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What's Hot in Small Business – Chris Crum

What's Hot in Small Business – Chris Crum
Chris Crum writes for Small Business Resources about what's new for small business. Chris was a featured writer with the iEntry Network of B2B Publications where hundreds of publications linked to his articles including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, LA Times and the New York Times.

Facebook Announces Features to Make it Easier for Businesses to Connect with Customers on Messenger

Facebook Announces Features to Make it Easier for Businesses to Connect with Customers on Messenger

At its annual F8 developer conference, Facebook announced two new ways to make it easier for businesses to connect with customers on Facebook Messenger. The company also says that these new features will make it easier for brands to get business done through the messaging platform. 

As of last year, 1.3 billion people were using Facebook Messenger. The following data from Statista shows the usage among different age groups:

Image via Statista

There's no question that Messenger is one of the most popular messaging apps. Its popularity, combined with its connection to the massive amount of data and tools that come along with Facebook, make Messenger a huge opportunity for businesses. The company has been working in recent years to make it more useful to businesses of all sizes, and the latest announcements will only ensure that additional businesses see its advantages.

According to Facebook, there are currently 300,000 developers building on the Messenger Platform, and people and businesses are exchanging over 20 billion messages on Messenger each month. Now, businesses are getting lead generation templates in Ads Manager and a new appointment experience that will let users book appointments within a Messenger conversation.

"Businesses use Messenger in many different ways, but generating leads is one of the most common use cases we've seen on the platform," Facebook said in a post on its business blog. "So we’re making it even easier for businesses to connect with potential customers by adding lead generation templates directly into Ads Manager. Businesses can create an ad that drives people to an automated question and answer flow in Messenger to learn more about what their potential customer is looking for."

Image via Facebook

In its announcement, Facebook noted that General Motors had partnered with one of its developer partners, Smarters, to build a Messenger lead generation experience that created 3,000 leads in eight weeks. Even more impressive, these leads had a 30 percent higher conversion rate than other digital marketing channels.

People are already using Facebook Messenger to book appointments with businesses and, with the new interface that Facebook introduced, businesses will be able to set these up more easily.

The interface is available to businesses via the Messenger Platform API and can be integrated with a business's calendaring system. This will allow the business to show its most up-to-date appointment availabilities to potential customers.

Facebook announced that Sephora worked with another one of its developer partners, Assist, to build an appointment booking experience, which led to a 60 percent increase in in-store bookings.

Most businesses will have to wait a little while before they can take advantage of these new features, however, as they are currently in beta testing. Facebook has indicated that both the lead generation templates and the appointment booking capabilities will be available to all businesses later this year.

Since the developer conference, Facebook announced even more appointment features for businesses. You can now accept appointments from your business page and send reminders to customers through Messenger or by text message. You can also sync appointments with your personal calendar or another appointment management tool.

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