements
Image Credit: Facebook

The major difference here is that previously advertisers had to choose the specific messenger platform they wanted to send people to. Now, they choose all of the ones they’re available on, and Facebook sends them to the app that is most likely to result in a conversation, and hopefully, a conversion or lead of some kind.

This option looks interesting when, according to Facebook, 75% of adults want to communicate with businesses via private message. We’ll take that number with a grain of salt, but it highlights that Facebook is trying to provide more ways for individuals to contact businesses on the platform they’re most comfortable on in the hopes that it will lead to increased responses.

  • Start a WhatsApp chat from an Instagram Profile

Adding to their arsenal of personal messaging options, businesses will now be able to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button to their Instagram profile. This is designed to make the cross-channel hop easier for businesses that use Insta as a storefront and WhatsApp to chat with customers. Soon there will even be an option to create ads that click to WhatsApp directly from the Insta app, similar to what’s already available on Facebook.

Image Credit: Facebook

This deeper integration of these platforms added to the already available Instagram DM option highlights again Facebook’s desire to tie private messaging even deeper into their core offerings. 

In fact, there seems to be a big emphasis on WhatsApp as a key to Facebook’s ongoing growth. The messaging app is already a major messaging tool in emerging markets such as India. Enabling deeper business integrations from WhatsApp into the rest of the Facebook ecosystem will play a big part in giving Facebook a strong foothold in the growing e-commerce push happening in these markets.

Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition Updates

  • Quote requests directly on Messenger.

This option is currently being tested with some select advertisers and allows them to create a short 4-5 option questionnaire that is presented to potential customers before they start a conversation on Messenger. The idea is to make the quoting process more streamlined by getting more context ahead of the chat.

Image Credit: Facebook

The option for automated responses has been on Facebook for a while, but by building a ‘Get Quote’ call-to-action option directly into the app, it adds another way to get conversations with potential customers started, and generate some warmer leads by getting the initial interaction moving in the right direction.

Facebook also noted they’re planning on testing similar features on Insta in the near future.

Control

  • Business Suite Updates

Business Suite gets a big overhaul with new features designed to help simplify how business manage their presence on Facebook and allow them to focus on growing their business.

New ideas that are currently being tested include adding the ability to manage and send remarketing emails through the Business Suite app, similar to a test run through the Facebook Pages app last year. This expansion of the Business Suite looks to give it a more CRM-style feature list. 

This could be great for a lot of small businesses using Facebook’s products to drive growth. However, building a business with increased reliance on Facebook hasn’t always worked out well for some brands in the past.

There’s also the introduction of File Manager, an on-platform filing system allowing users to create, manage and post content within Business Suite, and they’re also adding Post Testing, allowing publishers to test and compare up to four versions of a post, which Facebook will then test with a sample audience. You can then put ad spend behind the winner, with the aim to drive better results.

Image Credit: Facebook
  • Work Accounts (Finally!!)

After years of ignoring every social media manager and business owner on their platform, Facebook is finally testing Work Accounts, allowing users to access Facebook’s ad tools via a separate account not tied to their personal profile.

“Business owners routinely tell us that they are looking for access to business products with separate credentials from their personal Facebook account. To simplify this, we’re testing Work Accounts, which will allow business users to log in and operate Business Manager without requiring a personal account. Businesses will be able to manage these accounts on behalf of their employees and have access to enterprise-grade features like single sign-on integrations, giving them more control over the security of their employees’ accounts.”

Facebook for Business Announcements

We can hear the collective sigh of relief from agencies and in-house social media management teams across the globe here, as it will allow them to access client profiles without adding more credentials (and the endless notifications that come with them), to their personal profiles.

These Work Accounts will be tested with a small selection of businesses throughout the rest of this year, with a broader rollout planned for early 2022, so watch this space.

Discovery

  • Facebook Business Explore expands into new markets, including NZ!

Facebook Business Explore, a business discovery tool that has been running as a test in the US since earlier this year is set to expand into a range of global markets, including here in NZ. The feature highlights related content from Facebook Pages below certain posts and updates when users spend time checking them out in the Feed. Users can then explore content from related businesses, with the goal of helping people discover more businesses in-app.

Image Credit: Facebook
  • The push for more SMBs

The final announcement came as a push to attract more small businesses to the Facebook platform by bundling some third-party tools into a sort of ‘Start-up’ package.

“For example, we will start to allow some small businesses to access a bundle that will include valuable tools and benefits, such as a Facebook ad coupon, along with free access to QuickBooks accounting software for three months or free access to creative tool Canva Pro for three months.”

Facebook for Business Announcements

It seems Facebook is doubling down on its push to be a major part of the rocketing growth in online marketing e-commerce driven by the pandemic as more SMBs get on board with the idea. 

It’s also important to note that a lot of these features aren’t reliant on businesses collecting and retargeting customers using their personal data. In the wake of stricter privacy protocols, with more to come, Facebook’s traditional ad targeting methods are under threat. These new tools look set to try and give businesses more ways to interact directly with their customers and providing them with new ways to be discovered without needing said data.

We’ll be keeping a very close eye on this rollout to see if these tools can help shift the balance back in Big F’s favour. 

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