Facebook is launching a new app that allows small business owners to manage pages and profiles on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. COO Sheryl Sandberg gave information about this new product in a blog post published on Thursday. The app, called Facebook Business Suite, will consolidate the backend infrastructure of three apps so small business owners can receive messages, alerts and notifications from customers in one unified inbox. The company also confirmed that it plans to add WhatsApp integration in the future, with the information it provided to The Verge site.
At the same time, the application will allow small businesses to simultaneously post on Facebook and Instagram, and provide information on how ad campaigns perform on the platforms. Much of this cross-posting functionality is already available to managers of Instagram business accounts linked to Facebook Pages.
Integrating its services has been on Facebook’s to-do list for some time. Last year, The New York Times reported that the company plans to combine the messaging capabilities of WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, keeping all three as separate apps but allowing cross-app communication. Axios reported as early as February 2019 that Facebook is preparing a unified messaging for its business feature.
Last month, there was a sign that Instagram and Facebook Messenger chats were integrated. However, this new product is the first official announcement of such a feature specifically designed for small business owners.
Of course, hints that Facebook is planning to consolidate its messaging apps also raise concerns among antitrust regulators. As part of Facebook’s 2019 report on privacy practices, the European Parliament has warned that the social media giant’s plan to integrate its messages poses a potential threat to competition. “Considering the news that in early 2020 Facebook plans to integrate the technical infrastructure of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, which have more than 2.6 billion users, the scale of these data sharing risks is greatly increased.” a statement in the form of was included in the published report.
Alongside the new business practice, Facebook has published the third edition of its ongoing research on how small businesses manage during the coronavirus pandemic and a research study commissioned by Deloitte on consumer purchasing patterns. Forty-eight percent of consumers surveyed said they have increased their online spending since the epidemic started, and 73 percent of those who started patronizing new businesses during the epidemic said at least one was a small business.
Facebook plans to make the business tool available to small businesses first, and to larger businesses in the future.