Facebook offers businesses new pages, messaging

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Facebook 's rolling out its biggest overhaul to its Pages for businesses yet—giving small and medium businesses more free tools than ever to reach consumers.

It's all part of Facebook's plan to connect not just people with each other, but people with businesses.

The social network wants to become such a ubiquitous, useful tool for businesses that it naturally drives those businesses to buy Facebook ads.

At an event at its Menlo Park, California, headquarters Tuesday afternoon, Facebook announced custom page formats—so retailers, restaurants or services, like a spa, can easily feature the information people are most likely to look for.

Facebook is improving the page layout so it works better on mobile devices and is easier to update for small business owners on the go. These tools are designed so companies can turn to Facebook instead of struggling to build a mobile-friendly website, says Facebook's VP of Small and Medium Businesses, Dan Levy. "We want to be their mobile solution; to build their destination and presence."

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Small businesses will now offer "call-to-action" buttons on mobile ages, encouraging consumers to "Call Now," "Send Message" and "Contact Us."

This is part of a push to help companies use Facebook's messenger to engage with customers, via its tools. It's a long-term play to make money from the 900 million people who use Facebook Messenger every month.

"Messaging is a very native communication method from a mobile device. Giving businesses better tools to reply to those messages, to structure those messages coming in, we think that'll be very valuable to businesses." Levy says Facebook is helping companies identify their top few inquiries from customers—like "What are your hours?" or "Do you have a certain product in stock?" so companies can pre-write those answers and respond more efficiently.

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It's also enabling companies to share on their Facebook page how quickly consumers, on average, receive a reply. Levy says some small businesses have told him they expect to soon get more orders and inquiries through Facebook messages than they do through the phone.

So how much will these new tools for small businesses impact Facebook's bottom line? Levy says Facebook has more than 45 million small businesses with pages on Facebook, but only 2 million advertisers, so if the company can persuade even a percentage of them to start buying ads, that could significantly boost Facebook's bottom line. And Levy says, improving customers'—and businesses'—experiences interacting on mobile devices, where traffic is headed, is key.

And while all these tools are free, there's a clear connection between helping businesses with more free tools and getting them to buy more ads.

"If we can increase the value of that ad by being able to direct people to a page optimized to a mobile device, that's just going to increase the value of the ad, because it's going to increase the possibility the customer is going to convert. We think that this is going to create more value for businesses."