Once upon a time, Facebook was just a website for college students to connect. If Facebook gets its way, it’ll be the go-to solution for all companies, especially small businesses, to run their operations.
“If you think about over the last 13 years, we’ve been making progress on our mission of making the world more open and connected,” said Katherine Shappley, Facebook’s director of small business in North America. “Other people and businesses that they care about, and, of course, communities are at the heart of that.”
Facebook announced Monday that 5 million active advertisers are using its platform. The company reported 4 million advertisers in September 2016, 3 million in March 2016 and 2 million in February 2015. Instagram announced 1 million of its own advertisers earlier this year. More important than sheer numbers and scale to Facebook — so Facebook says — are the tools they are creating to empower these 5 million businesses.
Facebook is working to make it easier for business owners to control and update what they do for their companies via smartphones. For example, Facebook recently made it possible for Facebook Page owners to reinstate high-performing ads with one click, including the ability to easily change the targeting, via the app.
Supporting more businesses with more tools fuels more advertising dollars into Facebook, while also drawing more attention from consumers into its app. If the easiest, most convenient place to find your local hair dresser is through Facebook, why wouldn’t you choose it? Businesses don’t necessarily need to advertise. In fact, more than 65 million businesses have Pages on Facebook, so the majority do not.
“While technology has created amazing opportunities and benefits it can also be challenging for small business owners, especially when they’re trying to reach new customers,” Shappley said. “We want to empower them in this mobile world.”
A major concern for some businesses who rely or are considering relying on Facebook is the company’s track record when it comes to transparency (or lack thereof). For years, publishers have languished over an ever-changing News Feed algorithm, which has made a media outlet win in traffic one week and deeply crash the next. The same thing happened to marketers before that. Small business owners, by comparison, have limited funds and time to experiment.
“We want to empower them in this mobile world.”
Facebook is trying to listen to these concerns. In addition to a Client Ad Council that includes some of the biggest advertising agencies and highest spending brands on Facebook, the company launched a website Monday dedicated to the three-year-old Facebook Small Business Council.
The new website features stories of more than 40 businesses who use the Facebook product. Facebook is also working to expand the number of councils this year. It currently coordinates one in the U.S., India, and Germany.
Last week, right after Shappley and I chatted on the phone, she attended a Small Business Council event at Menlo Park. While Shappley is based in Facebook’s office in Austin, Texas, she traveled to Facebook’s headquarter to meet with about a dozen small business owners who spend a couple day meeting with herself along with Facebook engineers and product managers.
The benefits of hosting an annual event pay off handsomely. The business owners “become advocates and teachers. A lot of people put on workshops to help other small businesses succeed on the platform. The magic comes from after they all get together,” Shappley said.
Facebook also educates business owners through its owned and operated e-learning program called Blueprint. The service, as of Monday, is available in 10 languages and serves more than 1 million unique users. People have taken more than 2.5 million courses across more than 150 countries, according to Facebook. It also created new courses for managing video and sound copying, an A/B testing course and a Facebook and TV course.
“Another place we know we need to expand and iterate and continue to expand from is on language,” Shappley said. “We, as a company, are continuing to invest from a people standpoint and a product standpoint.”