Every few weeks, SOCi is here to bring you a roundup of the latest industry news across top local search and social platforms. While COVID-19 continues to disrupt business as usual, many platforms continue to make changes to make it easier for multi-location businesses to adjust to the times. Facebook and Google My Business (GMB) have been the leaders of developing new features or creating platform updates to help both businesses and consumers survive during this difficult time. 

As a multi-location marketer, it’s critical that you stay on top of the latest industry trends and platform updates so you can position your multi-location business as a leader and steady hand during this crisis. Here are a few platform updates:

Facebook’s Policy Changes 

Facebook has recently made some policy changes to its platform. The majority of these changes relate directly to the usage of Messenger via third-party apps. These policy changes indicate that Facebook will be aiming to grow Messenger even more and add value to its users. These changes are already in place, so if you aren’t already familiar with them, it’s time to learn. 

There are three main aspects of the Messenger policy that have changed: 

  • The 24+1 window on Messenger chatbots will become a 24-hour window only 
  • The 17 message tags supported through Facebook’s API will reduce to four message tags 
  • Subscription messaging will only be available to pages that are approved new pages

The first change, the 24-hour window, is the time frame in which your business is allowed to contact users with promotional or non-promotional content for free using a third-party app. After 24-hours of messaging with a user, you will no longer be able to send any additional messages to them. It is important to note that if a user messages your business again, the 24-hour window will restart. This new update makes it more important than ever to have an automated chatbot that replies to messages within this period. 

The second change, which focuses on the message tags, has reduced the number of free messages your business can send outside of Facebook’s standard messaging window through its API. In the past, businesses would be able to create use cases for sending out a free message on Facebook, and a message tag would be attributed to that use case. Rather than being able to create 17 different use cases and message tags, businesses are now limited to four. Again, this means that your business needs to be strategic when determining which types of free messages you would like to send out to your target audience since the volume of message tags have been significantly reduced. The message tags that Facebook is now using include: 

  1. Confirmed event update
  2. Post-purchase update
  3. Account update
  4. Human-agent (closed beta)

Just like message tags, subscription messaging has been reduced or removed altogether for some businesses. In the past, subscription messaging would allow multi-location businesses to send non-promotional updates to users outside the standard window. If your multi-location business has used subscription messaging in the past and would like to continue using it, you must apply. To register, you must use the Facebook News Page Index

While these policy changes may seem like a lot to take in, they are important to be aware of. Messenger is a great way for your multi-location business to communicate with your consumers on a platform they already spend a lot of time on. SOCi recently launched SOCi SmartBot™, which enables multi-location marketers to deliver localized responses 24/7 and manage leads, conversation history, and other engagements in a single, centralized platform. SOCi SmartBot™ ensures that you never miss the opportunity to engage with a customer or prospect during the 24-hour response window by sending immediate replies, every time. If your multi-location business isn’t already utilizing Messenger as a part of your localized marketing strategy, it may be time to reconsider.

Facebook Announces “Shops” for Facebook and Instagram 

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has forced many of us to stay home and practice social distancing, leaving us unable to shop in-store as usual. In an effort to help boost sales for businesses and give people more opportunities to shop online, Facebook recently launched ‘Shops’ on both Facebook and Instagram. Facebook Shops will make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store on both Facebook and Instagram. Below is an example of how a Facebook Shop would appear on Facebook. 

Facebook Shops will be an extension of your existing Facebook Page tools and according to Facebook, should be relatively easy to set up. Your multi-location business can determine which products it would like to feature in its shop, and the items will be showcased like a catalog. In order to make the process both seamless for consumers and businesses alike, Facebook will allow consumers to message your business through Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct. 

We know that many multi-location businesses have felt the impacts of COVID-19, so this new opportunity on Facebook is something to consider. Since this update is so new, there is an opportunity for your business to be one of the firsts on Facebook Shops and stand out from your competitors. 

Facebook Tests New “Engagement Alerts” 

If your multi-location business uses Facebook Groups or is considering them, this platform update is for you! Facebook has recently tested new engagement alerts in Facebook groups. This new feature would allow group administrators to set up alerts for posts that are seeing increased engagement in their communities. 

If someone posted something in your Facebook group and it’s getting a lot of comments and likes, you would want to be aware of this. Rather than having to check your Facebook Group frequently, you could set up these alerts to be notified as soon as the engagement starts picking up. When you choose to set up an alert, you can specify the type of engagement you want to know about. For instance, if you’re only worried about posts that are getting a lot of negative attention, you can set up an engagement alert to notify when angry reactions are given. 

This option is currently in testing mode so it is available for some Facebook users, but not all. If you’re currently able to use this new feature you should test it out. We know that during this time many multi-location marketers are being spread thin and have a lot on their plate, so this new feature can help save you both time and effort! 

Secondary Hours On GMB Listings

Earlier this month, Google My Business (GMB) released a new feature that will allow multi-location businesses to add secondary hours to their local listings. This new addition was developed with COVID-19 in mind. For instance, there are some businesses that have limited dine-in hours, that differ from their take-out and delivery hours. These secondary hours would allow room for your business to differentiate between the two. Senior hours for stores could also be another example of something to include in the secondary hours section. Randalls is a great example of a business that has added secondary hours for seniors in its local GMB profiles as shown below. 

These secondary hours will appear in your GMB profile when you click “see more hours” next to the original hours. According to GMB, you can include more than one set of secondary hours to your account. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it’s important to keep your consumers informed during the current pandemic, and detailed local listings are a great way to do this. If your multi-location business has differing hours for any of your services, it’s crucial to include them in the new secondary hours section of your local GMB profiles. 

Facebook Allows Indication for Service Changes

This new change that Facebook made is short and sweet! Similar to GMB, Facebook knows that multi-location businesses may be having difficulty keeping their consumers informed amid COVID-19. Because of this, Facebook is allowing businesses to mark on their Facebook pages whether or not their business is open with service changes or temporarily closed due to COVID-19. For instance, as you can see below, Galaxy Cafe has highlighted that it is open now for pickup, delivery, and online services. Once your services begin to return to normal, you can unselect any of the options that you previously chose, and indicate that your hours are consistent with what is shown on your page. 

As you can see, there is a common theme across all of the latest platform updates. Keeping your consumers informed is key. There is already so much that has changed due to COVID-19, and consumers should be able to feel as though they can rely on your multi-location business. At SOCi, we understand that your business may have strained resources though as well, which is why we’re here to help! 

Check-in for our latest industry news blogs to stay on top of the most recent platform updates that can help your business during this tough time. SOCi can also help your multi-location business execute your localized marketing strategy efficiently and effectively. For more information on how SOCi can help your multi-location business, email us today at help@meetsoci.com.

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