Facebook says small businesses ‘just as important’ as big brands

As Facebook execs go on a speaking tour and court large brands and agencies during Advertising Week in New York, the company maintains that it wants the social network to continue to be a valuable platform for small businesses to connect with current and future customers.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a press Q&A Tuesday that serving small business is “just as important” as helping large advertisers achieve their goals. She says the company’s current and future revenue is split between small businesses and larger brands.

Small and medium businesses often feel their interests aren’t represented or recognized by Facebook as the social network grows and develops relationships with Fortune 500 companies and other prominent partners. New advertising products like Facebook Exchange and Custom Audiences are likely outside SMBs’ scope, and key things like mobile ad placements are still not available in the self-serve ad tool.

That said, the social network has made it easier for SMBs to create basic ads on the site, streamlining the ad tool and introducing the Promote button on pages. This year’s Timeline for pages redesign eliminated the advantage some bigger businesses had in customized landing tabs. Now all businesses have the same basic canvas of a cover photo and profile photo to draw in fans. Page owners also gained some additional free admin tools like post scheduling. The company puts out videos, whitepapers and other resources for people learning how to use Facebook for marketing.

Sandberg acknowledges small businesses make up a “huge” component of Facebook. There are 11 million SMBs on the site, 7 million of which have an active Facebook page and 3 million of which make at least one post per week. Sandberg calls small business the “holy grail of the Internet” since the long tail of advertisers collectively spend a significant amount. The hard part, she says, is that SMBs are typically late adopters of technology. Facebook has an advantage, though, in that its marketing and advertising products are so similar to the features people use daily to connect with friends and family. In fact many business owners start by promoting their business on their personal profile and then create a page when they start to see interest and results.

Sandberg pointed to Promoted Posts as an example of how Facebook is trying to keep the social network approachable for SMBs. Instead of asking, “Do you want to become an advertiser today?” Facebook asks page owners if they want to pay a small amount to sponsor a post they’ve already made and reach more fans and their friends.

Of course, to convince small businesses to pay for distribution that used to be free, Facebook will have to do what it can to make sure SMBs are seeing results. Facebook has a team dedicated to increasing SMB adoption of its marketing tools. These employees help the product team understand what to build to make the platform more useful to small businesses.

For example, Facebook currently has a job opening for a Principal Writer, User Operations to “educate small and medium businesses on Facebook by conveying complicated technical topics in simple, jargon-free language.” The candidate must have “a passion for helping small businesses succeed in a new economy.” The company is also looking for a Product Marketing Manager, Advertising Interfaces, which calls for someone to identify and assess “product opportunities for helping small and medium businesses use Facebook advertising more effectively.”