Facebook For SMBs 101: Emphasis Is On Targeting Tools, Lessons On Place Tips And Beacons To Come

It’s Back-to-School for the social net’s 40 million small biz clients and FB’s Jonathan Czaja has a lesson plan all worked out.

Facebook's Jonathan Czaja
Facebook’s Jonathan Czaja

Facebook’s SMB ad ops team is getting ready to hit the road again in support of its educational outreach program, “Boost Your Business.” The live, in-person events, begun last year, are designed to explain some of the new tools available to the 40 million local businesses using the social network to drive customers into their stores.

Some of those tools, including one that allows users to message businesses directly through Facebook Place Pages, and another that adds new call-to-action ad targeting, are the main topics on the agenda for meetings with SMBs around the US this fall, says Jonathan Czaja, director for Small Business (North America) at Facebook.

And even though there’s been a lot of fanfare about the social network’s testing and subsequent universal rollout of its mobile app-based Place Tips, along with the beacons that support that feature, Czaja notes that the social network still has a way to go until mainstream SMBs start clamoring for greater proximity marketing tools.

GeoMarketing: What’s the state of Facebook’s ad programming for SMBs?

Jonathan Czaja: We now have over 40 million small businesses who have active business pages, and over 2 million are actively advertising. We’re just seeing that a lot of small businesses are figuring out how to make Facebook ads work for them.

Part of it is the greater amount of education and resources that we’re creating to help small businesses understand how to use Facebook. But, more and more, we’re building small-business-specific products.

What are some recent examples?

In addition to building out Local Awareness Ads, we’ve also rolled out a bunch of new call-to-actions like Call Now, Get Directions, Message Now. We’re doing a lot to help drive traffic either to stores or directly to customers

Are there any categories of SMB that is particularly active on Facebook? Are you starting to see different kinds of marketers starting to use Facebook’s SMB services?

Sure. If you look at the folks who are advertising with us, historically, we’ve skewed more towards online businesses like e-commerce, because we have a really well-developed suite of advertising tools for those types of businesses.

But as we roll out things like Local Awareness, you’re seeing more and more of the restaurants, the nail salons, the professional services. We see a lot of lawyers, plumbers, folks driving leads, real estate is growing as well. You’re seeing a lot of businesses look more like Main Street than it has in the past. It’s really a robust diversity in our portfolio of customers.

Is there a challenge in trying to craft ad products and educational resources for an increasingly diverse array of marketers, despite some of the basic commonalities shared by brands that can classified under the large umbrella of “SMB?”

Yes, they obviously have slightly different objectives, but you can actually distill most of the challenges into a few key things. It depends on the sophistication of the advertiser, but at the most basic level, some of the big challenges we see have to do with the quality of the creative.

A lot of people still struggle with having clear, crisp images, copy, and finding an authentic tone that works well on Facebook. We think authenticity is something that time and time again we see works really well when you’re advertising on Facebook. We give that advice a lot, regardless of your vertical or your objective is to really try to get the content right.

Facebook-logo-thumbs-upWhat’s surprised you the most as you continue to build out the base of SMB client Facebook serves?

It’s surprising how few people actually take advantage of our targeting capabilities. People think about Facebook having a billion users per day. What people miss is that the advanced targeting is a real power here because you could not just reach a billion people.

No one really needs to do that, but you can reach the people that matter to you. If you are a store that sells fashionable snowmobiling apparel —this came up recently — you can actually find women who like fashion; who like snowmobiling; who live in cold weather climates; who have a certain level of disposable income. And you can target your ads directly to them, and thereby reduce the waste that you would see in other advertising mediums.

We keep hammering home the “targeting” message because I think a lot of people still have not yet taken full advantage of that.

In terms of hammering home that message and other ways SMBs can use Facebook to better advantage, we’ve covered the Bootcamp for Small Business events that Facebook has done. Are there other roadshows coming up? What other education and outreach has Facebook been doing?

We’ve been doing many events this year — about 45 small events throughout the country, and then 4 major events where we have I’ll do the keynote and Mari Smith, who’s a small business guru, will come. We’ll have panelists onstage to help educate small businesses. We’ve done 3 of the 4 so far. The next one is coming up in Boston on October 15.

Last year, we did Facebook Fit, which was branded more as a “Bootcamp for SMBs.”

These events are similar, but we’re now calling it “Boost your Business.” The structure is very much the same.

What other kinds of education and outreach to SMBs has Facebook been doing?

In addition, to all the in-person events, we are investing heavily in online educational resources through Facebook For Business site. We’ve now got video tutorials and all sorts of helpful information there to help educate folks.

We also recently launched live chat support. This is a fun one because at all the events I mentioned this, and it’s the one thing that actually gets applause from the crowd because I think people are so hungry to talk to a real human being when they have questions about Facebook ads. Now we have tech support.

Getting back to the specific ad products Facebook offers to SMBs, how have those tools continued to be updated?

For the last few years, Facebook has been evolving its advertising products. Previously, the primary way of advertising was to create a page and get people to “Like” that page.

We find that Page Likes can still be useful for brand awareness. But we now have products like local awareness that help you very easily target in the vicinity of your brick-and-mortar store, and then with these call-to-action ads that I mentioned before, we’re actually able to make the phone ring.

If you’re a restaurant, we’re driving reservations, we’re driving foot traffic, and we’ve seen lots of success with this local awareness ad unit.

We actually have a great case study involving an artisanal tea shop in San Francisco called Boba Guys, who used Local Awareness to drive foot traffic to their new store.

We’re seeing these tremendous case studies with people who can, again, very easily target people in their vicinity, people who work, live or have recently been near their store. And then, with a call-to-action like Call Now or Get Directions, they’re actually driving people to that location, so it’s been very successful for them.

Mentions of "Live Chat Support" on Facebook get cheers from SMBs, Czaja says.
Mentions of “Live Chat Support” on Facebook get cheers from SMBs, Czaja says.

Speaking of literally making SMBs’ phones ring, is there a way that SMBs can take better advantage of Messenger, especially as the new personal assistant feature called “M” is starting to be rolled out?

With regards to the personal messaging, or the personal “M,” as you mentioned, I don’t have much to say there. It’s too soon to really draw the link between small business, although I’m excited to see how this pans out.

The thing I think about a lot though is that we increasingly see that customers are using Facebook Messenger, as well as direct messaging on a brand’s page, to connect with small businesses and ask questions about the products that they’re selling or the status of an order. It’s very much become a customer communication channel through the page, so Facebook is investing heavi

ly in building tools that enable small businesses to better manage that communication on their page.

Speaking of that, some of the recent page announcements we’ve done note how we’re making it easier for businesses to navigate their inbox on the page, if you have questions that come in. We’ve also created things like “save reply,” so if they have a question that they get on a regular basis, the business can just reply with a saved reply instead of having to type it out over and over again. Some of these more convenience-oriented tools that help small businesses really manage communications through their page.

This summer, Facebook began making the mobile app-based Place Tips universally available and began offering the related beacons had been tested more widely as well. What’s your sense of how those features are working out for SMBs?

We see both consumers and businesses alike seem to really enjoy the Place Tips experience. As a consumer, when I walk into a store that has Place Tips enabled, it’s nice to get some background information on the store, see who checked in there. There are lots of rich information that helps me create a relationship with the store.

Obviously, the stores then get to tell their message as well. At this point, we’re just encouraging businesses, if they’re interested in using Place Tips, to please get one of the beacons and try it out, because at this point, it’s really just about enriching that experience for the customer in your store.

Can you tell us how many beacons have been rolled out along with the Place Tips program? That is, beyond simply saying “a lot” of beacons have been released for Place Tips.

I think my answer would still be “a lot.”

Fair enough. Do you think there needs to be a lot more education about what beacons are and what the benefits might be to SMBs?

I just came back from Nashville last week, where we had an event, and we did not talk specifically about Place Tips and beacons, although we should.

To be honest though, there are lower-hanging fruit in terms of educating people just on the sense of making sure that businesses understand that they can use Facebook as tool to help them grow by using our targeting capabilities.

Even the advanced targeting capabilities should be really relevant for a lot of places, with custom audiences and look-alike audiences. We get a ton of questions about those from small businesses throughout the country, so we’re continuing to educate about that.

We also talk a lot about measurements. “Can you use Facebook’s ad manager or conversion pixels to really measure the results of your ad?” is one example. So that’s where we’ve been spending the bulk of our time educating folks on, but it’s a good point that we should be weaving in the Place Tips and beacons as well.

What else can the SMBs who attend the Boost Your Business gatherings expect to hear?

The only other big thing that we keep messaging at these events is that Facebook is here to help small businesses, so if you have a question, reach out to us. You can email us, you can now chat with us.

Historically, Facebook support, to be quite candid, has been not great, so we are working very hard to improve it. Again, this is something that gets cheers on the road, which is so heartening, because I feel like a lot of people have been frustrated with their ability to reach out to Facebook and ask questions. The message is, “We heard you, and we’re investing heavily.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.