What if mom-and-pop businesses had the same advertising capabilities as billion-dollar corporations with Madison Avenue media agencies at their beck and call? That's the idea behind Facebook's "e-learning platform," Blueprint. The company announced Tuesday the service is used by more than one million small businesses worldwide.
"We originally built Blueprint for the really sophisticated advertisers," Dan Levy, Facebook's VP of small business, told Inc. But the company noticed that ad agencies and other specialists weren't the only users attracted to educational materials. "It's a pretty big endorsement to us that this is valuable for them," Levy said. Facebook still conducts in-depth and in-person trainings, but Levy said Blueprint allows the company to scale its outreach to many more people.
The top five courses that small businesses flock to are "Welcome to Marketing on Facebook," "Ad Policies for Content Creative and Targeting," "Brand Best Practices," "Extend Your Campaign's Reach with Audience Network," and "Targeting: Core Audiences." There's worldwide appeal: The countries in which Blueprint is most popular are the United States, Brazil, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Indonesia, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the Philippines.
Blueprint is not a philanthropic endeavor for Facebook, of course. In teaching businesss to use the company's products more effectively, it not-so-tacitly encourages them to increase their advertising spend.
Not that they need much convincing. Facebook may have become a political hot potato, but it's still a darn good tool for reaching potential customers.
For marketers, Facebook and Instagram "are the stuff of fantasy -- grand bazaars on a scale never seen before," as Burt Helm put it in The New York Times. Helm, who also writes for Inc., showed how Facebook advertising is increasingly the fuel that startups rely on to get their initial customers. "The leaders of more than half a dozen new online retailers all told me they spent the greatest portion of their ad money on Facebook and Instagram," he added.
During its recent earnings call, Facebook reported that more than six million advertisers use the platform, a 20 percent jump since April. The majority of those advertisers are small businesses, a spokesperson said.
Part of what makes Facebook advertising so successful, and thereby makes the company so profitable, is the low barrier to entry. "If you know how to use Facebook, you can use Facebook for business," Levy said. While the advent of so-called self-service ads allowed Facebook and Google to become the dominant duopoly of digital advertising, a significant portion of those six million advertisers need at least a little support. Blueprint is around to provide that extra handholding.