Facebook has announced a suite of new features that will allow users to connect more broadly with businesses. Users will be able to order food, purchase event tickets, book appointments or get quotes from service providers directly through the social network, the company said on Wednesday.
The new features are part of a large push by Facebook in 2016 to revamp its Pages and Events products, making them more useful for the social network's more than 1.7 billion monthly users. Small business owners stand to benefit from these improvements.
"There's a huge existing behavior of people going on the site and ... trying to get information from a restaurant and, frankly, having a frustrating experience," said Facebook's Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, vice president of engineering, ads and pages. The changes are designed to provide "more value when you do connect with a business on Facebook."
Most of these new features require that business owners use a service such as EventBrite, Delivery.com or HomeAdvisor for them to work. Facebook said it does not currently have any plans to monetize the features; in other words, the tech giant does not take a slice of any sale although the services do.
"We're trying to make life easier and faster for businesses and people," said David Baser, product manager of Pages at Facebook.
Among the most notable new features is the ability for users to order food from their favorite restaurants through Facebook. Users can now go to a business's Facebook page, and if the businesses has turned on the feature, users will be able to tap "Start Order."
This feature will be made available for any restaurants who use either Delivery.com or Slice to deliver food. Merchants can sign up for accounts with these services by going to their respective websites--it is not possible to do so through Facebook.
Similar to ordering food, users will also be able to tap "Get Quote" when they go to the page of service businesses such as plumbers, contractors and electricians. This will begin a dialogue with potential customers through Facebook Messenger.
For now, Facebook said this feature has a "limited global availability."
"To create these custom experiences, edit the existing call-to-action button on your Page--or create a new one--and you'll be guided through the process," Facebook said in a blog post.
For businesses like spas or salons, Facebook has also introduced the ability for users to schedule appointments directly through the Messenger app. After a user browses a Page for one of these businesses, they can tap "Request Time" to start a Messenger conversation with the business and schedule an appointment.
Businesses can operate this feature manually, or they can run it through a service provider such as HomeAdvisor or MyTime, which will automate the process and find a time that works on the business's schedule. For now, this feature will be limited to businesses in the U.S.
Users can now also purchase tickets directly on Facebook event pages. These sales will be enabled for businesses that use EventBrite or TicketMaster for sales of their tickets. This is a feature that can work for any kind of event, such as a concert at a small, local venue, a comedy show or a small networking mixer.
Over the past year, Facebook has seen the use of its events grow from 450 million active users in 2015 to more than 650 million in 2016, the company told Inc. Now, the social network is aiming to help businesses better leverage that usage. This is why the company launched a new events-specific app earlier this month.
If a user posts a status asking something like "What are some good Mexican restaurants in Houston?" Facebook will now ask that user if they would like to ask for recommendations.
If they say yes, Facebook will take their friends' answers and automatically populate them on a map. The purpose is to make it easy for users to find the correct pages for the businesses their friends recommend.
This feature will happen on its own, but Facebook encourages businesses to make sure their pages are up to date with their information, such as their hours and contact information.
"If this is a new source of traffic for people to learn about your business, you want to put your best foot forward," said Ellery Long, product marketing at Facebook.