7 announcements from Facebook’s F8 Conference that small businesses need to know

Facebook F8 2017 conference digest

Facebook shared a flurry of new tools and features during their annual developer conference, F8.

While some of their virtual reality work will take years to catch on, several product updates and launches will affect small businesses here in 2017. With 1.94 billion monthly active users, Facebook is likely your most prominent social channel, and savvy marketers will use these new tools to outpace the competition.

Here are the biggest announcements from the opening keynote that’ll impact small business owners’ marketing efforts:

    1. Augmented realty


F8 2017 opened with an in-depth look at Facebook’s growing commitment to augmented reality. Over the past few months, they’ve teased new camera features — and we’re about to see a whole lot more. “We’re making the camera the first augmented realty platform,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Along with overlaying frames and filters, users will be able to interact with the space; for instance, you could (virtually) fill a room with candy.

Essentially, Facebook’s on a quest to overtake Snapchat with superior AR technology, which, they hope, will render their competitor obsolete.

What does this mean for small businesses?

The popularity of last year’s Pokémon Go made it obvious that digital audiences are hungry to engage with their physical environment in a new way. In terms of business applications, AR has the potential to change the way that consumers research and purchase products and services. Brink-and-mortar locations will have virtual information cards at their disposal, through which they can promote sales or provide additional product information.

This technology will also be available to consumers, who could post reviews or recommendations of their own, forcing businesses to monitor yet another social feed.

    1. Camera Effects Platform


To fuel the popularity of its AR initiatives, Facebook announced the launch of its Camera Effects Platform. The two tools included will allow developers — and even the average user — to create frames, masks and other special effects. AR Studio is in closed beta, which will give certain developers access to software to create effects based on image detection. (Think virtual heat waves emanating from a hot pizza.) Frame Studio is available to the public and allows users to create image filters and overlays.

What does this mean for small businesses?

Frame Studio gives businesses the ability to create their own frames, similar to Snapchat’s geofilters. The big difference? It’s free (for now). Businesses should add frames to promote specific events and specials. Make your first frame here.

Eventually, effects from AR Studio will make for limitless opportunities to create original promotional content. Creative application of these features will attract eyeballs, similar to how creators on YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat have gained notoriety.

    1. Facebook Analytics


Facebook Analytics, previously only available for apps, will now be available for Pages and offline conversions. Hailed as “the future of analytics” by Facebook Engineering Manager Amit Finkelstein, the platform aims to help marketers and developers better understand the barrage of data available to them and optimize their customer journeys. The platform will include custom dashboards, omnichannel connectivity to tie Facebook behavior to app or website purchases and automated insights to detect anomalies and trends.

What does this mean for small businesses?

Facebook Analytics could be a game changer for small businesses. By tying social behavior to lead generation and purchases more explicitly, calculating the ROI of social campaigns will become much easier. With both Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics at their disposal, marketers will be able to chip away at plaguing attribution problems.

Perhaps the best application is that you can also use this data to create custom audiences based on user activity on your Page, app, website or bot. This will allow advertisers to create and deliver more precisely targeted ads.

Before you get too excited, though, Facebook will have to overcome its ongoing measurement glitches to deliver on the promised value of such a platform.

    1. Smart Replies for Pages


David Marcus, VP of Messenger Products, emphasized Facebook’s eagerness to partner with small businesses. “We want to bring automation to the people who need it the most, which are small business owners,” he said. “Because they don’t have time to figure out technology and respond to messages 24/7. They have a business to run.”

In that vein, Facebook plans to launch Smart Replies. This AI feature will analyze questions sent via Messenger and reply to the user with relevant information from your Page (e.g., hours, address).

What does this mean for small businesses?

For Pages with heavy Messenger traffic, this feature could help you prioritize users who need individualized attention, because you’ll know the administrative questions are taken care of. Remember, building rapport is essential to customer loyalty, so take advantage of any customization Facebook allows and keep your Page information updated.

    1. Messenger bots and discovery


While many chat bots have cropped up in the past year, there hasn’t been an easy way to discover them. So, Facebook is launching a Discover tab to help users find the right bot for them. Additionally, new chat extensions and the addition of M (Facebook’s version of Siri or Alexa) will bring third-party apps or services into Messenger.

What does this mean for small businesses?

Some applications will be particularly useful for businesses. For instance, a conversation between three friends making dinner plans could signal M to jump into the conversation with a restaurant recommendation. From there, the group could make a reservation or order delivery — all seamlessly within the app.

    1. Parametric QR codes


Did you think QR codes had died out? Facebook isn’t convinced. By scanning these custom codes with their Messenger camera, users can access exclusive content. The Golden State Warriors are currently partnering with Facebook to pilot this feature.

What does this mean for small businesses?

This creates another touch point that could allow you to lead customers through your sales funnel. That could look like a welcome message, a shopping assistant that offers information about sales or product or an FAQ section. Facebook suggested businesses also incorporate a customer service element, giving customers direct access to you (or your bot) without having to look up and type in your contact information.

    1. Places Graph


Facebook launched the Places Graph during F8, making data on more than 140 million places available to app developers for free. The data includes place names, addresses, photos, Facebook consumer ratings and more, according to Facebook. This will allow app developers to create so-called location-aware experiences for users.

What does this mean for small businesses?

One of the struggles developers often face is access to location data. Like with Pokémon Go, databases for new apps are limited, causing users in some, usually more remote, locations to have a less immersive and helpful experience. Facebook opening access to the Paces Graph makes your business more likely to be included in these trendy apps, be they recommendation services or immersive AR games.

Though less consequential for small business marketers, Facebook also announced the following:

  1. Facebook Spaces is a new virtual reality app through which users can socialize with other users in an interactive virtual environment. It’s currently in beta for Oculus Rift and Touch. While it will take years to catch on, if at all, it could be harnessed by businesses to build relationships with prospects. For instance, landscapers could share their proposed site designs in 3-D.
  2. Developer Circles is a program for developers to connect, learn and collaborate with others nearby. Local leaders are tasked with organizing events offline and managing their local online Facebook community. You can search for circles in your region here.
  3. As they discussed during last year’s F8, Facebook remains committed to bringing reliable internet access — and the Facebook product family — to everyone everywhere. Their global connectivity projects ensure Facebook’s reach will continue to grow across the world and seek to establish Facebook as the framework over which communities are built.

You can watch April 18’s keynote in its entirety here.

Which of these announcements excites you most? How do you plan to incorporate them into your digital strategy? Share your thoughts with us below in the comments.


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