What’s in Facebook’s New Small-Business-Friendly Update

Facebook has announced that it will be testing a new feature that serves business suggestions to people who don’t follow those businesses. When users browse their usual news feed, they’ll see suggestions for topics that they might be interested in — a news article about home improvement ideas might have a button underneath it asking if the reader is interested in DIY projects, for example.

Based on the answers to those questions, Facebook will serve up thumbnails from relevant businesses that you don’t already follow. Most of these businesses are likely to be small or local, but there will be large, national companies mixed in as well. The feature will start in the U.S., but Facebook has also announced that they plan to expand the effort if it’s well-received.

Why is Facebook Suggesting Businesses?

Facebook’s concern is a sudden drop in ad revenue brought about by Apple’s newest operating system. When the next iOS 14 update comes through, users will have to opt-in to tracking by apps like Facebook. Facebook immediately objected to the change when it was announced in 2020, but the software update is on its way nonetheless.

The worry is that if a significant number of users opt-out, Facebook’s ability to show users relevant ads will be diminished. If ad targeting suffers, small and local businesses that rely on that targeting will see reduced ROI and take their advertising dollars elsewhere, cutting into Facebook’s bottom line.

In an effort to preemptively compensate for a potential shift in ad targeting, Facebook will suggest businesses based on users’ self-reported interests rather than ad tracking. Given the sophistication of modern pattern-recognition software, it’s likely that Facebook will be able to show relevant offers just as effectively as before — assuming readers participate in the questions about their interests.

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

Apple users constitute a majority of the American smartphone market, so this update is likely to affect a significant number of your users, no matter what business you’re in. What remains to be seen is how many users will deny Facebook access to tracking once the iOS 14 update is released, but given the recent emphasis on anonymity and privacy, that number could be substantial.

In the next few months, advertisers should keep a close eye on their Facebook statistics. If you see signs that ROI is dropping, don’t panic just yet — there may be a delay between reduced advertising revenue and the additional leads brought in by these new business suggestions — but be prepared for the effectiveness of your ads to drop. The marketing world is constantly shifting, and marketers need to be prepared to alter their strategies accordingly. This is simply another factor in the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.

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