What's coming next for Facebook, and what should businesses be planning for as part of their Facebook marketing strategy?
This week, the company's Vice President, Ads & Business Products Dan Levy has provided a new overview of its evolving business focus, and the key elements that Facebook's looking to maximize as it continues to build for the next generation of user behaviors.
And there are some valuable pointers and notes here - first off, Levy outlines Facebook's four key areas of business product innovation.
As per Levy:
"Businesses are confronting a permanent shift in people’s behavior: a migration to ecommerce that might have taken a decade exploded within a year. This, combined with growing technologies to meet people’s privacy expectations, is a generational opportunity for our industry to innovate once again. We must develop new ways for businesses to reach customers and to give people more control over how their personal information is used in advertising."
Facebook marketers are still grappling with the full impacts of Apple's ATT update, which has limited data tracking capacity, and with Google investigating its own variation of the same, Facebook, despite its protests against Apple's update, now has no choice but to seek new options, and work to build in new tools which enable optimal targeting and focus within these new constraints.
On this element specifically, Levy says that Facebook's working to develop new 'privacy-enhancing technologies' in order to minimize the amount of personal information that the platform takes in, while still enabling advertisers to focus their promotions with optimal efficiency.
Levy says that Facebook's collaborating with industry partners and organizations to establish key best practices on this front, including the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).
Whether that results in comparable targeting capacity remains to be seen, but this will be an important element, as Facebook looks to deliver better solutions for advertisers in the post-ATT environment.
For reference, recent stats from AppsFlyer show that around 42% of iOS users are choosing to opt-in to allow data tracking when shown Apple's ATT prompts.
In addition to new data challenges, eCommerce is also a key focus for Facebook, with the expansion of its in-stream purchasing tools as it looks to align with rising online shopping behaviors and trends.
On this front, Levy says that Facebook is testing various new experiences.
First off, Facebook's trialing a new option in user News Feeds which enables people to tap to browse content from businesses on topics - "such as beauty, fitness, or clothing, and explore content from related businesses".
We saw examples of this back in April, with some users seeing new prompts in their feeds to follow topics of interest.
That will help Facebook build more product and brand-focused listings of interest for each user, which, in turn, will help to maximize product discovery.
In addition to this, Facebook's also looking to build improved ad placements based on the content users are interacting with.
"So if you’re watching a travel video, we could show ads for hotels and flights."
Facebook already offers this to a degree via its ad targeting options, but it's looking to get more specific, which could open up new ad opportunities.
Levy says that they're also looking to help boost small businesses specifically, with a new badge that will be displayed on some ads from SMBs.
As you can see, below the main ad field, there's a new marker, denoting that this is from a 'Small Business'. With people looking to support smaller, local brands in order to ease the impacts of the pandemic, this could help improve response.
Levy says that Facebook will begin testing this in the US with a small group of businesses.
Levy also outlines the growing popularity of Facebook's eCommerce tools, in line with the rise of online shopping as a result of the pandemic. Levy says that a billion people now visit Facebook Marketplace each month, while Facebook and Instagram Shops, which were launched last May, now see over 300 million monthly visitors.
The next step is to expand its shop and product listings, via the aforementioned topic/business discovery feed, and through the expansion of Shops listings to Marketplace, while also improving its Facebook Pay tools to streamline the process.
"Facebook and Instagram are fast becoming a destination to buy and sell and over the coming years, we are building a modern commerce system to meet that demand across ads, community tools, messaging, Shops and payments. It's all in service of creating a personalized, seamless customer journey, in which it is easier to discover a product, learn about it, decide to buy it, pay for it, and find it on your doorstep."
This is a key focus for Facebook, and really, for almost every major social platform. As consumers become more accustomed with being able to see an item in a social media post, then buy it straight away, that will continue to open up new opportunities, and the platforms that fail to capitalize on this usage shift will miss out on a significant revenue stream.
Levy also notes that Facebook's continuing to work on improved business management tools and processes, in line with these trends, while also adding in new elements like job listings (and resume uploads on profiles) as well as improved messaging and digital education tools.
It's an interesting overview of Facebook's business priorities, which points to coming opportunities, and where the platform will be looking to enhance the business experiences, which is important for marketers to note. As experienced operators would know, Facebook tends to favor the projects it's looking to amplify, so the more you can lean into these experiments and tests, the better - though at the same time, it's also important to keep in mind that building too much reliance on the platform can be problematic.
As Facebook has shown in the past, when its broader priorities shift, it can inadvertently end up penalizing brands that have come to expect a level of referral traffic or business from the platform's tools. You would hope that Facebook would be more wary of such impacts as it looks to expand its eCommerce push, but it's always worth keeping in mind the 'rented land' element, and that Facebook can change its mind, and choke your reach, if it so chooses.
Even so, it's good to have some understanding of Facebook's planned focus, and where it's looking to improve the experience.