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Here's What I Learned at the Facebook Good Ideas Festival With its global reach, there is no doubt that the social media giant -- and others like it -- is socially and culturally influential. But can it be a useful tool in making businesses competitive?

By Kenny Au

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Over the past few weeks, I took a deep dive into the seven-day Facebook Good Ideas Festival, which focused on how small businesses can boost their online presence in various ways as they recover from the pandemic. Yes, it showcased different ways the platform can be helpful in the field of entrepreneurship, but also featured small-business success stories that offered inspiration and guidance on leveraging social media to both promote their brands and conduct more convenient and efficient business.

Related: Zoe Saldana's Advice for Reaching Small Business Goals in the Social Media Age: 'It's Not About the Smallness of It. It's Just About the Efficiency.'

Supporting small businesses

The festival kicked off on June 28 as a nod to the UN's Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day, of which Facebook is one of the founding partners. Also, the festival shares the goal of the International Trade Centre (ITC) in promoting awareness about the contributions small businesses make in achieving sustainable development and lifting the global economy.

In a blog post, Facebook Vice President of Global Customer Marketing Michelle Klein highlighted the inspirational and educational content being offered. "You'll have ongoing access to free digital skills training and interactive workshops that will help you learn creative new ways to grow your networks, sell goods online and more," Klein wrote.

Klein also stressed how Facebook is seeking to help businesses forging partnerships with companies and policy partners like Adobe and the National Restaurant Association "to offer skills training and thought leadership on topics ranging from how to choose a pricing strategy to design tips to content creation and more."

Bringing in star power

On its face, the festival had no shortage of clout and reach, but still didn't shy away from leveraging Hollywood star power. The virtual event, which occurred during the week of July 12, presented Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldana as host. Zaldana, a business owner in her own right, relayed stories of endeavors that succeeded in taking advantage of social media for their promotions and engagement with customers.

Additionally, the festival introduced the newest season of the video series Boost My Business, hosted by fashion designer Tan France of the reality TV show Queer Eye. The clips highlighted a number of small companies, including Sistah SciFi, a bookstore specializing in books authored by African-American and Native American women, as well as Texas beauty store Brandy Lucas Beauty, Virginia coffee shop Turkish Coffee Lady and California cafe The Cat Cafe. Boost My Business also took a virtual trip to New York City to help brass shop J. Landress Brass enhance its online sales through personalized video ads.

Found on Facebook

The company likewise used the festival to launch its new digital series, Found on Facebook. The kickoff episodes touted businesses in the hospitality industry, which were among the worst affected by the pandemic. Desi Galli, an Indian restaurant in New York, was one of the businesses profiled. Its owner, Chef PriaVanda, showcased how she gained more customers by making use of Instagram Reels, a platform similar to TikTok.

Subsequent episodes are set to dig deeper into digital-marketing strategies and techniques other small businesses can apply to their operations, in order to make the most out of the opportunities that emerge along the road to economic recovery.

Alongside Found on Facebook, the social media giant offered a "Getting Back to Business" training session for businesses that are already reopening. The company enlisted the help of groups such as the National Restaurant Association to provide direction on topics like pricing strategy, website and store design and content development.

The importance of messaging on social media

In a Live Product Q&A session, Facebook Product Marketing and Business Messaging Officer Morgan Boudinet discussed the different tools Facebook offers to help companies grow through effective messaging. Boudinet laudably emphasized that her session was less about teaching businesses how to build relationships with customers and more about helping them "save time and energy and keep them organized" so they can do what they do best.

Often, companies tend to overpromise and underdeliver. The habit of exaggerating features and capabilities has become the norm for many platforms, so it is refreshing for Facebook to be clear in the advantages it's offering to small businesses.

One of the notable Facebook tools featured in Boudinet's session was the Facebook Chat Plugin, which is being used by innovators like distance-learning startups to streamline communications and automate the process of answering product questions and personalizing services.

Boudinet also presented real-world examples of the benefits of Instagram's tools. One fashion business cited uses Instagram not only to showcase its products online but also to connect with customers and manage online orders through Instagram Direct.

Conversational commerce and differentiating from other online marketplaces

Another noteworthy session brought in Facebook Philippines Country Director John Rubio and celebrity entrepreneur RJ Ledesma to discuss the overlapping concepts of discovery and turning discovery into sales, which are particularly significant in hyper-local cities with heavy social media use.

Rubio noted that the traditional way of doing ecommerce — wherein you go to an online store or marketplace and find the item you want at the cheapest price or your preferred store — is too impersonal. "There's another group that says, 'I want to discover something, I want to have that connection,'" he remarked. "This is where the difference comes in. It creates this trust-based relationship with the sellers.

It seems that businesses are utilizing Facebook as a platform for conversational commerce, wherein buyers and sellers have ample opportunities to interact and establish relationships through conversations or communication in an experience that simulates how people interact with businesses in the real world.

Conversational commerce does come with a risk of misuse, though. Just like doing business in the real world, there are no strict automated systems that address pernicious haggling and complicated customer complaints.

Were they all good ideas?

The primary challenge in all this for businesses is to invest time in learning all the features available. I would advise that, should you choose to participate in future iterations of this festival or ones like it, come away from each session willing to experiment with the suggested techniques. Remember, small experiments equals small wins. Keep experimenting, keep learning and keep growing. It all comes back to the fundamentals of evolving and growing as a entrepreneur.

Small-business owners have to search for tools that are adaptable and assess whether potential losses in not using Facebook or services like it for business outweigh the possible costs that may be incurred in terms of investing time and effort in mastering the platform.

Related: Amazon Prime Day 2021 Is June 21-22, and Kristen Bell Tells Us Why She's Partnered With Them to Promote Small Businesses

Social media does have its obvious enterprising nature. Facebook, for instance, aggressively pushes its paid "boost" feature and ads, which can be very compelling to businesses that need help in targeting their message to an increasingly digital audience. Ultimately, entrepreneurs need to carefully study their options and meticulously decide how they can best take advantage of the services that social platforms provide.

Kenny Au

Podcast co-Host & Investor

Kenny Au is the co-host of the ‘The Human & Machine’ Podcast. As the founder of Elevate Ventures, a venture studio for Web3 industries. He has invested and advised in 50+ venture-backed projects.

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