Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke to The Wall Street Journal this week about a slew of new features that allow small businesses can do more with their Facebook page.
Facebook Inc. is where you keep tabs on your friends and the news. Why not find a handyman while you’re at it?
This week, Facebook announced new features that allow small and medium-sized businesses to beef up their Facebook pages, including one that makes it easier for users to send a message to a business.
The company said 45 million small businesses actively maintain Facebook pages, up from 40 million in April. But Facebook has competition for the attention of small businesses: Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and others also are eyeing the local-services market.
Facebook says consumers are already spending a significant chunk of time on the social network, especially on smartphones. The company says roughly 80% of its U.S. users are connected to at least one small business on the social network.
Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Vice President of Small Business Dan Levy spoke to The Wall Street Journal about Facebook’s efforts to court these smaller businesses, before addressing a conference of government officials who work with such firms.
Edited excerpts follow:
WSJ: There are so many tech companies getting into local services now. How do you make sure businesses use Facebook?
Ms. Sandberg : What’s amazing about Facebook and one of the things that’s most exciting about the platform is how easy it is use and how broadly it’s used. If you can set up a Facebook profile, you can set up a page. You don’t have to learn a new technology to do it. You don’t have to learn a new system. The growth that we’ve had to 45 million is very organic, driven by the product and its use.
I think the most important thing here is the mobile story. The world is going mobile and it’s really hard to build an online presence. Thirty-five percent of U.S. small businesses don’t have an online presence. It’s even harder to build a mobile presence. Mobile apps are hard to develop and it’s very hard to get your app downloaded.
Facebook and Instagram get more than one in five minutes (that users spend) on mobile phones. So as users’ time and attention is shifting to the mobile screen, (Facebook) pages are the mobile presence for most of these small businesses. And there’s nothing else out there that’s this easy and this simple to use.
WSJ: How about making it easier to find these businesses on Facebook? Is improving search the next step?
Ms. Sandberg: Search is something we’re investing in to help people find things on Facebook. But the growth of small businesses on Facebook is mostly tied to pages, and most importantly the reach that pages provide. It’s giving small businesses a place to post and giving people a place to see things and share things and interact.
Mr. Levy: Most people spend their time in Facebook in news feed. So the ability of pages to allow people through ads and through posting to get into the news feed is where you’re going to discover it. Search, like a lot of things, is just a new avenue for people to discover.
WSJ: But it’s hard to be seen in newsfeed. These small businesses aren’t just competing with other small businesses. They’re competing with posts from my mom. How do you envision people getting to that page now?
Mr. Levy: Organic reach is a way to get discovered. But people are finding other ways to get to businesses. Advertising is obviously one of them. We have two million active advertisers in any given month. For just a little bit of time and a little bit of money, they can target the people that really matter to them.
WSJ: Besides advertising, how else can businesses get noticed?
Ms. Sandberg: We just announced that 45 million small businesses use Facebook and our latest public advertising numbers are two million. You’ve got 43 million that continue to use it, so obviously there’s a lot that happens for free. We think that’s really important.
Mr. Levy: What we realize is the value to a business of having those connections on their page. Pages now enables a business to get more value from that connection: listing services, listing a shop tab, listing the ability to message. A lot of connections might be in news feed, but we’re seeing an explosive growth in messaging between people, between businesses.