In honor of Small Business Week, Facebook is focusing on the mom-and-pops: On Tuesday, the social media company unveiled new features that take down the complexity of Facebook advertising, video creative tools and online appointment bookings.
The goal, according to the company, is to cater to boutiques and other entrepreneurs. Small businesses typically don’t keep dedicated developers on staff to create or support new tools. So Facebook streamlined things to make its new set of tools easy for non-technical folk to use.
In particular, the company sees support for in-app appointment booking being helpful for clients like stylists, beauty salons and spas.
“We’re launching the ability for people to be able to book an appointment from the Facebook page or Instagram page or Messenger for a business,” Facebook’s Nikila Srinivasan told WWD. Srinivasan runs the company’s small business product team.
Facebook already unveiled Messenger support for appointment booking at its F8 developer conference last week. That announcement, that appointment booking would become part of the Messenger software tools, might appeal to larger companies with dedicated developers. Though similar, Tuesday’s announcement emphasizes that anyone can use the new tools.
The company has already run tests with service-based businesses, such as Prudy Beauty Shop in Temple Hills, MD. “Appointments on Facebook has streamlined the booking process for my business and keeps my appointments organized in one place,” said Prudence Wafo, owner of the salon. “I love how I can start the conversation with customers on Messenger, and they can book an appointment. The automated customer follow-up feature also saves me a lot of time, but more important, it brings customers back to the salon.”
Businesses can also customize their menu of services, show availability and manage bookings from their Facebook business page. The appointment details also sync to personal calendars or other appointment management tools. Of course, that presumes business owners are comfortable with Facebook storing such business details.
The streamlining of Facebook ads — the company describes it as taking “the guesswork out of buying ads on Facebook” — couldn’t come too soon for small shops. Larger companies can hire legions of “social media strategists” and social content designers, but they’re rather rare for leaner operations.
Well, no such person is needed here, Srinivasan said.
“Basically the way that works is, if I’m a small business that has a page and product, we’ll just ask you a couple of questions conversationally,” she explained. “We understand how people connect with your business today — so for example, if people call you, message you or visit your web site — and then we’ll also ask a few short things, in terms of setup. We’ll pull up the images that you have, and we’ll have you select a few, and then we’ll recommend an advertising plan for you.…It pulls a lot of the assets that you have available already, to make it super simple for you to set it up as a business.”
The tool also offers multiple versions of the ad, up to six, automatically and offers other suggestions to boost its efficacy, such as call-to-action buttons. Facebook can even choose the best-performing version, as well as offer customized audience suggestions based on information from the business page, budget recommendations and notifications that show ad performance and recommended changes to improve it.
Beyond appointments and automated ads, the third and final offering is a set of new video creative tools. Video is having a serious moment in online advertising, leading to a rush of vid-tastic ads sweeping across the Internet. But video-editing tools can be complicated to use, especially for time-crunched entrepreneurs.
Once again, Facebook aims to simplify things. The set of tools covers automatic cropping, video trimming and image and text overlays. By making them easy to use — and easy to find, as the tools reside directly inside Ads Manager — the company hopes to spur more business from sole proprietorships and other indie operators. The resulting videos can be used on the platform, though at this time, they can’t be downloaded for use in other channels.
According to Facebook, there are more than 90 million businesses using the platform and 7 million active advertisers, most of which are small businesses.