Facebook Tries to Woo SMBs with New Customer Engagement Tools

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Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in years: I picked up my phone and called a store to ask a question.

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in years: I picked up my phone and called a store to ask a question. A friend told me about a farm that sells lavender but she wasn't sure whether customers could pick their own flowers. Since the information wasn't on the farm's website or Facebook page, I called the farm. I reached the farm's store and an employee told me she would have to call me back with an answer. Two hours later, she called back and told me that the harvesting season was done, but to check the farm's Facebook page for updates about the lavender crop next summer. Clearly, this conversation wouldn't have been necessary if the farm owners updated their Facebook page or website more frequently.

However, Facebook is trying to make it easier for small businesses to share information with customers, particularly on mobile devices. On Tuesday, Facebook unveiled new features for its pages for small businesses.

The new features include the ability to highlight information about your business by sections such as a "Shop" or "Services" section. A spa, for example, can list the different types of massages and facials that they offer under services and a retailer can display products in the shop section. Each section will also have a corresponding tab for videos and photos to get more details.

The new features are designed to "house the information people are looking for, help you communicate with your customers and support your unique goals," Facebook writes in a blog post. However, adding tabs and sections to a mobile site seems like a step back in functionality by making it easy for a fat finger to tap on the wrong tab.

But for the most part, these features complement Facebook's e-commerce features like the "Buy" button it launched earlier this summer. It wouldn't be difficult to imagine users being able to make a purchase directly from the shop section. And a few weeks ago the company rolled out updated messaging features including the ability to send a private message to a business directly from a News Feed ad.

Of course, none of these features are useful if a business doesn't take advantage of them. Hopefully by next summer, I'll know when the farm's lavender crop is ready to be harvested.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION