Increasingly focused on the small business community, Facebook is launching a new user interface called "Business Suite" on Thursday aimed at small businesses struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a publication by the social media and advertising giant, the platform will only be available to small companies at the start. In the next year, however, the offer will be extended to larger companies.
"This is a long-term investment to make this the primary interface for businesses of all sizes using Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp," said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, in a statement announcing the new platform.
The focus on the small business community comes as Facebook faced a number of challenges. On Tuesday, a group of celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Michael B. Jordan and Ashton Kutcher participated in a 24-hour Instagram freeze as part of the Stop Hate For Profit movement to protest the what the organization "Facebook" calls repeated failures to address hate speech and electoral disinformation on their platforms. "
During the summer, many well-known corporate brands took a break from Facebook ads to highlight their concerns about the same topics.
David Wehner, Facebook's CFO, stated in his earnings discussion in the second quarter that the top 100 advertisers accounted for 16% of revenue from Facebook ads, which is a lower percentage than a year ago.
This year, the company deployed information centers to combat the spread of misinformation on Facebook and Instagram. The company launched a Covid hub in March, and Facebook launched a voter information center in August.
Facebook is also one of the large technology companies that are under pressure from the federal government and exposed to potential antitrust measures.
Speaking at a CNBC virtual event last month, Sandberg said the social media company needed to work with whoever wins the 2020 US election to allay its concerns about dominant tech companies.
"We know the size and power of American tech companies are deeply concerned both here in our country and around the world," Sandberg said at the virtual summit of the CNBC Small Business Playbook. "It is our job to work with everyone in office, be it in the Senate or anywhere in the world, to address these concerns."
In the wake of the ongoing social unrest in the US, Facebook recently announced that it was providing $ 40 million from its $ 100 million small business grant program to 10,000 black-owned companies in the US. These grants include $ 2,500 in cash and a $ 1,500 Facebook ad credit. Facebook is also updating its Businesses Nearby platform, announced in May, to feature black-owned companies within the tool so that users can more easily discover them.
Despite the ongoing impact on Facebook, engagement and reach are vital for small business owners. The pandemic has caused dramatic economic upheaval and left millions of Americans jobless as governments ordered non-essential businesses to temporarily shut down to slow the spread of Covid-19. For many small businesses, the closings can be permanent.
According to the available rating platform, around 60% of the 163,000 store closures reported to Yelp since March have been permanent.
There are several small businesses that have already used the new Facebook product.
"The Facebook Business Suite makes it quicker and easier to analyze post results from Facebook and Instagram at a glance," said Amanda Stefl, owner and operator of Timber Hill Winery in Milton, Wisconsin. "The inbox organizes messages and comments well and makes replying to customers easy, which increases our engagement and reach across both platforms."
Facebook also launched a series of 30 online entrepreneur video courses over the summer, covering topics such as marketing, online branding, and customer discovery, which Sandberg saw 15 million people at the recent CNBC virtual event.
According to a recent Facebook report published in collaboration with Deloitte, almost half of the small business owners surveyed who advertise on Facebook said they had spent more money online overall since the outbreak. In addition, 40% of small business owners have made increased use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations.
Many small business owners are lagging behind in creating their online presence. In the US before Covid, every third company had no website, according to Facebook. But these online companies are increasing digital sales. Earlier this year, Facebook, in partnership with the World Bank and the OECD, released its first report on the global state of small business, surveying more than 30,000 small business executives in more than 50 countries. In most countries, at least a third of SMEs said they had generated at least 25% of their sales from digital channels in the last 30 days.
"180 million companies use our family of apps every month," said Rich Rao, Facebook vice president of small business, adding that nine million of those companies are promoting the company every month. "Our vision is to have a single place for these people to run their business."