According to Facebook, local businesses should still use Facebook Pages to market their services, despite ongoing decreases in organic reach. Mark Zuckerberg recently gave several reasons why SMBs should stay on Facebook and even consider using Facebook as their primary marketing tool.
Facebook to Local Businesses: Keep Your Pages
At a recent town hall Q&A, a small business owner asked Zuckerberg,
“Given the decline in organic reach, how should businesses like ours or any business think about the role of Pages?”
Zuckerberg replied that Facebook Pages were still the best option for most businesses. Despite the overall decline in organic reach, which was due to Facebook’s ongoing effort to optimize the user experience, he claimed there was no better way to reach customers.
He argued that:
- All or most of SMBs’ customers were on Facebook
- Most SMBs probably had more connections through Facebook than through any other online channel
- Most people aren’t going to download small business apps
- Many small business websites weren’t optimized for mobile
- Facebook was acting as a go-to directory tool, where people went to look for store hours and updates
Zuckerberg argued, as other Facebook executives have before, that Facebook Pages should act as landing pages for many small businesses.
Facebook’s Relationship with SMBs
Since Facebook Pages first emerged on the social network, small businesses have been lured in by the free marketing potential offered by Facebook Pages. Many businesses have, in fact, built large followings on Facebook and used Facebook to reach out to and engage with customers.
However, over the past several years, the organic reach of Facebook Pages has declined. That is, businesses’ posts show up less and less frequently in users’ News Feeds, in favor of friends’ posts.
These decreases in organic reach eventually prompted Facebook to tell businesses to pay for advertising. Suddenly, the SMBs who had spent so much time building audiences were left in the cold. In order to reach the same audience they had engaged with, they were being coerced into paying for advertising.
According to Jonathan Czaja, Facebook’s director of small business for North America, “There’s still a lot of value to the Page apart from distributing content to your fans.” He stated that more information was forthcoming and local businesses should still “create a presence on Facebook and demonstrate the value they bring to their customers.”
Czaja also stated that Facebook is very committed to improving support tools for its 2 million advertisers, many of which are local businesses. In the future, expect to see voice support, online courses, and other help tools.
Hints of Facebook’s Local Business Agenda
While Czaja acknowledged that Facebook has “underinvested” in local businesses and SMBs, there are signs of change.
Facebook Place Tips
Recently, Facebook introduced Facebook Place Tips, a feature that uses geo-targeting to display local business-related social content to people in the vicinity. A person close to a restaurant, for instance, may see their friends’ photos taken in that venue, weekly specials from the restaurant’s Facebook Page, and so on.
The feature isn’t completely rolled out yet, but local businesses shouldn’t expect a free lunch with this feature. In crowded areas, for instance, there will likely be several local businesses competing for users’ screen space. This could easily result in another opportunity for Facebook advertising.
Facebook’s acquisition of The Find, a database that aggregated products from a variety of retailers, now gives the social a foothold in the local retail industry. A user searching for “black shoes,” for instance, could compare prices from a large number of retailers. And if the user wanted to make a purchase immediately, The Find would provide local retailers selling those products.
Facebook’s acquisition seems aimed at “direct marketers, e-commerce companies, and fashion brands,” according to TechCrunch. However, with the capability to incorporate local retail in the mix, Facebook may be looking to swallow up the local business market as well.
Instant Articles and Native Video
Facebook already dominates much of its users’ online time, but recent developments suggest Facebook wants an even bigger time share. Two recent features indicate that Facebook wants to become the only content source for its users.
Facebook Instant Articles, a new feature that allows major publishers to publish articles natively within Facebook, will allow people to view and read these articles without ever leaving their iOS app.
Facebook’s native video platform also allows users to host their own videos in their Timelines. These videos, and Facebook video ads, will show up in News Feeds, just like the rest of Facebook’s multimedia content.
What This Means for Local Businesses
Though these two features are currently rolling out on a large scale, for large businesses, it’s easy to look ahead to see how these changes – if successful – could impact local businesses.
With the decreasing cost of video ad production, and the increasing necessity of video marketing for all businesses, it’s not hard to see how both these features could impact local businesses:
- Local businesses can and probably should be using Facebook video to market their services. And soon, video advertising will become a possibility and a necessity for all businesses, large or small.
- Native articles, if successful, could just as easily extend to local newspapers and local news blogs, many of which are run by large media companies.
Despite the fact that Facebook Pages’ organic reach has declined, Facebook still claims to be committed to their success. If Page continue to remain a viable marketing option, which they may if Facebook’s ongoing feature developments prove successful, small businesses should expect to pay if they want to remain visible.