An unescapable fact of Facebook’s ubiquity is that as more Pages and people compete for limited News Feed attention, the percentage of a business’ followers who see their posts declines. Reach dropped 52 percent in just the first half of 2016, for example. Some admins consider it a conspiracy to get Pages to pay for ads boosting their posts, exacerbated by poor communication from Facebook and it telling businesses to work or advertise to get more followers that they now can’t reliably access via feed. But in reality, it’s a natural side effect of increased supply paired with plateuing demand.
That’s why Facebook is trying to redefine business Pages not as just a mouthpiece for marketing through News Feed, but a destination for customers. Today, Facebook is redesigning the Pages of the 80 million small businesses on its platform and the 1.6 billion people connected to them.
First, Pages will emphasize utility related to the business, like a “make appointment” or call option for a salons, and reservations and menus for restaurants. The recommendations users can give friends through Facebook’s special News Feed post format triggered when people ask for suggestions will now appear on a business’ Page too. To improve the quality of reviews left on Pages, there’s now a 25 character minimum.
One potentially controversial change is that Facebook will start showing a “Related Pages” on other Pages. “Inside the Facebook app there’s no easy way to discover new businesses” Facebook’s VP of Local Alex Himel tells me. He says, “The focus here is to make it easy to discover new businesses which we think any business will be excited about.” But if Related Pages promotes competing businesses, say a restaurant or barber next door, Page admins could feel like people specifically looking at their company could be directed elsewhere in a way that would never happen on their own website.
To provide promotional options beyond the feed, all small business Pages can now post ephemeral Stories. Facebook is all rolling out its job applications tab worldwide so small businesses can easily find staffing. Both of these could blossom into advertising opportunities at a time when Facebook’s revenue is declining and it needs more income streams. Himel notes that 2/3s of businesses say Facebok has helped them increase sales.
Finally, Facebook is adding a Local bookmark to the desktop site that opens the same nearby businesses and events guide it offers through its standalone Facebook Local app on mobile it launched in 2016. 700 million people now connect with Facebook Events each month, so that medium has become an important bridge between businesses and customers.
Himel promises that Facebook will be talking more soon about how local businesses can stay relevant and visible in the News Feed. “We know that the core value that we bring to businesses on the platform is reach Instead of time spent, we’re focusing on having meaningful interactions in your feed We know w alto of meaningful interactions are about local businesses or with local businesses. We’re planning to talk about this later this half (year) to help businesses make sure their meaningful interactions add value and are ranked well in the feed.”
But for now, at least Facebook is making Pages more valuable at a time when merchants might wonder why they’re on the platform if it’s so hard to get News Feed distribution.
Originally published at techcrunch.com