Facebook wants to make friends with small business

Facebook is getting ready to launch a new campaign to win over small businesses and get them using Facebook as their home on the web. The lure will be a series of $50 free ad credits for Facebook banner ads targeted to 200,000 small businesses across the country. But the hope is that small businesses will flock to Facebook, setting up pages as either an alternative to or compliment for their company websites.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, kicked things off with an interview in USA Today. The campaign centers on the idea that many small businesses don’t already have a website and that setting one up is too much work, whereas setting up a Facebook page can be done in minutes.

While her premise is true, I believe the most receptive target will be those businesses who already have a web presence, but have not been able to use it to generate leads and new business. This is where Facebook advertising can play a big part. When used by an experienced marketer, Facebook advertising can be an efficient and effective tool for the small business.

However, for anyone who has used the Facebook self-service ad builder, the actual user experience does not live up to the definition of easy and intuitive. There are a lot of apparent black box processes that determine how often the ad will be presented (impressions), how frequently it will be shown and how the auction style bidding actual works.

The only way to learn is by doing and so my recommendation is that any small business who wants to get going in Facebook advertising will be well served by starting out working with a specialist who has learned what works from a technical side and combines that with a strong sense of what sort of ad will work for each type of business.