After six rings, photographer Michael Anderson’s voicemail clicks on, blasting an unusual message to his callers:
“This is what I want you to do,” he says in a friendly southern accent, after explaining that he’s probably out on a photo shoot.
“I want you to hang up the phone. I want you to go to Facebook. Don’t do it right now, you won’t know what to do, so stay here, alright? Go to the Facebook Page Michael A Anderson Photography. I live on Facebook. I breathe on Facebook, alright? So lets continue our conversation there. It’s very easy. It’s very simple. Let me know what I can do for ya.”
Although Anderson also goes on to give his website address to callers without Facebook accounts, he tells Business Insider that the enthusiastic recording does drive a lot of traffic to his Facebook Page (though the quirkiness of his message also sometimes results in strangers just chuckling into his answering machine).
“They love my voicemail over at Facebook,” Anderson says, chuckling now himself.
Last year, Facebook reached out to him after he attended one of their “Boost Your Business” events because the company had discovered his voicemail (“They’re Facebook, they can find anyone”) and wanted to hear his story.
Today, the company brags about him during presentations because he represents the future it’s drooling over: One where small business owners rely completely on the social network for spreading information, communicating with their customers, and, of course, buying lots of advertising.
Facebook’s aggressive focus on small businesses
Although Facebook has allowed businesses to create “Pages” since 2007, the company completely revamped the product last fall, allowing smaller businesses to list more information about their services and book appointments or services as well.
Another huge part of that was letting people with Pages like Anderson’s communicate directly with regular people through Messenger (previously, brands and businesses had to hack out issues on public comment threads).
At the end of 2015, the company bragged that it had more than 50 million small businesses using Pages.
But, as of its Q3 earnings, Facebook had only 2.5 million advertisers overall. The social network’s goal is to get more of those 50 million small-to-medium businesses buying their ads.
“We think there’s a lot of opportunity to turn even more of these businesses into marketers,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said on the company’s most recent earnings call.
Anderson is Facebook’s dream business owner because he has both an active Page and an active Messenger presence (a little badge on his Page promises that he usually answers Messenger messages within an hour).
This year, Facebook fielded a lot of questions about when it’s going to start making money off Messenger. Although CEO Mark Zuckerberg was predictably coy on a timeline, he said that once it gets enough businesses using Messenger, it will start creating new ways to make them pay.
And it’s already testing some.
For example, Facebook is working on a “click-to-message” ad type where businesses pay when users click the message button on one of their ads. Messenger exec David Marcus has also said it could charge businesses to send message push notifications to certain Facebook users (retailer Everlane may have tested this feature before the holidays when it sent a promotion to users it had messaged with, though it’s unclear if the company paid for the blast).
Anderson says that he doesn’t have the option to send message blasts to users Facebook yet, but would definitely consider using them if he could.
Although he does still have a website (and doesn’t foresee getting rid of it any time soon), his reliance on Messenger moves towards Facebook’s ambitions to kill the phone number.
Small businesses, big money
Because Facebook completely demolished the organic reach that posts from Pages receive, small businesses now have to pay to promote their posts if they want to hit the eyeballs of potential customers.
With that loss of organic reach, Anderson says he spent $3,000 on Facebook ads last year, but plans on upping the ante to between $5,000 and $6,000 in 2016.
Even if each small business with a Facebook Page only had a tiny advertising budget, that’s still an enormous opportunity for the company. All those little budgets ad up.
Projecting one of Anderson’s photographs on stage at the Connect Conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Facebook exec David Baser sang the praises of his strategy:
“This is what we think is the future.”