Attention Facebook marketers - Mark Zuckerberg and friends have just presented you with a gift.
In an effort to improve the functionality and user-friendliness of business pages, Facebook has today unveiled four new features for Pages that will help streamline the communications process and give users more ways to speak directly with brands.
Direct Message via Awareness Ads
The first new feature is the ability to send private messages to a Facebook Page via local awareness adds.
This is a new addition to the awareness ads template, enabling users to initiate private messages with businesses direct from ads. When clicked, a Facebook Messenger window will open, enabling users to type in their message and send it to the Page. The Page owner will then receive the message along with an attachment showing which ad prompted that message, providing greater context to the user query.
The process aims to streamline the connection process and generate more direct interaction between brands and consumers, and there's a whole range of ways this ad format can be used to better serve customer needs. Streamlining that connection process can be a big step towards conversion, and this addition, while relatively minor, will prompt increased customer interaction, kicking off the transaction process in a more personalized way.
Respond via Private Message
The second addition is the ability to reply to Page comment via message.
From the announcement:
"Up until now, Page admins could only respond to customers in the same way the person reached out to the Page, either through a comment of private message. In coming weeks, Page admins will be able to replay to public comments with a private message, helping them solve private customer requests more efficiently"
One of the big, potential pitfalls of responding to customer queries in the method they're delivered, at least in terms of comments, is that it's all out in the open - the possibility of saying the wrong thing and becoming the next poster child for social media failure is very real, and very concerning for many Page owners. This new addition alleviates that concern, enabling Page owners to take the conversation to a more private setting in order to resolve the issue/s at hand.
When a Page admin chooses the message option, a copy of the original comment is included in the message (as per the screenshot above), reducing the need for customers to repeat questions. Helpfully, when a business does respond via message to a comment, the comment will show a note that the business has responded privately so other Page visitors are made aware.
The process will make it make it easier for Pages to establish personal connections and interact more specifically to resolve issues, which will be relevant in a range of cases. There are some queries that just can't be solved in a public forum, and there are some that come down to a basic misunderstanding that you might not want to highlight in public to save the commenter from potential embarrassment. Being able to respond via private message is a great addition, and while brands need to consider the audience implications on any response - at times it may make more sense to clarify the issue publicly to highlight your response to a wider audience - the option will prove useful for many Page owners seeking the improve customer outcomes and better personalize their experience.
The third new addition is a new badge to help users identify responsive pages.
This one's been in action, in some capacity, for a while - when a page is very responsive to private messages, Facebook will now add a badge to their Page that highlights that performance.
"Pages that respond to 90% of messages and have a median response time of less than five minutes will now have a "Very responsive to messages" badge on their profiles."
The responsiveness measurement is calculated on a rolling, 7-day basis. Facebook notes that Page admins can see their response rate and median response time in Page Insights, but only those who meet the 90% response rate and less than five minute response time will have the public badge, at least at this stage. Initial feedback suggests that this feature does not apply for Pages with less than 1,000 fans.
The addition of a response time measure is interesting, but the specifics of how it's measured may require some refinement - some Page admins have noted that there are certain messages that don't require a response, like spam, and they're being denied the badge based on not actioning such occurrences, despite meeting the required thresholds with real, actual customers. Some have also noted that they're being penalized for requests that come in overnight, when it's not possible for them to respond (a particularly relevant concern for smaller businesses). Due to this, despite some page owners being overly responsive, the high bar for performance means they can't display this.
While the addition adds a level of context and may help drive greater connection potential customers, it's likely that there more discussion will be required before the full effectiveness of this feature is maximized.
The fourth, and final, new element added for Facebook Page admins is the ability to create and save responses to common queries. In addition to the other new messaging features, this is a great way to help businesses speed up their response process and ensure the right message is delivered in the most efficient manner.
"Page admins can pull up saved replies and send them in one tap, making it faster and easier to respond to customers from mobile devices. Page admins also have the option to edit saved responses before they send them."
Page admins will also have access to new features to help them keep track of messages, with tools to archive, delete and flag messages in bulk, as well as the ability to mark messages as spam or unread.
These four new additions are important and powerful features that, while relatively minor individually, could have a significant impact, particularly in terms of personalizing the customer experience. And personalization is increasingly where we're headed - one of the greatest strengths of social media is that it provides every individual with a voice, a means to share their perspective with the world. In that context, the brands that win out will, increasingly, be those that hear those individual voices.
But even more than that, consumers these days are growing to expect brands to be listening. Targeting based on user behaviors now enables you reach very specific audiences - you can market to each group, even each person, based on their individual likes and preferences. While for some that sort of targeting can seem creepy - looking up a page on basketball shoes then seeing an ad for those same runners on Facebook can feel like you're being tracked - for others it makes perfect sense. And for the next generation in particular, that's the way it's always been, so much so that it's becoming the norm, it's expected that brands will be listening in and reaching out based on people's individual behaviours. Those that don't may soon find themselves struggling to keep up, as the prominence of personalized experience becomes more and more commonplace.
Personalization is the key to reaching this next generation of consumer. Hearing them, serving their individual needs, demonstrating that they're important to your business. Because that's what the empowered generation of social media users is coming to expect.
Facebook knows this, and they're working with that trend in providing these new features. Smart brands should take note.