Small businesses are leveraging Facebook more and more to engage their customers and prospects. A growing number of SMBs are posting videos on Facebook, and millions of them are advertising on the platform. And small businesses are investing more in Instagram’s advertising platform as well, which leverages Facebook’s targeting tools to help them connect with the right prospective audience.
With next being National Small Business Week, Facebook is holding a small business event in Atlanta, GA. We caught up with Ciara Viehweg of Facebook as she shares with us how small businesses are leveraging Facebook’s platform to build deeper relationships with customers and prospects to grow their businesses. Ciara, who is part of Facebook’s SMB Community Engagement Team, also shares a few tools SMBs can use to get the most out of Facebook’s platform from a customer engagement perspective.
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Small Business Trends: Before we start talking about the cool event Facebook is going to be doing in my home town, Atlanta, maybe you can give us a little bit of your personal background.
Ciara Viehweg: I’ve been at Facebook for the last year and a half, which has been incredibly exciting. Both of my parents were small business owners, so I’m very passionate about working with small businesses and I absolutely love to get to speak to small businesses all the time. I’m originally from San Francisco so I haven’t moved too far at all. I’m still based in San Francisco today.
Small Business Trends: How many small businesses are using Facebook today?
Ciara Viehweg: We’re actually seeing really incredible momentum with small businesses using Facebook. There’s already 50 million businesses who have Facebook pages and 3 million of them are advertising on Facebook. What we’re really hearing from small businesses is that they’re on there because it works; it’s incredibly easy to use; and it’s mobile, which is where the world is today.
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Small Business Trends: That’s a lot of small businesses. Does that provide Facebook with some interesting insights about what’s going on in general when it comes to small business today?
Ciara Viehweg: I would say there are three major trends that we’ve been seeing with small businesses using Facebook. The first is mobile; businesses are telling us there is no better place than Facebook and Instagram to reach their customers because it is a mobile-friendly platform and people are spending more time on their mobile devices. The mobile world is here and if businesses are not mobile-friendly, then they’re not where their customers are. 1 out of 5 mobile minutes are being spent on Facebook and Instagram so it’s so important for small businesses to be where their customers are, which is why so many of them are really leveraging Facebook to reach their customers.
The other really interesting thing about mobile is that it’s not just their customers who are using mobile devices. We’re actually seeing a lot of small businesses using mobile devices to reach their customers. There is over a third of active advertisers who are exclusively advertising using just their mobile device, which is a really cool trend to see.
I would say the other really cool trend we’re seeing is video. Businesses are telling us they absolutely love video because it’s providing them a really cool and unique way to show behind the scenes what’s going on in their business; invite their customers into their actual stores to see what’s going on. There are over a million and a half of small businesses that posted videos in the last month alone, which is really exciting.
I would say that maybe the third trend we’re seeing is Instagram. Some people don’t know that Instagram is part of Facebook. Small businesses have always been a really important part of the Instagram community. It’s where people go to get inspired and discover new things, including businesses. Now what we’re hearing is that they are pumped to be using Instagram advertising, which also leverages Facebook targeting, so it’s a really unique combination of using this great, visual platform and using Facebook targeting to find their exact customers on Instagram.
Small Business Trends: Are there some underutilized tools that SMBs could really be taking advantage of that they just don’t seem to be doing right now?
Ciara Viehweg: I would say measurement is a huge thing that is sometimes underutilized by businesses. We know businesses have very limited time and money, and our goal is to be the best marketing minute and dollars that businesses spend. It’s really important for businesses to ensure that they’re using the page insight and ad insight tools that we do offer. They’re free products and services that give them such a wealth of information of who are the people who are interacting with their page; the actual ROI they’re receiving on their ad. We’re finding that the businesses that are really leveraging these insights and targeting on Facebook are the ones that are having the most success.
Small Business Trends: Could you talk a little bit about Facebook Chatbots and how would a small business be able to take advantage of that kind of capability?
Ciara Viehweg: Facebook Chatbots, I can say, are incredibly early. Right now we’re really focused on getting the experience right for people. We do think that Bots can help businesses and people find the things that they are really looking for and connect with businesses in meaningful ways. Again, it’s incredibly early so we’re really looking forward to seeing what happens with it.
Small Business Trends: One last thing around video, you talked about how it seems to be getting adopted in really rapid fire. Is Facebook Live driving that?
Ciara Viehweg: We’ve seen businesses are absolutely loving Facebook Live. I actually had a couple of businesses just emailing me the other day because they were just so excited to use it. They’re using Live to connect with their customers in authentic ways. I think they love Live because it gives them the ability to bring their customers literally into the store and show them what’s happening right there in that moment. There is a business called the Chef’s Roll that’s based out of San Diego, California, and they always do these chef competitions with these really famous chefs from all around the world. Now what they’re able to do is they turn on their Facebook Live and suddenly, their 92,000 fans who follow them on Facebook have the opportunity to tune in and watch the competition happening live. It allows the fans to root on their absolute favorite chefs from all around the world. It’s been an incredibly exciting journey. We’re really excited to see where Facebook Live goes. Again, it’s really early but businesses have been very excited about it and jumping on it right away.
Small Business Trends: Is there any advice you would like to give any small businesses about how they can get started using Facebook from a business perspective? I think there are still a lot of small businesses out there that are still trying to figure it out and haven’t made the jump yet.
Ciara Viehweg: The first place, I would say, is our Facebook for Business page. There are tons of videos; great articles; lots of success stories that you can sort by vertical to see what businesses like yours are having success on Facebook. It’s a great place to also get support and ask questions, if you do need help.
I would also say Facebook Blueprint. There are over 50 courses that you can take that teach you everything you need to know about marketing on Facebook and Instagram, and every single course is absolutely free. It’s all self-paced so it’s a really great resource for people who are just getting started or even wanting to take the next step and learn a little bit more about some of our advanced targeting tools.
Businesses are telling us that they are so excited about Instagram, so we also have an Instagram for Business page, a great resource to see some of the trends; to learn a little bit more about hashtag; get some support; and see what other businesses are doing well on Instagram.
Small Business Trends: Next week is National Small Business Week and you guys are coming to my town, Atlanta, to have a small business event. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that.
Ciara Viehweg: Small businesses are the bedrock of this economy and we thought what better way to celebrate them than during National Small Business Week. We’re finding that a lot of businesses we talk to don’t realize how many tools that exist on Facebook to succeed. The whole goal of this event is to really highlight a lot of these tools; put them at the forefront and give businesses the opportunity to interact with people from our team to learn more about these tools. For example, our Facebook Creative Shop Team will be there. They’ll be showing businesses how to find unique and easy ways to create really compelling content on Facebook and Instagram.
Our Facebook Blueprint Team will be there so that online eTutorial that I just spoke about, they’re going to be speaking to businesses and showing them how to take these learnings into their own hands and do them when they get home, as well as take courses right there at the event. Then, of course, we’re going to have Instagram there, which we’re very excited about. As I mentioned, businesses are so excited to get started with Instagram, so Instagram will be there to inspire and connect businesses and teach them more about how to use the power of visual storytelling to reach new customers on Instagram.
Small Business Trends: Where could people learn more about this event?
Ciara Viehweg: The event is actually sold out. But I would also say even if you can’t attend, using those resources that I talked about before is a great way to learn more about marketing; targeting; creating content on Facebook and Instagram.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.
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