SINGAPORE - Facebook has announced new features for Pages, which it claims better enable businesses and brands to communicate with their customers while also easing interactions via mobile.
Benji Shomair, director of global partnerships at Facebook, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that this marks the most significant change to Pages since 2012, when Facebook introduced the timeline feature.
“This reflects our commitment to the platform and to better serve the unique needs of the growing community of businesses that have a presence on Facebook,” Shomair said.
According to Facebook, more than 1 billion people visit Pages every month, and over 45 million businesses are active on Facebook, up from the 40 million in May of this year.
The company also shared these additional data points about Southeast Asia:
- More than 85 per cent of Facebook users in key Southeast Asia markets such as Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are connected to a Page.
- The percentage of people connected to an SMB (small or medium business) page is 67 per cent in Singapore, 70 per cent in Thailand, 61 per cent in Indonesia, 59 per cent in India and 76 per cent in Malaysia.
- Users send messages to businesses via Facebook twice as often as the global average in Thailand and Singapore, and 50 per cent more often in Malaysia.
According to Shomair, the changes to Pages aim to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for on a mobile device and to help businesses more easily display and configure the information they most want to get in front of their customers.
Since Facebook introduced Pages in 2007, brands have traditionally leveraged Facebook as a content-marketing channel, cultivating a community of fans and posting content which would appear regularly on news feeds.
Over the years, the company has continued to tweak its News Feed and the algorithms that dictate what posts appear on individual feeds, walking the tightrope between alienating its user base with what it deemed “spammy, un-engaging” content versus the demands of brand partners for reach.
Two years ago Facebook took a firmer stance on the fact that it will no longer be as effective for marketers and agencies to rely only on free, organic reach and faced much backlash over the increasing pressure to “pay to play”.
The updates unveiled today—some new, others previously rolled out in limited fashion with more updates to come—send a clear signal that it wants brands to start thinking of Facebook Pages as a destination or hub, rather than content channel.
More ways to customise
Traditionally, Facebook Pages offered few options for brands to customise their space to better reflect the nature of their business.
With the introduction of two new sections to Pages, different types of businesses can prominently feature the information that is most relevant to their organisation.
The new Shop section helps retail businesses bring their products to the forefront of their Page, while the new Services section enables professional services businesses to showcase a list of their offerings at the top of their Page.
So now, for example, a spa can add its services menu to its page or highlight the line of products it sells, helping people get to know its business faster.
Asked about e-Commerce enablement so potential shoppers can click to buy from Facebook, Shomair said that for now the Shop section essentially functions as a product catalogue.
“We have a partnership with Shopify but that is only available in the United States at the moment. Right now, the options for the Shop section includes a ‘message to buy’ button so buyers can contact the business directly,” he added.
During its fourth quarter earnings report in 2014, Facebook revealed that 526 million of its monthly active users access Facebook solely from their mobile devices, about 38 per cent of the network’s 1.39 billion monthly active users.
As more people connect with Pages from phones and tablets, the company also wants to make it easier to navigate through Pages on mobile.
“We're updating the Pages layout so information is easy to find without lots of scrolling and clicking. One way we're doing this is by giving each Page section a corresponding tab, just like how videos and photos have their own tabs.”
When this new layout launches in the coming weeks, Page visitors will be able to click on the tab associated with a section to see more details. The Home tab, which is the landing tab on Pages, will also contain highlights of each section, so relevant information is front and centre when someone first gets to a Page.
Changes to Pages also include an increased focus on call-to-action buttons, bringing a business’s most important objective to the forefront of its Page, whether it's encouraging people to book an appointment or browse an online shop.
Page call-to-action buttons on mobile are now more prominent, with a bigger and brighter look and new location directly under the Page cover photo.
The company is currently testing several new call-to-action buttons on mobile, including “Call Now,” “Send Message” and “Contact Us,” to make it easier for people and businesses to connect directly.
Shomair said that over time, the company will add additional calls to action to further help businesses drive their goals.
Opening up channels to communication
Businesses need to keep up with people's expectation that they can find information and communicate with a business anytime, anywhere, on any device.
The recent updates to Pages are intended help businesses communicate easily with new communications features such as:
- Saved replies: Helps Page admins respond faster to incoming messages (they can create and save responses to common questions)
- Response signals: Identifies Pages that are very responsive to private messages. If a Page replies to 90 per cent of messages within five minutes, a badge will be displayed indicating to users that the Page is very responsive. The badge will disappear if the Page fails to maintain its response level over a seven-day average.
- Reply privately: Page admins will be able to reply to public comments with a private message. The public comment thread will display a notification stating that the admin has replied to the poster in private.
When asked whether the criteria for a Response badge seemed high, especially for resource-strapped SMBs, Shomair said that the feature’s introduction was skewed towards users—to offer assurance and confidence that a particular business will meet their expectations for swift communications.
With regards to the Reply Privately feature, Shomair shared that it was one of the top-most requested features from brands.
Asked about how this might impact curious consumers, long-used to disputes and grouses being played out openly on comment threads, he said that Facebook’s best-practice guidelines advocate that brands publicly post the conclusion of any dispute, to “close out the loop” and keep users informed.
Spreading the message
Shomair stated that today’s unveiling of new features marks the start of a process the company is undertaking to both better empower brands to achieve business objectives and re-educate the community on a different way of approaching the platform.
“All SMBs are looking to grow and we have the aspiration to help them achieve their objectives and show results,” he added.
With the growing importance of mobile, especially in Asia, Facebook will also be re-announcing these updates to Pages at an SMB event slated to take place in Jakarta in a few weeks time.