Photo Credit: Facebook

Content Strategy for the People Who Use Facebook’s Business Tools

Before joining the Product Content Strategy team at Facebook, I had a bunch of different jobs in fundraising, customer support, and marketing. Of all the positions I’d held, the customer support role at an email marketing software company prepared me the most for my job as a content strategist.

In that job, I spent my days answering emails and talking on the phone to customers. Creating an email newsletter was not a life-or-death situation, but tensions could run high anyway because the people I spoke to were, well, people — they had a looming deadline, a baby crying in the background, a delivery truck in the shop, a bad night’s sleep, you name it. And whatever issue they were having with their newsletter was just one more bump in an already rocky day.

My job was to be an empathetic problem solver, one customer case at a time.

When I joined Facebook’s Ads Product team, we talked a lot about helping businesses be successful advertisers. The challenge was familiar, but in this role I wasn’t going to be able to talk to each customer individually. Instead, I realized, this was customer support, empowerment, and connection at scale.

As it turns out, that’s really what content strategy for business products is all about. And I soon figured out that, even at this scale, the best way to approach the work was to keep people’s very human needs top of mind.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my team to meet advertisers who use our tools to connect with their customers. We ask them about their business, their goals, and their experiences using Facebook, and I think about them every time I approach a content strategy project. Their stories help me consider people’s feelings when I’m writing for our business tools.

Businesses are people who invest precious time in our tools

One research trip took us to the home of a travel blogger in Vancouver. She had a young family, so she wrote and edited blog posts when her children napped. She responded to comments exclusively on her phone, and she carved out a little bit of time on Sundays to plan out how to best spend her marketing budget for the week. Clearly, she had little spare time.

When I returned to the office, and with the travel blogger’s feelings in mind, I wrote content that included instructions and recommendations. At Facebook, we have four business design principles that guide our work, and I called on these two strategies:

  • Use simple, straightforward language. Short sentences, active voice, and plain language make content easier to scan, which helps time-strapped people work quickly.
  • Help people learn and grow. Many advertisers don’t have a lot of time to analyze their results. In-product notifications and inline messages should help highlight what’s performing well and recommend a next step.
Inline messages help highlight what’s performing well and recommend a next step.

Businesses are people who are on Facebook to get something done

When my team visited an advertising agency in Chicago, I met a social media strategist who spent the bulk of her workday checking in on the results of her clients’ campaigns and optimizing them for efficiency. This woman was a power user with an established workflow that was quite different than the blogger I’d met in Vancouver.

In this case, when we interrupt the social media strategist’s workflow with an unrelated notification, unexpected error message, or full-on redesign, she can (understandably!) get frustrated. We can’t always avoid interrupting, but we can:

  • Get to the point. If we move some features around in a redesign, our in-product messaging should clearly and briefly state what has changed and why. This helps people absorb the new information and get on with the task at hand.
If we move features around in a redesign, we should clearly and briefly state what has changed and why.
  • Be consistent. For example, error messages are a necessary part of product design, but we should always strive to write them in a similar way: state what went wrong, the reason it happened, and how to fix it. This can help people trust in the error messages we show and subtly teach them how to prevent seeing such messages in the future.
Error messages should state what went wrong, the reason it happened, and how to fix it.

Businesses are people who use Facebook for more than just their business

When my team took a trip to visit small businesses in Colombia, we met a man who sold motorcycle parts and managed a buy-and-sell Facebook Group for motorcycle enthusiasts. This man used Facebook for more than just his business, and this is true of many — if not most — people who use Facebook Ads products. Business owners may buy items on Marketplace or use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends. People’s experiences on Facebook can be as varied as their experiences in real life. We can show awareness of that in the content we write if we:

  • Put information in context. I think about this man when I write a notification to update a person about their ad, being careful to say, “Your ad got 200 clicks,” and not just, “You got 200 clicks.” Context helps people assign the message to the part of their Facebook experience it belongs to.
  • Watch the tone. Seeing this man jump between accounts made me think about how our in-product language can address nuances in emotion. For example, the messaging that celebrates someone’s birthday should sound different from the messaging that celebrates an achievement related to their business.
Context and tone help communicate nuances in emotion.

Visiting with people who rely on Facebook to grow their businesses makes me better at my job. The details of each visit stick with me long after I’ve traveled home, and I make content decisions big and small based on what I learned in Vancouver, Chicago, Colombia, and from my teammates who travel the world and report back on what they learn.

How do you stay connected to the people who use your products?