During spring 2017, Mark Zuckerberg toured a handful of flyover states in a seeming attempt to endear himself to "real" Americans. Now his company plans to do the same. On Thursday, Facebook announced Community Boost, a digital training and advocacy program that will visit 30 United States cities in 2018.
"Facebook will work with local organizations to provide digital skills and training for people in need of work," a statement said, "to advise entrepreneurs how to get started and to help existing local businesses and nonprofits get the most out of the internet."
Here are the first five cities that Community Boost will descend on:
- Houston, TX
- St. Louis, MO
- Albuquerque, NM
- Des Moines, IA
- Greenville, SC
A Facebook spokesperson declined to specify the other 25 cities.
Facebook also shared stats from a survey conducted by research firm Morning Consult, co-sponsored by Facebook and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to the company, a third of U.S. small and medium businesses "built their business on the platform," and 42% hired more people "due to growth since joining Facebook."
It's worth noting that almost any modern business has a Facebook page, so the latter stat is hard to attribute to Facebook itself; the growth could be incidental or correlated with general social media savviness rather than Facebook specifically. Granted, it would be equally hard to dispute that Facebook is the most important form of social media, especially when it comes to marketing. Its importance as an advertising venue is matched only by Google.
More intriguingly, Facebook claimed, "Businesses run by African Americans, Latinos, veterans and those with a disability are twice as likely to say that their business was built on Facebook, and one and a half times more likely to say they've hired more people since joining the platform."
That could be interpreted as an indication that Facebook provides key business infrastructure to historically underserved communities, especially since personal presence on social media does not appear to vary dramatically by race or ethnicity. In other words, it is plausible (though by no means proven) that using Facebook is a more important factor in the business success of African-Americans and Latinos -- perhaps veterans and disabled people as well.
The announcement of Community Boost comes on the heels of a milestone for Blueprint, the company's online training program: It's used by more than a million small businesses across the globe. Community Boost is also meant to build on the existing Boost Your Business event series. Facebook is intensifying its multi-pronged effort to appeal to small and medium businesses. Not that the company needs to try very hard -- it already has all the customers, after all.