Introduction

Facebook as a tool for business continues to grow, and as the audience increases, the features for business specific content grow along with it. The continual shifting sands of how the mysterious back end and infamous algorithms of Facebook work, who is actually seeing your posts and how to get more engagement with your business page continue to frustrate and confuse small business owners. As the antidote to confusion, here is part one in the Digital Ready Pro Series Factsheets on Facebook. If you are a super newbie to Facebook, the best place to start is at the Facebook for Business Factsheet or even at the Intro to Social Media Factsheet – but hey props to you for boldly jumping in the deep end and we will meet you back here shortly. If you have a handle on Facebook then you are ready to deep dive into the big questions about how to get the best for your business from Facebook from the new Facebook Features.

Facebook is still the number one social media channel

Just in case you need a timely reminder as to why Facebook for business is worth the time and effort of continual learning, your business can use Facebook to:

  • Connect with your target audience
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Create content and engage with the target audience
  • As a low cost marketing channel
  • Create SEO opportunities with increased web content and traffic to your website

Facebook enables all of these activities for your business with relative ease, and most critically, it is where your customers are. Facebook has reached 15 million active users in Australia and according the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are now approximately 24 million Australians. This means 62.5% of the total Australian population has a Facebook account. But this is actually a skewed statistic if you take out children, the elderly and incapacitated and other groups unable to use Facebook, there are about 16 million Australians who are eligible and capable of using Facebook, so that is roughly 90% of the population who are active users. Business. Mind. Blown.

Of those users that have discovered new information on Facebook statistics demonstrate, 60% would go on to learn more and about 35% of people who have discovered a business or product on Facebook would share that with their friends. Importantly with relation to how Facebook can impact on your business growth and visibility - 43% of social media users follow businesses and 40% have given online reviews. There are many more statistics that break down the types of usage, but lets just say Facebook for your business is too big to ignore. 

Reactions

One of the first new things you may notice about Facebook is that it now allows a range of reactions for a post beyond the simple ‘like’. Users had been asking for this feature for a while, and you can now express not only a liking for a post, but also love, sadness, happiness, wonder and fury. (Business owners can breathe a sigh of relief there is no ‘dislike’ button.) The new Facebook reactions work pretty easily for users. When users hover over a post’s Like button in the Facebook news feed, a personal profile timeline, or a Facebook page timeline, they will be able to choose from one of the new six Facebook reactions. From a Facebook Page admin perspective, a few things will change. For starters, you’ll see in your notifications that people are reacting to your posts instead of just liking them. You can click on the link to see which fans are reacting which way, and a full breakdown will be in your Page’s insights. 

Image of Facebook reactions

Reactions open up multiple new ways for users to share their feelings towards content.

For example, if you’re seeing a lot of ‘haha‘ icons clicked, you can quickly track how you’ve hit a chord with your audience. This enables a depth of understanding of how your customers are feeling towards your post, and a good indication of what makes them express sentiment, which you can use to nuance future posts.

A greater breadth of sentiments means that customers are having emotional reactions to and with your brand, strengthening the bonds and associations. Being able to shorthand feelings may also bring a decrease in comments on your posts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is easier for people to react, with more ways to convey their feelings without having to type and leave a comment and less conversation traffic for you to manage while still getting the benefits of knowing how your fans feel about your product.

Facebook Live

Facebook along with every other social media channel is throwing a lot of time and resources into capturing the audience with live video streaming. As Live streaming video

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begins to get greater traction, and Snapchat introduces a vertical video market differentiator, there is serious competition to offer live streaming in app, which is good news for business. To reiterate, video is sticky. Users love it and it gets far and away the most traction and conversion for business. Video and especially the naturalness of live video helps to humanise your business, give your followers inside info, create a stronger connection to your audience. This move to streaming video was a logical foray for Facebook, and while it is only newish, it will undoubtedly become a key business feature.

To use the live streaming facility, you can access Facebook Live only from the Facebook app via the Publishing Tools button in Pages app. Decide who to broadcast to (whether this be friends or followers or everyone), write a description for your broadcast and hit the go live button, in 3 seconds you will be on the air. Once live, users will be able to comment on the video. Your broadcast can be up to 30 minutes long. When you end your broadcast, it'll stay on your Timeline or Page like any other video and can be shared or deleted at anytime.

Think of the opportunities for you to reach out to your fans in real time, and create insightful real time commentary on events, products and happenings in your industry. Imagine the type of language you use to blog, but as a vlog format. Similar to how you strategically schedule blog topics, the same can happen with live video. You can devise a list of topics that are important to your business and brand and most importantly customers, and broadcast at a scheduled time. You can create some hype about your live broadcast and get your followers eager to tune in using a channel they are already on – which again is one of the key benefits of Facebook – people are already using it organically. You can use live streaming for Groups and Events too, which again is a massive bonus for events where leading up to it you can stream updates and explanations, totally removing the barriers to purchase by enabling people to connect with you from the get go. Live in Events also means you can go live from any kind of event – a how-to demonstration, a live Q&A session, a product launch, the applications are endless before, during and after you are there.  Live in Groups allows you to broadcast to just the people in your Facebook Group, which is perfect for giving seminars, masterclasses or mastermind sessions, and working in your existing closed loop of pre qualified fans and evangelists. 

Facebook Messenger App

Some of you may already be using Facebook Messenger which started out life as a stand alone messaging app, which seemed identical to the in channel messaging Facebook already enabled. Then Facebook bought WhatsApp and it seemed that this would become the messaging app of choice. Wrong again. On April 14, Facebook announced that it was explicitly turning Messenger into a platform that allows media outlets, retailers, and anyone else to develop bots to chat with users, joining Kik, Microsoft, and others offering similar services. While the Chat Bot service is pretty new and will be the subject of another Factsheet, the human interactions are up and running and are definitely worth investigating further for your business.

The Messenger App has some powerful tools for businesses and can give you and edge on your competitors in terms of responsiveness. There are some key benefits of using Messenger for customer service – firstly it is quick and efficient. You can make a query or flag a problem and it is dealt with straight away, with a chain of messages clearly visible to all parties so if someone else takes over the query, the customer doesn’t have to go all over it again.

Messaging a business directly is a fast and convenient way for people to get in touch with questions about products and services, appointments, customer service questions and more. Plus, it allows you to build personal connections with the people who are interested in your business/brand/product/service. Because it is part of Facebook, your customers are there already, and so the transition to communicating this way is simple. Not just text but all of the usual messaging options are there – images, video, stickers, documents, all can be shared to an individual or to a group with push notifications to ensure that you don’t miss a message.

Businesses with Facebook Pages get a few additional options to make the conversation with customers smoother. Page usernames will soon start showing up on Pages (underneath the Page title). Pages also get Messenger Greetings, short text messages that appear in a new message thread before any messages are sent. Greetings can be set and edited in a Page's Message Settings. Scannable Messenger Codes are also a new feature on Messenger especially for businesses, Brands and business can display codes that can be scanned by users to start a conversation on FB messenger, they are kind of like QR codes but instantly start a conversation your business using the messenger platform. Messenger links are a direct link to your messenger account – so you can add it to your email signature, and put a link on your website etc. This will connect to your messenger app and lets your users send you a direct message and raise their awareness that you are using the service as a direct customer channel. Businesses can use Messenger Links and Messenger Codes in ads, on their website or in any other marketing channel to prompt people to reach out to them directly.

Facebook Instant Articles

One of the most excellent innovations in the suite of new Facebook features is Instant Articles which has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses handle their content marketing strategy. Instant Articles allows businesses, especially those in the business of publishing content, to produce content - and users to view content in a whole new way. Facebook describes this new feature as an HTML5 document optimized for fast mobile performance, rich storytelling capabilities, branded design, and customized visual display. iPhone and Android Facebook users will be able to engage in visually-appealing, interactive, multi-media articles that come to life with the swipe of a finger without ever leaving the social media platform.

As it stands right now, when users click on an article a business has posted to Facebook, they will be taken to that company’s website where the article then loads up. Cue soul destroying wait times. Because Instant Articles loads right from Facebook’s server, it is up to ten times faster than loading through the smartphone’s browser. Because of these faster load times, articles can be consumed and then shared at a much faster rate, spreading your message further and in a shorter period of time. By using Instant Articles, you’re not compromising on any of your analytical information either. It seems, somewhat bewilderingly, that Facebook has actually developed something that encourages open collaboration and doesn’t feel like an attempt to ram raid your customer data and hoard your IP.

Instant Articles will include automatic video play, interactive maps, a zoom-in feature, and audio. This level of complexity is part of the reason that Instant Articles is so appealing. Content makers will be able to make their Instant Articles’ structure and layout similar to how their articles already appear on their own website, while still being able to add Facebook’s ‘reactions’ and ‘comment’ options within.

Content publishers will have the choice of using Facebook’s analytical tools and resources, those belonging to a third party like Google, or both in order to track an article’s user-engagement. Instant Articles is about saving time, not only for readers but for companies as well. There’s no rewriting, reformatting or reposting your articles for Facebook. After the initial setup, you can make it so every time you post an article to your website, it automatically appears on Facebook as an Instant Article as well. And to add to the good news, you can use ads on your articles too and either keep 70% of the revenue, or use your own ads and keep 100%. You have the option of automatically inserting ads or manually placing where they go.

Are there downsides to using Instant Articles? Well only a couple. There is a requirement to already have your own website and be publishing from there, you can’t develop an article directly from Facebook. A little tech knowledge is also required. While Instant Articles is available to any business or blogger that produces online content, many individuals and small businesses will need to get set up with a secure RSS feed and you may also need a designer or developer to create a template in a way that mirrors your site. The other downside, although you can actually argue it is a quality upside, is that Facebook is strictly policing quality of articles published. You will need to submit at least 50 articles for review before Facebook will approve that your content is of the standard they require. Facebook is raising the bar for being a provider of more than cat videos and endless click bait, and this could signal a true maturing of the channel for business and content.