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Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday launched a new app named Facebook Business Suite that lets small businesses manage their pages and profiles across Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger from a single interface.

Why it matters: The app is the first product Facebook has launched that combines the backend infrastructure for three of its messaging apps. The company has teased this move for over a year.

Driving the news: Facebook debuted the new business tools alongside new research it commissioned about the state of small businesses durning the pandemic. One study found that small businesses making more than 25% of their sales online are more likely to report higher sales than this time last year.

  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told Axios in an interview that the company is trying to do more research and better understand the challenges facing small businesses so it can build products and provide better tools and training for them.
  • "Of course not every business can migrate online, but a lot can, and businesses that never thought they could have been doing it."

Details: The Business Suite allows small business to manage and receive messages from customers, notifications and alerts from all three of the messaging platforms all in one place, a unified inbox. The company plans to extend this function to its fourth major messaging app, WhatsApp, in the coming year.

  • The suite also allows small businesses to post content and ads, or schedule them, to Facebook and Instagram at the same time. It includes a feature that allows small businesses to see which types of content and ads are resonating with customers across Facebook and Instagram in one place.
  • These tools alleviate time and resources for small businesses that don't always have teams to manage their social media presences.

The big picture: Amid the pandemic, Facebook has pushed hard to support small businesses, which make up the majority of its advertising revenue.

    • In May it launched Facebook Shop, an online marketplace that's free to use for businesses across Facebook and Instagram.
    • Graham Mudd, VP of ads product marketing for Facebook, says the plan is to integrate the Business Suite with Facebook Shop more closely in the future.

Be smart: Facebook's plan to integrate the back-end infrastructure for all its services has been a target for antitrust critics, who worry that Facebook's real aim is to make it harder for regulators to try to break up the company.

  • "Our goal is to make this as easy for businesses as possible to reach their customers," said Mudd. He notes that the company already allows businesses to use a combined advertising infrastructure to target ads across its different apps.
  • "We're really just responding to what businesses are asking of us," he said.

What's next: The tools are designed for small businesses, but the company eventually plans to make them available for bigger advertisers.

  • For now, Facebook wants to focus the tools on businesses that don't have big advertising accounts with the company, and have to manage the optimization of their outreach to customers manually.
  • One giveaway that a business is small is that it spends money on Facebook boosting individual posts, instead of launching a full ad campaign.

Go deeper

Ranking the 5 big suits against Google and Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook stands to lose the most, but Google is more likely to lose: That's the consensus of experts Axios asked to rank the threats the two tech giants face as five separate major antitrust lawsuits bear down on them.

Why it matters: A loss for Facebook or Google in any of the cases could force deep changes in how Silicon Valley does business — and even lead to a court-ordered breakup.

Series / Misinformation age

Platforms give pols a free pass to lie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the past week, Facebook and Twitter have codified a dual-class system for free speech: one set of rules for politicians or "world leaders," another for the rest of us.

Why it matters: Social media platforms are privately owned spaces that have absorbed a huge chunk of our public sphere, and the rules they're now hashing out will shape the information climate around elections for years to come.

What Matters 2020

How online ad targeting weaponizes political misinformation

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Ad targeting is how Facebook, Google and other online giants won the internet. It's also key to understanding why these companies are being held responsible for warping elections and undermining democracy.

The big picture: Critics and tech companies are increasingly considering whether limiting targeting of political ads might be one way out of the misinformation maze.