Hey, small-business owners: Facebook really, really wants you. It's making a special pitch, and teaching how to best buy ads, use offers, optimise the timeline, and create sponsored stories.
Facebook announced Wednesday a series of webinars designed to help small and mid-sized businesses understand and use the new Facebook product offerings, such as Timeline, Offers, Sponsored Stories, and real-time Page Insights. Given the company's impending IPO, and filings that show more than 85 percent of revenue comes from advertising, this looks like a move intended to help drive more usage by small and mid-sized businesses.
According to a survey last month of 100,000 sellers on Facebook by commerce platform vendor Payvment, 39 percent of respondents report having used Facebook Ads, "making this the most prevalent marketing tactic used by sellers to drive traffic to their stores beyond general Facebook marketing--such as promotions and deals posted to their wall--and nearly 70 percent of respondents say they plan to use Facebook Ads again."
Chris Luo, head of small-business marketing for Facebook, described to Inc. two different types of webinars: "One is for existing, more advanced advertisers, and one is for businesses that are new to Facebook's offerings. They will appeal to a wide range of people, from a marketing manager at a small or medium business to a business owner that wants to better understand how to use Facebook to drive sales."
Luo and his SMB market-solutions team, which works with customers daily and has collected the best practices from these small and mid-sized business, will conduct the workshops.
"We've done webinars on an ad hoc basis in the past, and people love to hear from us, and especially from other businesses who have offered tips and tricks," he said. "Now that we're starting to see ways that SMBs are succeeding and driving sales, we wanted to create a framework for business success on Facebook."
As we learned from Facebook's fMC marketing conference earlier this year there are a number of new marketing offerings, and they may seem disparate, but Facebook sees them as being connected together by a company's Facebook page. That is the base which companies build from, but not everyone knows how to connect their page together with ads, the "offers" feature, sponsored stories, and timeline.
The webinars will have a four-step framework:
Build: "Everything starts with your page," said Luo. " It's where you build connections, use your timeline, represent your brand, put in a cover photo, and invite current customers to "Like" your page." Consider it Fan-Building 101.
Connect: This webinar will help companies understand how to accelerate growth of connections, including connecting with fans through ads.
Engage: Once a company has built up connections and started interacting with them, they want to turn connections into loyal and repeat customers. This webinar will show how to engage connections with quality content. Companies can also learn to make sales using "offers" (which is in limited beta) to drive people to sign up and buy.
Influence: The last webinar helps busineses amplify their messages by getting the attention of more friends of fans, using tools like "sponsored stories."
The first webinar, occurring Wednesday May 9 at 12:30 ET, will be an overview of the entire framework. Viewers can sign up via http://facebook.com/classroom/.
Wednesday's seminar is suggested for those with some experience with Facebook's platform and products. For those who are new to Facebook advertising, there will be "newbie" webinars Tuesdays at 12:30 ET, starting May 15.
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr