Facebook rolls out social business initiative for local firms – including €100 ad credits

14 Sep 2012

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, TD, with Facebook UK and Ireland director of policy Simon Milner and the head of Facebook's operations in Ireland Sonia Anne Flynn

Social network Facebook is emerging as the go-to place for local firms to build loyalty and sell goods and services within their local community, as well as overseas. Facebook has today launched a Business Boost initiative for Irish firms as the country makes the transition from a debt and property-laden economy to one based on innovation, growth and investment.

The scheme, announced at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce this morning, follows research published by Deloitte in January which found that the growth of Facebook and mobile applications in recent years has already contributed an estimated €397.2m to the Irish economy and generated 4,500 jobs, 800 of which are in small businesses.

Increasingly, businesses are seeking growth through new technology, using Facebook’s free pages to build loyalty among existing fans and connect with new customers from the 2m people on Facebook in Ireland, and the 950m users beyond.

Dublin Chamber of Commerce chief executive Gina Quinn said: “The marketing potential of Facebook is vast, but creating a strategy that works for your business can be intimidating. The ‘Facebook for Business’ roadshow is a fantastic opportunity for our members to engage directly with experts on how make the most of Facebook for the promotion of business. Dublin is proud to be the home of Facebook’s international headquarters and we are delighted to collaborate with them on this initiative to stimulate business growth.”

Facebook’s programme is designed to encourage growth among even more of Ireland’s small businesses by ensuring they are fully equipped to reap the benefits of social media.

In addition to claiming €100 of free advertising credits, from today Irish business owners can learn everything there is to know about the opportunities offered by Facebook. Published in association with small business support experts Enterprise Nation, ‘Boost Your Business with Facebook’ is a free downloadable guide and offers all the practical advice required to build and maintain a Facebook page, engage fans and master advertising.

Transitioning the Irish economy from debt to growth

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Facebook’s UK and Ireland policy director Simon Milner explained the opportunity for Irish firms – from the butcher and baker to the candlestick maker, per se.

“The core of the message is some businesses are using Facebook to grow and connect with current and potential customers often at a very local level.”

Milner gave the example of the Cupcake Bakery in Galway, which started out as a market stall in Galway Market and has grown significantly using Facebook as a promotions vehicle.

“They began by posting engaging content and by also posting regularly, including new recipes, new promotions around in-store or mail order. It’s all about engagement – as well as engaging fans, their friends find out about it, too, and by word of mouth new offers and products are heard about.”

Milner says that there are firms in the business community who are racing ahead and using the Facebook platform as a strategic way to grow their business.

“There are early adopters who are keen on this but by and large there are so many other businesses that in terms of priorities think of Facebook as a leisure activity.

“However, advertising in a social media context and seeing a friend’s name associated with a product or service is actually more powerful than non-social advertising. People are four times more likely to want to buy a product or service if a friend’s name is associated with it in an advert.”

I put it to Milner that firms are currently so focused on keeping the lights on and staff paid in the current economy that seeing social media as a leisure activity could be forgiven.

“Minister Richard Bruton, TD, pointed out this morning that the Government of Ireland is focused on transitioning the Irish economy from debt and property to one based on innovation, growth and investment. Only a quarter of Irish businesses are using the internet to promote sales. But if a good proportion of small businesses and entrepreneurs are using Facebook tools to grow and promote their businesses, then we see this as helping Ireland make the transition,” Milner said.

Speaking at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce event this morning, Bruton said: “A key part of the Government’s plan for jobs and growth is assisting small businesses to find innovative ways to grow their markets. Social media is crucial to this, and today’s initiative by Facebook to provide free guidance, marketing tools and advertising to small Irish businesses is very welcome.

“We are lucky in Ireland to have some of the world’s most innovative companies creating jobs here – today’s announcement is a great example of how we can derive even greater benefit from their presence here to support the small businesses that will be so crucial to our recovery,” Bruton said.

One example of a business using Facebook to grow its online community is kids’ outdoor clothing brand PuddleDucks. Owner Aedan Ryan explained: “Facebook is increasingly important in our day-to-day communication with customers. It gives us the opportunity to engage with customers in a fun and informative way, and gives them a chance to share their views by posting unprompted reviews. Essentially every time we have a positive comment we’re enjoying word of mouth marketing to over 3,000 fans – and their friends.

“We’ve also used our Facebook Page to gather market research which has successfully guided our choice of new products. Overall the use of Facebook for PuddleDucks has certainly led to an increase in brand awareness, trust and customer loyalty,” Ryan added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years