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Facebook steps up charm offensive to recruit more SMEs to reinforce its role as a discovery platform

Facebook has kicked off a charm offensive to recruit more UK small and medium sized (SME) businesses to its network. .

Around 800 SMEs gathered in London yesterday (26 January) for the social media giant’s ‘Making Your Business Stronger’ workshop-led event in which vice president Nicola Mendelsohn called for SMEs to capitalise on the “democratisation of marketing” currently underway.

She described the social media giant as a “platform for businesses” which can make connections between people, and referenced last week’s Deloitte report which revealed Facebook’s economic impact equates to $227bn, and the creation of 4.5 million jobs in 2014, despite generating only $12bn in revenue.

“We think we can get those numbers bigger and bigger,” she added.

She reinforced Facebook’s role as a “discovery” platform, adding: “people go there to discover new businesses and brands that are relevant [to them]... your businesses are really important to the business ecosystem.

“We are seeing the real democratisation of marketing for the first time. Previously you had to be a huge business to market in this way, but now you needn't be.”

Meanwhile Ciaran Quilty, ‎Facebook’s SMB regional director for EMEA, admitted the social network has not been “accessible enough” to smaller businesses and that the event, which he said was the first of its kind, may be extended through the year and internationally.

He told The Drum focus will be on ensuring its tools are “a lot simpler” to guarantee wider take up from SMEs, and that it would continue to invest in mobile interfaces in response to demand from these kinds of businesses for these features.

But he revealed that video will become the key battleground for the marketing industry for 2015. “We believe video is being driven by mobile. We are up to over one billion daily video views, and 65 per cent of those are via mobile. Where we differentiate from other platforms comes down to the ability to target people, and engage with who you want to.

“The use case [compared to YouTube] is totally different, it’s all about targeting the right person, and video is just a richer way of engaging. A picture paints a thousand words but a three-second video paints ten thousand words. Video will be the big story of 2015 in marketing, and the democratisation of marketing will include video. Business owners are already leaning into video, but this is just the start,” he said.

Facebook has been focusing its efforts on driving improvements in its ad targeting tools, as well as strengthening its video formats, which could in time make it a far greater threat to YouTube's dominace of the space.

Also speaking at the event, Facebook’s UK managing director Steve Hatch echoed Mendelsohn’s comments about the democratisation of marketing, making it a timely opportunity for SMEs to boost their use of Facebook.

He touted mobile, video and real-time marketing as the stand-out features that Facebook can offer, along with advanced targeting options created to provide the people-based approach that has become its biggest point of difference to rival Google's search-driven targeting proposition.

He also deflected queries from the SMEs in the audience regarding the intrusiveness of ads in the News Feed. “Things that are relevant aren't intrusive. People have to understand context is the way to engage with customers more deeply.”

On average more than half of people who return to Facebook daily in the US watch at least one video per day, with 76 per cent of them saying they regard the site as a discovery platform for video, according to Facebook.