Visa Jumps Into Social Media with Facebook Network

Visa, the credit card provider, today launched the Visa Business Network on Facebook. They bill it as the “first-ever application dedicated to connecting small businesses on Facebook.”

The Visa Business Network is a free application within Facebook. Most Facebook applications are pretty limited, simply plugging in some little bit of functionality into your Profile page or letting you blast out messages (sometimes annoying) to all your Facebook friends.

The Visa Business Network is much more ambitious and business-oriented. Think of it as a social network within a social network (Facebook).

When you join the Visa Business Network you get access to a special Visa-branded section within Facebook designed for small businesses.

Visa Business Network on Facebook

Highlights of the Visa Business Network include:

  • Resource Center — gives you access to videos, podcasts and articles from Entrepreneur and other sources. More intriguingly, you get access to Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Sites and Google Maps. If you don’t currently use those tools, you can sign up. If you are an existing user, you can log in to them from within the network within Facebook. For instance, I’m an existing user of Google Calendar and Google Maps, and it immediately found my Google Maps listing for my business, as well as my Google Calendar.
  • Business Finder — gives you the ability to search for and network with other small businesses in Facebook. Example: businesses that fill out a profile on the Visa Business Network can choose to provide such information as industry, number of employees, location, business age, owner’s gender, whether the business is home based, office based or online, and other data. You will be able to search for other businesses having such characteristics. You can then “Add Associates” to your network — similar to the “Add a Friend” feature in basic Facebook.
  • Admin Panel and Messaging Center — gives you the ability to see your business network activity in one place (called Back Office), and send and receive messages with business contacts.

It is free to join. You do not need to be a Visa credit card holder.

There are 80,000 small businesses that have already set up a Facebook business page, out of 80 million users. According to Alex Craddock, Head of Small Business Marketing for Visa, “Right now it’s not so easy to find small businesses on Facebook to network with. With the Visa Business Network you will be able to search for other businesses with greater detail.”

According to Craddock, one of the key reasons Visa decided to create the network with Facebook is based on Forrester research from earlier this year predicting 20% – 33% growth in social media among SMBs. Rather than creating a new online destination for small businesses to have to go to, Visa wanted to offer tools and networking in a place where small businesses were already gathering, i.e. on Facebook.

Visa is giving the first 20,000 U.S. based small businesses that sign up a $100 Facebook ad credit. As soon as you join the Network, you will get an email back with a coupon code you can claim, to run ads on Facebook.

My take?

Content is everywhere these days, so I’m not sure that the content alone will be a large draw. But the Business Finder functionality could be promising for networking and prospecting — at least among businesses active in Facebook. Key question: will businesses include enough descriptive information about their own businesses so that others can find them to connect?

Visa is investing heavily with subsidized Facebook advertising, and the free ad credits should convince business owners to at least try it and in turn help spread word of this new Network. If nothing else, the Visa Business Network will have a branding benefit — meaning it will help spread the Visa brand within Facebook.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

19 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Interesting news. Who’s next? American Express?

  2. This looks like a great way to find information about interesting businesses and who’s behind them. The free ad credits are a good incentive to join.

  3. This is quite interesting. And what a great way to find other small businesses and those within your industry. But like you said, small businesses will have to provide a decent amount of information in order to connect with one another. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it in the future.

  4. Just 80,000 small businesses on Facebook????? Small potatoes for Visa compared to sponsoring the Olympics.

  5. There are a lot of small business networks out there already, but this is def an interesting spin to build it inside of Facebook. This would be particularly useful if Facebook users looking for a small business in a certain industry could go to the Visa network to search for them. It would be nice to see a cross between this and the pages feature. Member profiles in the Visa network could also allow “fans” and reviews from users.

  6. 23Babylon,

    During my media interview with the Visa people, I didn’t get a chance to ask how they came up with that 80,000 number. Presumably it came from Facebook.

    But keep in mind that 80,000 is the number of BUSINESS pages, i.e., a page set up specifically for a small business. They were pretty clear about that.

    Lots of people still are not fully aware that you can set up a business page. So I am sure there are many more small-business people using Facebook, who just have a personal profile.


  7. Wow. Thanks for this great tip. I registered and got a $100 coupon for advertising.

    AMAZING !!!!!!!

  8. WOW! Great to know! Salesconx (the website I work for) has its own Facebook page and I am really excited to get it more attention on the Visa network.

    Very helpful.


  9. Anita,

    An informative and good article.

    Doing your interview with Visa did you think that they were trying to network businesses under one banner or they were just interested in innovation in a market that they might not have tried before?

    This certainly raises a lot of questions about the continued use of Facebook as a social utility. I’m not sure if it is anymore because it’s not so cluttered. The more complicated it becomes I think the less people will use it. That’s why I think other social utility websites start off simple and become popular: because it’s simpler.

    In any case, it’s still a professional looking application and is useful.

  10. Hi Chris Hearse,

    I agree that Facebook seems to be getting cluttered.

    But I personally haven’t reached the point where I can’t tolerate it any more. In fact, I get found by new people, and find other new people, through Facebook on a regular basis. So it has expanded my business contacts.

    I find valuable those business-related apps that serve a function and don’t annoy people. Simple apps, such as the Andertoons (displaying a new cartoon each day) or the Twitter app that displays your latest tweet on your Facebook page, are welcome additions in my opinion. People visiting your page get the benefit of them, without being bugged to sign up for them or getting repeated unwanted requests.

    I can see value in the Visa app, although the obvious limitation is that it extends only to businesses on Facebook.


  11. It seems like everyone is getting on the band wagon of FaceBook and Twitter. I just placed 2 of my businesses on Twitter. FaceBook is next. I think I’ll check out Glyphius or Headline Creator Pro. I heard that Glyphius is better. My one liners will better attract the general public.

  12. Facebook is becoming the place to be found. I’m just really glad it has not become anything like My Space……yet…..I guess we’ll see. Great move by Facebook to encourage a more professional, business like atmosphere by including Visa.

  13. It is a good move by Visa to differentiate themselves instead of yet another business forum. It will be interesting to see how they develop the network to benefit small businesses.

  14. $2M to attract 20,000 small business owners to a business directory withing FB? I don’t get it. They’re basically paying $100 per user… of which half will probably sign-up to redeem their free coupon and never return… so, it’s $200+ per user.

    And then what?

    A better option for Visa would be to buy up some of the smaller successful online business networks out there (i.e. Fast Pitch!, etc…). That way, Visa could actually ‘OWN’ the users… and the ability to market to them directly forever… without having to pay such a premium to Facebook each time they try to grow the network.

  15. Hey Anita,

    Great blog post. I saw the update on Twitter and followed it right to your post.
    I signed up on Facebook right away and got my 100.00 Facebook advertising credit.
    I don’t know how Visa will make their money back but I do know they are smart to envolve themselves with the Facebook community.

    All the best


  16. Jon P., agreed — owning your own community is always a better strategy. It’s like owning your own home vs renting. At the end of the day your in control of your destiny and you have something to show for it.

  17. Martin Lindeskog


    I agree that it is optimal to create your own community in order to get total control over it, but you could start off with putting up a Facebook group, a place on Ning, etc. We will create a Blue Chip Community later on. We got a community tool from our supplier of web tools and we will then design it according to our style with logotype and brand feeling. Facebook is a great place to start to get contact and then go from there.

    I have to check out Visa’s offer…

  18. They should partner with coaching or consulting companies like OneCoach in San Diego to offer more resources to the small business owner. Do they offer a forum or networking center? Small business owners and entrepreneurs check this out…

  19. Hi Susan, From what I learned in the interview they have plans to enhance the network over the coming months. Somewhere on the network pages I noticed it says it is a “beta” launch.

    Hi Jon and Jeffrey, One advantage I can see with Facebook is the brand reinforcement effect. In other words, even if small businesses don’t use the network, Visa’s brand still is plastered all over people’s pages on Facebook. Anytime anyone visits profile pages with the references to the Visa network on them they will see the Visa brand It’s the equivalent of banner ad impressions for them. So I suppose that’s worth something.