Facebook’s Taking Over. What Does That Mean for Your Small Business?

By Megan Rowe, AMA Member and Volunteer

The Washington Post recently published a brilliantly-titled piece called “How Facebook Is Slowly Eating the Rest of the Internet.” Of course, I first read this on my phone while killing time somewhere, thanks to Instant Articles.

The Post piece primarily focused on how Facebook’s latest features impact individuals, but how individuals use Facebook impacts how businesses use—or should use—Facebook.

I still meet people who view Facebook as a free website or blog where they can communicate with their target audience by posting text-only updates once or twice a month. Those days are long gone. Facebook is not free.  Facebook can be a highly effective way to connect with consumers, but only if you’re creating and sharing content they want to see and responding to their needs.

Let’s run down some of Facebook’s changes within the last year:

Facebook Pages Messanger for Businesses

Facebook Page Messaging

A couple of years ago, I bought a jacket online and live-chatted with a rep who answered my questions as I was sitting there, motivated to buy, with my credit card out. I see Page Messaging, which Facebook unveiled in August, as Facebook’s answer to that. Now any business can answer questions in real time, without the consumer having to pick up the phone or dig for an email address.

Facebook rewards businesses that respond to at least 90 percent of messages within less than five minutes with a “very responsive to messages” badge on their profile. This is great for consumers who might otherwise wonder if they're messaging into a black hole. But if you're the only person managing your business’s page, it only takes one 2 a.m. inquiry to kill your response time for the week. And we’ve all gotten those questions that require more thoughtfulness in responding than five minutes allows.

The good news? Facebook does allow businesses to put up away messages, so the five-minute clock only begins ticking after you become available again. Make sure to take advantage of this feature.

Facebook Instant Article for Business

Facebook Instant Articles

Instant Articles are Facebook’s response to slow mobile website load times. They keep consumers on Facebook, and Facebook claims these articles load 10 times faster on mobile than standard linked articles. Originally, they were only available to a handful of major media outlets, but in April Facebook opened them to all publishers.

What you need to know about Instant Articles:

1. You can only turn your own blog or site content, not someone else’s, into an Instant Article.

2. Consumers will probably be more likely to read your content on mobile, but they’re not reading it on your site. That means less traffic for you and more for Facebook. However, Instant Articles does provide you with analytics to see how many users looked at your content.

3. If you’re not comfortable with HTML5, they’re not intuitive or quick to set up. There’s a Wordpress plugin that helps considerably, but you’ll probably still need to do some tweaking and customizing.

4. Facebook requires you to submit 10 Instant Articles for approval and make changes based on their employees’ feedback before you can begin publishing. That’s actually much more reasonable than the original requirement of 50 articles.

There’s no proof that Instant Articles are a factor in Facebook’s timeline algorithm, but I’m willing to bet they will be eventually. As more companies implement them, consumers will come to expect them, and slow-loading content will become even more annoying. If you’re publishing original content, you should probably put Instant Article implementation on your to-do list.

Facebook News Feed

Algorithm Changes & Continued Decrease in Organic Reach

Organic reach — the percentage of fans who see your pages’ posts without any boosts from advertising — can vary widely by the number of followers you have and the type of content you post. But most recent articles suggest that less than 10 percent of your fans see each post.

Ignite Social Media, a social media marketing agency, tracked some brand pages from January through September 2015 and found most months, posts only reached around 1.1 percent of followers

So what can you do to maximize your reach?

1. Pay attention to news about Facebook’s algorithm. Be aware of the content that does best (hint: embedded video) and things to avoid, such as encouraging consumers to “like” your post. Recently, news came out that Facebook will start showing users links that people spend more time reading. If that means users will see fewer click-through photo slideshows with ads, that’s probably a good thing.

2. Play with your smartphone. You might not have a big video or stock art budget, but you’ve probably got a phone. Facebook’s relatively new live video feature will notify your fans when you start recording and archive the video on your page. Taking photos of your employees and events might come in handy the next time you’re lacking an image for your blog post.

3. Pay attention to your Insights. What content gets the most engagement? Are your videos getting views, and how long are the views? Are there any particular times that get more engagement?

4. Consider boosted posts or ads, with carefully targeted audiences. Yes, these cost money even beyond employee time, but you can set any budget you like and measure results in real-time. In my experience, it’s the cheapest advertising you can do.

Looking for more social media tips? Check out this infographic for social media image sizes and ideal posting times. 

About Megan Rowe

Megan RoweMegan is UVA Health System’s social media specialist and blog editor. In that role, she focuses largely on social media promotion and advertising strategies for consumer-facing videos and blog content, including patient stories, live video of major events, and health information. She has previous experience in journalism and public relations and loves storytelling and taking photos.