In recent interview with USA Today, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated, “My dream is really simple. I think every small business should be using technology, they should be using all of the Web technologies, and they should be using Facebook. So we’re not going to stop until all of them are using it to grow their business.”
The latest addition to Facebook’s steady march towards digital dominance of all things social, recently advanced with the launch of Timeline and a slew of Open Graph social apps, plus a call-out to brands to leverage those apps, is Facebook Marketing Solutions, an offer to American small businesses of up to $10 million in free advertising beginning January 2012.
The drill down is $50 per business in ad credits to about 200,000 small businesses redeemable on a first-come, first-serve basis when purchasing ads that can be tailor-targeted.
In partnership with the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the initiative at first blush is to educate small business on social-networking site promotion, but the obvious collateral for FB, is engaging yet another cohort of customer consumers.
The launch on the Facebook page reads in part:
Dear American Small Business Owner,
You are the backbone of the largest economy in the world, and at Facebook, we’re excited about helping you grow…Get more customers. Build lasting connections. Reach your customers' friends…We want you to be the next success story.
If you’d like to get started today, create a free Facebook Page for your business and read about best practices for Pages.”
The road show begins in October as FB reps meet with state and local chambers of commerce and regional NFIB offices. “Our goal is to give small businesses a boost by helping them find customers the best way possible – through recommendations from friends,” said Sandberg.
Facebook revenue projections are $2.01 billion in U.S. display ad revenue in 2011, a 67% increase from 2010, according to eMarketer Inc., making it the leading seller in the category, pushing Yahoo to #2 and Google staying at #3.
This latest engagement program aims to engage 30 million small-to-medium sized business owners to use FB as a marketing platform.
“Only 9.2 million of them are using the social network to speak to their customers. An even smaller percentage of that number are spending money on Facebook ad campaigns. Facebook knows most small businesses are too busy to try its ad program; they are already happy with their free Facebook Page and don’t want to spend money. The point of the credit system is to get them to at least try it out,” writes ZDNet.
The only vulnerable corner for now in Facebook’s juggernaut is mobile; 550 million people globally are engaging in social networking by year’s end and projected to reach 1.7 billion by 2016, according to ABI Research. Google and Apple are both working on mobile integration in their competing operating systems.
While FB has a huge mobile presence, it hasn’t yet shown a monetization strategy. "A huge problem for Facebook is that while on the Web, it is a platform — on mobile, it's just another application," commented ABI analyst Aapo Markkanen.