Procurement · 17 December 2015

Facebook launches all-new tools for small firms, marking record business use

Almost 80 per cent of people in the UK are now connected to a small or medium-sized business via Facebook

Marking a huge milestone in its influence on small business and entrepreneurship, Facebook has recently announced that over 50m businesses worldwide are now using Facebook Pages to connect with their customers. We heard more in an exclusive interview with Olly Sewell, managing partner on Facebook’s Small and Medium Business (SMB) team.

The online social platform has also reported that people in business are now using Pages to communicate more than ever, with 2.5bn comments made via the tool every month. Emphasising how far Facebook’s efforts to connect businesses to consumers has come, 79 per cent of people in the UK are now connected to a small or medium-sized business on Facebook.

Further to this, the Facebook team has now launched a range of new features designed to make it simpler for small businesses to manage communications with customers. Better, more advanced communications controls means Page owners will now be able to set the time it takes for them to reply to messages automatically – either “within minutes”, “within an hour”, “within hours” or “within a day”.

Similarly, a new tool launched under the Pages’ “Activity” tab helps owners to monitor and respond better to comments on Page, while a re-designed inbox, providing clearer, more readily-available information on the people businesses are messaging, means owners are able to keep up with and manage conversations more efficiently.

In an exclusive conversation, Business Advice chatted to Olly Sewell, a managing partner on Facebook’s Small and Medium Business (SMB) team, to learn first hand about these new features and to better understand how Facebook can benefit entrepreneurs and small business.

“We are trying to make things as easy as possible for businesses to manage online communications,” said Sewell. “We’re aiming to be the first and best place for small businesses to manage online and mobile presence.”

Identifying that more and more customers now interact with businesses on the go, Facebook are pushing for Pages to become the principal mobile tool for small businesses on the market.

“Mobile is the biggest challenge for us and it’s where we are looking to innovative constantly,” said Sewell. “It’s where the customers are, and it’s where people are spending most of their time.”

“Pages provides an instant mobile strategy for a business starting out,” he continued. “Before businesses consider spending money on marketing and advertising, our platform helps owners attract customers from the very first minute, for free.”

Olly head shot
Olly Sewell: “Mobile id the biggest challenge for us and it’s where we are looking to innovate constantly

Alongside Pages, Facebook this year launched Blueprint – an elearning resource helping marketers growth their business from the ground up. Launched in March, the Blueprint range of online courses is already adding value to small businesses, with almost 200,000 course enrolments and 73,000 users-accessing unique courses in Facebook terminology, how to run successful Facebook campaigns, creative best practices, app engagement and direct response marketing.

Sewell sees these resources as a key accompaniment to the new Pages features, which together combine to provide small businesses with a complete service for setting up online and mobile.

“The new features help admins build and manage a convenient, personal and scalable communication channel for customers, so businesses can connect with people easily and focus on growing their business,” he said. “As mobile device usage continues to push people to communicate with businesses in real time, businesses need tools to manage communication efficiently.”

And there are more and more features promised for small businesses on the horizon. Sewell outlined a plan to include further Pages interactions such as posts, check-ins, mentions and reviews, all contained within the Pages management tool. He is confident that Facebook can continue the progress that has already been made, and that the uptake of Pages by 50m businesses worldwide is just the first of many milestones still to be reached.

“Using our tools to apply the right business strategy, small business owners can continue to use Facebook to keep customers and attract new ones,” said Sewell.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.