Facebook unveils updates to help SMEs interact with customers

Benji Shomair, director of global partnerships at Facebook, says the new page features and tools are designed to help businesses communicate efficiently with potential customers and to encourage “tighter communication between consumers and businesses”.

He adds that it has been almost three years since any major updates to pages. “The last major update was in 2012, when we introduced timelines on pages,” he says.

The number of small and medium-sized businesses with a Facebook page has risen from 40m in April to 45m in September. “A million new businesses are on Facebook every month,” says Shomair.

With increasing numbers of people accessing Facebook on their phones, the page updates, which were announced on Tuesday, aim to make pages more user-friendly on mobile devices for both businesses and consumers.

The features include new calls to action such as “message me”, “contact us” and “call me”, which will be more prominent on the page. Businesses will also have the option of adding one of the two new sections to their page. The ‘shop’ section, which enables retail businesses to display their products, and the ‘services’ section, which allows businesses to list their services at the top of their page.

New tabs on mobile devices aim to make it easier for people to find the information they are after.

Facebook is also introducing several features to help business owners manage communication with customers. If someone posts a comment, business owners will be able to reply with a private message. “Previously you could only respond to the consumer in the way they reached out to you,” says Shomair.

Business pages that reply to 90 per cent of messages and respond on average within five minutes will now get a green badge. “Our goal is to provide consumers with a signal that a page is responsive,” says Shomair.

When asked whether this will put pressure on busy small business owners to reply straight away, Facebook says the feature is optional. It has also introduced a function where messages to common inquiries can be created and sent automatically.

The social networking company has been meeting with small business owners to discuss how they use the site as part of its ‘Boost Your Business’ workshops. In July it visited five cities across the UK to meet small firms.