Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
By Sarah Needleman
NEW YORK—In a push to gain more small-business users, Facebook on Monday revealed plans to launch a new program that includes giving away $10 million of advertising credits.
The initiative is being launched in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business group. It is intended to educate small businesses on how to promote themselves on the social-networking site, like buying display ads targeted to specific markets, but also through cost-free measures to engage more with customers.
The new program will officially kick off next month with a cross-country road show in coordination with state and local chambers of commerce and regional NFIB offices. At locations still to be determined, Facebook officials and members of the two business groups will meet with local businesses to discuss best practices for marketing to customers through Facebook.
Then in January, Facebook will begin giving away $50 per business in free advertising credits to as many as 200,000 small businesses. Such companies will be able to redeem the discount on a first-come, first-served basis when purchasing ads on the social-networking site, which can be targeted to specific users as a business sees fit.
David Fischer, vice president of advertising and global operations for Facebook, said the company’s goal with the program goes beyond a desire to expand its customer base to include more small businesses than the estimated 9.2 million that currently have Facebook pages. He said Facebook wants to help small businesses grow by using the social-networking site as a marketing platform that can assist these companies in securing more customers and increasing sales.
“We see an opportunity for Facebook to give small businesses a boost,” Fischer said.
All Things Equal Inc., a Miami Beach, Fla., company that sells board games mainly for children and families, ran four ads on Facebook throughout July. Owner Eric Poses says he spent a total of about $1,400 on the ads that targeted women between the ages of 25 and 50. But he says he isn’t sure if the investment has helped to improve his bottom line since his company’s 10 games are sold in more than 5,000 retail stores nationwide.
Still, Mr. Poses added that he plans to continue advertising on Facebook, especially if he can get his hands on the $50 in free advertising credits. He says he’s confident the ads on Facebook build awareness for his brands.