Dan Levy, who leads the small business team at Facebook, is on stage right now at the Interactive Local Media West conference in Los Angeles, where he’s talking about the results small businesses have seen from promoting themselves on Facebook. I spoke to Levy yesterday to get a preview of his talk.
The Pages product is the center of a company’s presence on Facebook, and Levy said there are now a total of 13 million local business Pages. (These are the businesses that self-identify as local when they sign up.) The number of active local business Pages has increased by more than 40 percent since January. And the number of those Pages that have bought advertising on Facebook has nearly doubled.
Levy also talked about specific advertising products, including the new Promoted Posts, which are supposed to be a simpler way for Page owners (especially small businesses who don’t want to deal with Facebook’s more complex advertising options) to increase their reach. On Facebook’s recent earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg said that more than 300,000 Pages have paid for Promoted Posts, and that one-fourth of those Pages are new advertisers to Facebook. Yesterday, Levy elaborated on those numbers, saying that 2.5 million Posts have been promoted since the product launched in June, and that 75 percent of daily Promoted Posts are being purchased by repeat customers — so it looks like advertisers are happy with the results.
Promoted Posts have been at the center of a recent controversy, with some Page owners accusing Facebook of decreasing the amount of fans that Pages could reach with their regular, unpaid content, as way to drive them to buy more Promoted Posts. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine took a closer look at those rumors, and he found outside data backing up Facebook’s claim that it hasn’t reduced overall Page reach, but it has cut down on spam — meaning that the average hasn’t changed, but there’s a lot more variability from Page to Page. In light of that discussion, I asked Levy how small businesses should look at organic Page reach.
“What we tell small businesses is what we would tell any business,” he said. “We want you to write engaging content that your users want to see. In the same way that you want [your customers] to have a great experience when they walk through the door, we want our users to have a great experience when they visit Facebook.”
Levy also said that Facebook is starting to think about content differently from business to business. After all, just because consumers hit the Like button on a Page doesn’t mean they want to see updates from that business every day. In some cases, like “a restaurant or event or club or retail place where you like to shop really frequently,” Levy said it makes sense for Facebook to show you lots of posts, because you’re interested in sales, specials, and other news. In others, like “a plumber — not to pick on plumbers — or a lawyer, or an accountant or a real estate agent” that approach makes less sense, but consumers may still turn to Facebook when they need a recommendation.
So Facebook is trying to turn Pages into more of “a really nice hub solution,” where it’s not just about pushing content out to fans, but also making Pages a destination that people visit when they want to learn more. That’s already happening — Levy said there are 150 million people visiting Pages every day (though presumably News Feed posts are driving some of those visits), and nearly half those visits come from mobile. To push further in that direction, Facebook is adding features like galleries to highlight products in a more visual way, and more simple things like the ability to list a businesses’ hours and menus.
Facebook also launched a Page Manager mobile app earlier this year, giving local business owners more tools to manage their Pages from their smartphones. The app now has more than 3 million monthly active users, Levy said.
Moving forward, he told me his big goals are primarily to bring more small businesses onto Facebook and to add more location-based tools.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original...