Facebook now boasts 40 million active small business pages, the company announced this week. Almost all of the 2 million who advertise on the platform are small business owners, up from 1.5 million last year.
Facebook defines an active small business page as a profile that has posted information in the last 28 days. Facebook said it had 30 million active small business pages last June.
The social media company has been on a full-court press to keep business owners happy. It’s set to unveil a chat function, for instance, that offers “live one-on-one support, so businesses can ask questions and get the answers they need, in real time,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fortune.
“I think [small business owners] are realizing . . . Facebook is not just a social media marketing channel, it’s a real mainstream marketing solution,” says Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business.
But Facebook’s recent efforts to court small business owners come after the company made changes that left some of them confused at best, and angry at worst. While many small business owners had come to view their Facebook page as a source of free or nearly free advertising, Facebook’s recent alterations made it harder for small businesses to get ad-style content in users’ feeds without paying up.
“Organic reach has been one of the top issues that our clients have asked about,” Levy admits. “Organic reach is constantly changing for Facebook, and it’s also different for each page and business.”
Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president of advertising technology, tried to explain the company’s changes in a blog post last June. Boland said organic reach is down because there’s more content on the social network, and it’s trying to show users “the content that’s most relevant to them.” Boland also denied speculation that Facebook’s changes were intended to squeeze money out of small businesses.
The challenge for Facebook moving forward will be convincing small business owners to keep a presence on the site even as reach metrics are subject to change. “I think we have to show value for business owners,” Levy says, pointing to tools that help small business owners manage their pages on mobile devices as well as a series of in-person educational events as evidence of Facebook’s outreach.
“It’s hard to make the perfect solution for everyone; what really matters for business owners,” Levy says. “I think trying to figure out how to do that has been a challenge but also fun.”