Facebook Fit, a boot camp developed by the world's largest social network to help whip small businesses into shape -- and, of course, to trumpet the benefits of advertising on Facebook -- made its inaugural pit stop in New York City this morning, kicking off to rapturous fanfare.
Following user feedback and a proliferation of entrepreneurial success stories, Facebook has ramped up its focus on small-business owners over the past six months, the company said.
With more than 30 million businesses currently operating Pages on its platform, Facebook Fit marks the company’s first major effort to engage them face-to-face.
A video message screened at the event featuring Mark Zuckerberg made this reinstated emphasis crystal clear: “Our business wouldn’t be here without your business,” he said.
The audience of over 900 small-business owners -- each of whom paid $25 to attend -- was similarly enthused by the motivational forum, which will trek to five additional U.S. cities this summer.
“Make some noise if you want Facebook to make you a millionaire!” screamed the event’s emcee, tech expert Mario Armstrong, as attendees cheered ecstatically.
Facebook’s director of small business, Dan Levy, then delivered a keynote address proffering tips from companies who are currently using Facebook ads to considerable impact.
While plumbing may seem like one of the least enticing industries to socialize, Morgan Miller Plumbing has flourished by sharing pictures and info about its employees -- the very plumbers that customers are typically reticent to invite into their homes, Levy said.
And rather than print campaigns, which tend to “spray and pray,” Facebook offers businesses the unique ability to target specific demographics. For instance, Wendy Gabinski’s women’s snowmobiling apparel business, Divas SnowGear, targets female Facebook users who list this rather rarified interest.
Similarly, Irish jeweler Voltaire Diamonds can target users who are in a relationship, but not engaged.
Finally, Levy described some of the latest and most advanced tools that businesses now have at their disposal, including the new and "powerful” Lookalike tool, which allows marketers to target untapped audiences similar to ones that they already possess.
As Facebook has recently diminished the organic reach of its business Pages, such tools are becoming increasingly critical for marketers who want to be heard.
The purpose of these changing algorithms, said Bess Yount, Facebook’s director of small business programs, is to streamline and optimize user feeds as the site continues to grow. In making Page reach less inevitable, marketers must now hone their focus on “creating content that adds value to people’s lives, and that can coexist with posts from friends and family members and other life moments,” she said.
Following Levy’s keynote, business owners were invited to attend six breakout training sessions hosted by co-sponsors Square, Legalzoom and QuickBooks. Author Rhonda Abrams, Facebook Fit’s “business planning guru,” offered one-on-one consultations, while a pitch contest was also held in which two small business owners won a trip to Facebook’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters for a “makeover.”
In addition to a bounty of new strategies and tools, certain attendees were most grateful for the ability to connect with the seemingly gigantic company in person. While Diane Nissen, principal of the financial advisory firm The Alexandrite Group, has been lax to use Facebook in the past, she said that gaining personal exposure to staffers at the event has enhanced her opinion of the company, and has made her more likely to engage on the platform going forward.