Facebook to give small businesses $10 million

Facebook has announced a small business program in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce and the small-business group National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Facebook has announced a new program that includes giving away $10 million of advertising credits to small businesses: Facebook Marketing Solutions. It will officially kick off next month and will teach both cost-free measures to engage more customers as well as how to buy display ads targeting specific markets.

Last week, we heard Facebook plans to offer free $50 advertising credits for up to 200,000 small businesses – when an ad is clicked, the advertiser pays a set rate predetermined for that clickthrough. Now, Facebook has confirmed the money will start flowing out of Palo Alto in January and will allow companies to redeem the discount on a first-come, first-served basis when purchasing ads on the social network.

Facebook is partnering with the US Chamber of Commerce and the small-business group National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). At locations still to be determined, Facebook officials and members of the two business groups will educate local businesses on best practices for marketing to customers on the service.

Specifically, the partners will work together on a number of initiatives to help businesses, including:

  • Resources: The education effort will combine the knowledge and resources of Facebook, NFIB, and the US Chamber to provide American local businesses with webinars, collateral, case studies, and tips. These materials will educate business owners on how to improve their connection to customers and reach new customers through the use of free Facebook tools like Pages and Platform, as well as other marketing options including Ads and Sponsored Stories.
  • Roadshows: As a part of this education effort, the program will include a cross-country roadshow coordinated with state and local chambers of commerce and regional NFIB offices. At these events, experts will meet directly with local businesses to discuss how to get the best results in connecting with customers on Facebook.
  • Facebook Small Business Boost: Starting in January 2012 and following the education effort, Facebook will begin awarding businesses up to $10 million worth of free Facebook advertisements. The goal of these ad credits is to give 200,000 businesses across the country a $50 boost.

"Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and we believe that Facebook can be a tremendous tool to fuel their growth and success," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. "Our goal is to give small businesses a boost by helping them find customers the best way possible – through recommendations from friends. We're proud to be working with the NFIB and US Chamber in this effort."

The company insists the program's goal goes beyond just getting more small businesses to launch a Facebook Page – the social networking giant wants them to secure more customers and increase sales by using it as a marketing platform. The US has nearly 30 million small businesses, but Facebook says only 9.2 million of them are using the social network to speak to their customers. An even small percentage of that number are spending money on Facebook ad campaigns.

Facebook knows most small businesses are too busy to try its ad program; they are already happy with their free Facebook Page and don't want to spend money. The point of the credit system is to get them to at least try it out.

There are at least three advantages to using Facebook's ad platform: a user base of 800 million active users, being able to target users with a precision not found in most other forms of advertising, and Social Ads, which lead to a 68 percent increase in ad recall (meaning people actually remember the ad) and a four times higher likelihood of buying a product.

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