Towards the middle of last year, Facebook launched the Page plugin, which provided a new easy way for businesses to embed and promote their Facebook page, directly on their website. It made it possible for customers to like or share the page via the website, helping to boost engagement levels and awareness. The plugin came with a bunch of helpful features, such as allowing customers to see which Facebook friends had also ‘liked’ the business page. People visiting the company website could also see the most recent Facebook page updates, helping to keep them up-to-date on latest happenings. Since then, Facebook has been rolling out a ton of upgrades and new functionality for businesses, amid growing rumours that it plans to compete head-to-head with local search companies like Google. Most recently, Facebook quietly launched Professional Services, an ambitious project to offer listings for local businesses and services, complete with user reviews. It can be hard to keep abreast of all these changes, so here’s our quick roundup of some of the ways in which businesses can be getting the best out of Facebook…
Messages and Events
As an add-on to the Page plugin, Facebook recently rolled out messages and events for businesses. The messages feature allows businesses to bring the conversations they have with customers on Facebook to other places on the web, and on mobile. So for example, a customer could strike up dialogue with a local retailer about a recent order on their Facebook page, or alternatively on their website via the messages tab. The functionality means that businesses can keep customers on their website for longer. Additionally, the events feature within the plugin provides businesses and event organisers with the opportunity to create a more integrated experience managing their events on and off Facebook. People can now discover and interact with events from a Facebook business page, directly on a company website.
At the end of last year, Facebook entered the local business directory space with its stealthy rollout of Professional Services. It was a development easily missed and while it may be some time before it makes a dent on Google local listings, it is certainly something businesses should be aware of. With time, it could easily become a first port of call for consumers, potentially being better placed to drive trusted customer reviews than Google et al. While there are no specific guidelines on how the Facebook algorithm determines which local businesses appear first, according to one report, it seems the following have a bearing:
- Where the local business is located
- Matching keywords in the local business page’s name, description and category
- The overall average star rating of the local business
- The number of ratings the local business has received
- The recency of the latest review
- The number of check-ins for the local business
- Previous interactions between the local business page and the customer
- Connections between customers and people who check in, rate and review the local business
So in a nutshell, a business with a thriving, active Facebook community will stand a better chance of appearing in search results. Businesses that haven’t done so already would be well advised to enable their check-ins and star ratings, and encourage customers to check-in with them, rate and review. Currently it’s not clear how Facebook Professional Services may integrate with Facebook Places, the social network’s local search directory that provides people a way to explore geographic locations through the eyes of Facebook friends and strangers.
Businesses can apply for a Facebook Bluetooth Beacon, to help attract more local customers. This allows them to send custom Place Tips to individuals using Facebook while at the business. So a local cafe could send details of their daily specials, offers, reviews written by friends or photos, and more, to Facebook customers within the vicinity.
Towards the end of last year, Facebook launched 360-degree video functionality. The videos let the viewer interact with the screen to switch the angle of the camera as it plays. It offers a visually stunning way for businesses to share immersive brand stories, places and experiences with their customers and followers. If you’re looking for a good example, USA Today recently flew on-board with the legendary US Navy Blue Angels in a breathtakingly realistic aerial display. Currently, this type of video requires a relatively complex filming set-up to achieve the 360 effect, so is really just an option for businesses with big budgets. But as the technology improves, Facebook hopes it will become more widespread among businesses of all sizes, looking to create cool content for their customer base and online community. It’s definitely a space to keep watching.
The ‘see first’ option
Facebook’s news feed algorithm is forever changing, and this makes it hard for businesses to know how to consistently appear in an individual’s timeline. The answer is a simple one, and came tied in with a bunch of updated news feed controls launched midway through last year. Facebook now allows users to customise their news feed to prioritise updates from particular friends, groups and pages. This is great news for business pages with good, regular content, as it means customers can prioritise their updates, if they so desire. It’s a feature that many seem unaware of, so currently there is a big education job for businesses to let customers know that such personalisation options exist. The next stage is to encourage these customers to add the business page to their See First list, so that they never miss a post.