Watch out, Google. Facebook courts small businesses.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells USAToday that the social network plans to make Facebook a much friendly place for small businesses to promote their brand.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It would be the rare tech-savvy small-business owner who doesn't use the Google search advertising system to help generate interest in his or her business. Now, the woman who was behind the development of that service, Sheryl Sandberg, is working at Facebook, and USAToday is reporting that Sandberg aims to make the social network a much friendlier platform for small businesses.

According to the newspaper, Facebook is planning to unfurl an initiative that will give up to 200,000 small businesses $50 in free advertising credits. The ads are pay per click -- Facebook will pick up the first $50 worth of clicks for ads that small businesses place.

Sandberg tells USAToday that roughly 9 million of the nation's 30 million small businesses already use Facebook for some kind of business presence, because they haven't bothered to create a Web site yet. She told the newspaper: "Facebook takes word-of-mouth marketing and makes it work at scale."

Will a mere $50 in advertising credits be enough to get small businesses to try on Facebook as a business platform? I must admit, I am sort of skeptical. I still see Facebook as very much the social network of "me" or "you." That is, I mostly follow people not businesses. Many, like me, struggle with how much they want to use Facebook for business purposes, when they also use it for personal purposes. Where do the lines blur?

Still, the thing that is really attractive about Facebook is that potential customers have already self-selected their interests. It doesn't take much imagination to picture a scenario in which Facebook advertising could be extremely targeted. More like the direct mail campaigns that many small businesses use as the centerpiece of their marketing.

Interested to see the details emerge.

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