With more than 180 million businesses relying on its social media platforms every month, Facebook
has a crucial role in helping small businesses change course and stay connected with customers during the pandemic.
At Forbes’ first-ever Small Business Summit held virtually on Friday, COO Sheryl Sandberg discussed how Facebook has “doubled down” on product launches for small businesses and how Congress can do more to help them survive coronavirus.
Digital migration is “definitely an accelerating trend and it’s here to stay,” Sandberg said. “Businesses were already moving online, but what we found during this period is businesses are migrating much more quickly.”
To bolster that shift over the last few months, Facebook has launched Facebook Shops, an app where businesses can create online stores to sell directly to the consumer, and Facebook Business Suite, a “one-stop shop where you can manage all your pages, your profiles and your messages across Facebook and Instagram and messenger.”
Sandberg also said fundraisers — typically used on the social media app for nonprofits in honor of users’ birthdays — are available for small businesses now.
“I never thought we would do fundraisers for small businesses,” she said. “But people said to us they know small businesses are so important to their community, and they want to fundraise.”
The social media giant committed $200 million of its own cash for two grant programs dedicated to small and Black-owned businesses.
“We’re working on getting the money out the door as soon as we can, because there is no time to waste in a crisis like this,” Sandberg said.
Aside from determining what Facebook can do to help, Sandberg called on Congress last month along with former Starbucks
head Howard Schultz and Microsoft
CEO Satya Nadella to offer additional longer-term financial support for small businesses. She said a major issue that needs to be debunked is the notion that big data only helps big corporations.
“A lot of people are calling for no use of data in targeting, [saying] don’t let big companies use data. They’re not understanding that the people who are benefiting from that are not just the big companies, but are small businesses that rely on that targeting to grow and stay in business,” Sandberg said. “I think that’s something we need to do a much better job explaining so that we have small business growth.”
While holding the government accountable to do more for small businesses, Facebook’s part in the upcoming presidential election is not lost on Sandberg. She admitted to Facebook’s failure to catch Russian interference in 2016. “We missed it, and that’s on us,” she said. “The FBI missed it. We had never seen anything like this. We weren’t prepared for state attacks.”
But compared the one network it shut down in 2017, Facebook has already shut down more than 50 networks spreading misinformation and launched what Sandberg believes is the largest voter registration effort ever, with a goal of 4 million people registered to vote through the Facebook and Instagram apps.
“This is a critical election. We want to make sure everyone votes and everyone gets accurate information on how to vote.”
The main takeaway from Sandberg’s keynote discussion: Everyone has an important role to play in democracy and small business survival.
“It’s all of us stepping up. Government doing its part, big business like us doing our part, and communities doing our part to keep small businesses growing. We need that.”