Sheryl Sandberg: ‘We are living through fastest adoption of disruptive tech the world has ever seen’

16 Apr 2014

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in Dublin today

The rapid adoption of disruptive technology creates challenges and opportunities for businesses, said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who added that more than 25m businesses worldwide promote themselves via the social network.

Sandberg, who was attending the first Facebook SMB Council for Europe at the social network’s international headquarters in Dublin, revealed the challenges of SMBs are high among her priorities. Facebook launched its SMB Council for the US last month.

She said her grandparents, who left Eastern Europe for the US, had set up a paint business that ultimately failed and the painful experience is fresh in the memories of her family.

“If you think about the biggest challenge of our time, jobs are the biggest challenge of our time. SMBs are a huge percentage of the jobs growth that is happening.

A Deloitte report from January 2012 found that Facebook added €15.3 billion value to European GDP in 2011 and created 232,000 jobs

Facebook employs 500 people in Dublin and will be moving to a new building in Grand Canal Square that will house up to 1,000 workers.

“We are living through the fastest adoption of disruptive technology that the world has ever seen,” Sandberg said. “With that disruption comes a disruption in business models and that presents huge challenges and opportunities.”

Sandberg said 1.2bn people in the world today use Facebook and 62pc return to the site every day.

“We have businesses using Facebook to grow their business. It’s a virtuous cycle and we are seeing great businesses run by great people offer great products and services at what is still a very challenging time in the economy.”

She said that there are 25m active Pages on Facebook. Plus, there are over 1m active advertisers on Facebook – more than double the number last year.

“In business there is nothing like meeting people and getting really good product feedback. Facebook is the front page for many businesses today.

“Facebook and SMBs’ missions are inextricably tied – let’s face the challenges and opportunities of technology disruption together,” Sandberg told the assembly of businesses who have excelled in using the social network to grow their customer base.

More innovation in mobile

Ciaran Quilty, SMB regional director for EMEA at Facebook, said there are 2.3m monthly active Facebook users in Ireland – effectively 67pc of the online population. “The average Irish person uses Facebook 11 to 14 times a day.”

He said that globally more than 1bn people now access the social network on their mobile devices.

“The phenomenal pace of growth to mobile is staggering. There are now more mobile devices in the world than toothbrushes.

“We are very much a mobile-first company – everything is mobile-first in terms of our new products and how we think about the future. We continue to innovate our core app on mobile. We bought Instagram as you know and we recently rolled out Paper.”

Also in recent months, Facebook spent US$16bn to acquire messaging platform WhatsApp.

Quilty said that of the 25m SMBs around the word that use Facebook’s platform to promote their business, 1m are advertising and regularly re-investing in their presence on the social network.

“Our advertising numbers of 1m businesses are double what it was last year for three reasons: mobile, reach, and ease of use. In particular, it is of value because they can target their reach across local, national and international audiences,” Quilty said. He cited businesses like Yvolve Sports, Bunsen Burgers and Pat Divilly Fitness as examples of Irish businesses that use Facebook as their primary platform for promoting their business.

“More and more people are spending their time on mobile. Mobile is driving advertising and now represents 53pc of our revenues,” Quilty said.

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