Facebook today is announcing the launch of new products and features for business owners, following the threat to its ad targeting business driven by Apple’s new privacy features, which now allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps. The social networking giant has repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. But it was not successful in getting any of Apple’s changes halted. Instead, the market is shifting to a new era focused more on user privacy, where personalization and targeting are more of an opt-in experience. That’s required Facebook to address its business advertiser base in new ways.
As the ability to track consumers declines — very few consumers are opting into tracking, studies find — Facebook is rolling out new features that will allow businesses to better position themselves in front of relevant audiences. This includes updates that will let them reach customers, advertise to customers, chat with customers across Facebook apps, generate leads, acquire customers and more.
The company earlier this year began testing a way for customers to explore businesses from underneath News Feed posts by tapping on topics they were interested in — like beauty, fitness and clothing, and explore content from other related businesses. The feature allows people to come across new businesses they may also like, and would allow Facebook to create its own data set of users who like certain types of content. Over time, it could possibly even turn the feature into an ad unit, where businesses could pay for higher placement.
But for the time being, Facebook will expand this feature to more users across the U.S., and launch it in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and the U.K.
Facebook is also making it easier for businesses to chat with customers. They’re already able to buy ads that encourage people to message them on Facebook’s various chat platforms — Messenger, Instagram Direct or WhatsApp. Now, they’ll be able to choose all the messaging platforms where they’re available, and Facebook will default the chat app showcased in the ad based on where the conversation is most likely to happen.
The company will tie WhatsApp to Instagram, as well, as part of this effort. Facebook explains that many businesses market themselves or run shops across Instagram, but rely on WhatsApp to communicate with customers and answer questions. So, Facebook will now allow businesses to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button to their Instagram profiles.
This change, in particular, represents another move that ties Facebook’s separate apps more closely together, at a time when regulators are considering breaking up Facebook over antitrust concerns. Already, Facebook interconnected Facebook’s Messenger and Instagram messaging services, which would make such a disassembly more complicated. And more recently, it’s begun integrating Messenger directly into Facebook’s platform itself.
In a related change, soon businesses will be able to create ads that send users directly to WhatsApp from the Instagram app. (Facebook also already offers ads like this.)
Separately from this news, Facebook announced the launch of a new business directory on WhatsApp, allowing consumers to find shops and services on the chat platform, as well.
Another set of changes being introduced involve an update to Facebook Business Suite. Businesses will be able to manage emails through Inbox and send remarketing emails; use a new File Manager for creating, managing and posting content; and access a feature that will allow businesses to test different versions of a post to see which one is most effective.
Other new products include tests of paid and organic lead generation tools on Instagram; quote requests on Messenger, where customers answer a few questions prior to their conversations; and a way for small businesses to access a bundle of tools to get started with Facebook ads, which includes a Facebook ad coupon along with free access to QuickBooks for three months or free access to Canva Pro for three months.
Facebook will also begin testing something called “Work Accounts,” which will allow business owners to access their business products, like Business Manager, separately from their personal Facebook account. They’ll be able to manage these accounts on behalf of employees and use single sign-on integrations.
Work Accounts will be tested through the remainder of the year with a small group of businesses, and Facebook says it expects to expand availability in 2022.
Other efforts it has in store include plans to incorporate more content from creators and local businesses and new features that let users control the content they see, but these changes were not detailed at this time.
Most of the products being announced are either rolling out today or will begin to show up soon.