Facebook wants its 1.71 billion users to friend businesses.

With other social-media and messaging services vying for people's attention, Facebook is always looking for ways to get consumers to spend more time there. It also offers free tools for small businesses to reach consumers in a bid to get those small businesses to become paid advertisers.

The giant social network is rolling out new features Wednesday that it hopes will achieve both. The new features help Facebook users get recommendations from friends, discover events and connect with local businesses.

- When you write a Facebook post looking for advice from friends, say you are searching for a good spot to eat or a place to get your hair cut, you will have the option to turn on Recommendations for that post. Your friends' suggestions to that post will then pop up under the Recommendations bookmark and on a map. You can also go to the Recommendations bookmark to ask a new question or to help your friends.

- Facebook has updated the Events bookmark so you can browse events based on events you've attended in the past and what's popular with your friends.

- Find that concert or movie you want to attend? You can now buy tickets directly from the event page through services such as EventBrite, Fandango and Ticketmaster. You can also view services and request an appointment on a business' Facebook page and then correspond with that business over Facebook Messenger, get a quote from a local business or order food from a restaurant's Facebook page that uses Delivery.com or Slice.

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of ads and business platform, says the announcements are a "flavor" of what's to come. When Facebook spots a pattern of consumer behavior on Facebook, it builds products to make the experience easier and better, he said.

Facebook's 4 million advertisers range from household names to mom-and-pop operations, but the growth is coming from small businesses. Facebook is aggressively promoting itself to these firms, providing them with free pages and services to manage their digital presence in a bid to turn them into paid advertisers.

Facebook has been adding features to make it easier for small businesses that maintain "pages" on Facebook to get noticed by and respond to consumers, especially on mobile devices, including call-to-action buttons that encourage consumers to book an appointment or browse an online shop.

 

By Jessica Guynn for USAtoday.com | Photo: Pixabay

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