Facebook: We’re Building a Customer Service Organization for SMBs

Facebook SMB

Facebook’s Jonathan Czaja was interviewed by StreetFight this week. Czaja is a terrific guy who came to Facebook about a year ago from retailer Bonobos. Czaja defends Facebook’s throttling of organic News Feed reach and says that the company’s ad programs are evolving.

Perhaps the biggest “reveal” of the article is that Facebook is investing “heavily in building a customer service organization because we realize small business require a level of support that we’re not providing. For instance, we’re testing live chat capabilities today, so we can talk with Facebook advertisers to do things like screen sharing and we’re close to testing voice support as well.”

Here are a couple of other interesting statements from Czaja:

A decline in organic reach does limit the amount in which you can communicate with your customers in the way you used to be able to do on the platform . . . There’s still a lot of value to the Page apart from distributing content to your fans. We’ll have a lot more to say about Pages going forward, and we do think it’s important that small business create a presence on Facebook and demonstrate the value they bring to their customers.

We’re seeing a lot of promising results [with Conversion Lift Measurement,] but the challenge is that, at the moment, it’s only effective for the larger advertisers who can provide a large enough sample of point-of-sale data to demonstrate lift. Without that large dataset its much harder for marketers to measure performance, so I’m not quite sure if it will apply all the way down to single stores in small locales.

Here’s my reaction to the interview:

Not discussed in the article, but most critical now for SMBs is to have a Page that provides consumers with “validation.” There are more local business ratings and reviews (broadly defined) on Facebook that anywhere else online and consumers are checking them before making purchase decisions.

Reviews on facebook

Accordingly, there’s a somewhat hidden, Yelp-like use case that’s happening on Facebook. SMBs don’t fully recognize or understand this. Not having a rich Facebook presence is a bit like not having reviews on Yelp — you won’t seem credible to consumers.

Czaja also didn’t discuss “resellers.” This has been the key to Google’s SMB strategy. And while there are many companies that sell social presence/marketing to SMBs already (e.g., G/O Digital) there’s no formal reseller program that I’m aware of.

Some sort of reseller program (for lack of a better term) is inevitable for Facebook. It would be better for the company to realize this now and start training and certifying third parties just as Google does.

Paradoxically, Facebook’s News Feed throttling actually makes life a bit easier for everyone in the ecosystem. After setting up their Pages many SMBs simply didn’t know exactly what to post or how often — what I’ve called “the Now What? problem.” But now the strategy is now simpler for SMBs and for third parties that want to sell social to them:

  1. Set up a Page and add enhanced content; think of it as building a social version of the company’s website
  2. Post product updates, new positive reviews from elsewhere, company news and/or promotions (periodically) and turn those into “Promoted Posts” (consistent activity is best; perhaps weekly or bi-weekly)
  3. Buy locally targeted Facebook Ads (offer ads can be very successful and show clear ROI). Think of this as a key component of a mobile marketing strategy

Getting positive ratings and reviews is more challenging. But tactics are much clearer I think now: rich presence, occasional but regular posts that can come from elsewhere and Ads.

Third parties can set up the Page (which can include functionality like scheduling or commerce if appropriate) and they can also buy Ads and run campaigns on behalf of SMBs. Organic posting is still somewhat problematic but third parties can provide best practice guidelines that give SMBs a clearer sense of what to do, almost a template.

The ROI conversation should migrate to Ads exclusively (offline conversion metrics are key over the long term). Presence is necessary, ratings are necessary for consumer validation. Ads are where the ROI conversation should take place. This gets rid of the “is Facebook working?” and “are we wasting our time?” discussion that was linked to organic posting.

As an interesting aside, someone linked to an Alignable survey in the comments to the StreetFight article. I missed the survey in December when it came out. Of the 1,400 SMB respondents, only 14% said they would pay to promote their organic posts and another 18% said they weren’t sure. The rest (68%) said they wouldn’t pay.

Source: Alignable (12/14)

Source: Alignable (12/14)

This week Facebook introduced P2P payments in Messenger. There’s some very interesting potential here.

Facebook could deliver payment services to SMBs (not unlike Square) if it wanted to. It could also buy a booking service (e.g., MyTime) and offer appointments and scheduling through the site. So there’s a great deal more than can be done on Facebook for SMBs to provide value and engage them.

Finally I’ve argued that until they develop a “local search” product (i.e., Places app) they’re not going to see SMBs motivated en masse to buy ads. I believe a local search consumer experience is key to helping SMBs clearly see value in Facebook advertising.

What are your thoughts on all this and where Facebook needs to go to convert more of its 30 million SMBs into advertisers?

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4 Responses to “Facebook: We’re Building a Customer Service Organization for SMBs”

  1. Perry says at

    Spot on advice, Greg. The addition I’d make is to embrace Instagram – it’s only a matter of when/how the content and consumer interaction signals of Instagram become integral to Facebook presence and search results. Instagram is the premier tool for capturing experience and ambience for core SMB place-based categories.

    I do agree that Facebook is amassing the content pieces [and commerce] to add local search and launch intent-driven ad products. As you suggest, this will be the watershed moment for triggering conversion into mainstream ad participation that make sense / feel imperative to the SMB.

    Expanding detailed analytics like conversion lift “down” to SMB’s isn’t practical, and ROI-driven campaign optimization isn’t the formula for SMB’s scaled participation. Capturing buyer intention and search ad products are well understood and would put Facebook in a lead position to shift buying from SEM into their hands.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Thanks Perry. Yes Instagram too . . . Share content on both FB, TWTR, Pinterest and Instagram simultaneously.

  3. Kris Bradley says at

    I LOVE this post Greg. I love that you mention that having a Facebook page isn’t always about ROI and reach, sometimes it’s just about having a positive presence that provides a prospective customers with more insights about your company (extension of website) while also letting them know that you GET social media.

    I tell my clients that some of their prospective customers first impression of their business is going to be through Facebook and what is that first impression going to be like for them (negative/positive)?

    And for those who argue this point, I would like to remind them that when Facebook users talk about businesses, they will often tag them in the status update, which means that they are pointing their friends directly to your page. What are they going to see when they get there? 2 posts over the last 6 months? If so, shame on you. You’d probably be better off without a page if that is the case. 

    I also agree with you about Facebook providing a better local search product, possibly a separate app that they can use. They’re going to offer customer service, which doesn’t impress me because they don’t understand what that small or medium businesses strategy, goals, voice, tone, etc are… so how much can they really help them other than providing some direction on that actual ad platform choices. 

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Yes . . . the organic page is becoming about credibility and customer engagement. Ads will primarily be about “promotion” and new customer acquisition.

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