Facebook Fit initiative helps small businesses become stronger

As part of an ongoing commitment to helping small businesses succeed, Facebook hosted five offline events in cities across the US.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at the Facebook Fit event in Chicago about the important role small businesses play in the Windy City
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at the Facebook Fit event in Chicago about the important role small businesses play in the Windy City

Client: Facebook (Menlo Park, California)
Agency: Access Communications (San Francisco)
Campaign: Facebook Fit
Duration: May 6-August 5, 2014
Budget: $500,000

As part of an ongoing commitment to helping small businesses succeed, Facebook hosted five offline events in cities across the US between June and August.

"We have more than 30 million small-business pages on Facebook, up from 25 million in early 2014, and the majority of our more than 1.5 million active advertisers are small businesses," explains corporate communications director Elisabeth Diana. "Small-business owners told us they wanted to put a face to Facebook so we stepped up our efforts to give offline, one-on-one support."  

Access Communications was hired on a project basis to work on the campaign.

Strategy
In addition to marketing help, Diana says small-business owners indicated they wanted assistance with financial management, payment solutions, and legal services, so Facebook invited Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and LegalZoom to provide insight to attendees.

"Business owners also learn a lot from each other, so networking aspects were key," she adds.

The event tour kicked off in New York in June and made stops in Miami, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, before winding up at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters.

"The vision was to keep everything Main Street so we hosted events, not in giant hotels, but in loft spaces or warehouse spaces in each city where small businesses operate," says Access president Matt Afflixio. "Authenticity was key so everything we used – from truck services to caterers – had to be a small business."  

Tactics
The campaign was announced on May 6 to national broadcast, print, and online outlets covering small and general business, news, and technology. Key local and regional outlets were also pitched in event markets.

Local companies that serve small businesses, including marketing, PR, and design agencies, were invited and encouraged to share what they learned with their clients.

Each one-day event included keynotes from Facebook executives, breakout sessions hosted by Facebook, and expert panels of local small-business owners. 

Attendees were invited to enter a Facebook Fit All-Star Contest by stopping by a booth to record short videos about their company, advice for other small businesses, marketing practices, and more. Two entrants in each market won a day of personalized business consulting at Facebook’s headquarters. The events were promoted using the Facebook for Business Blog and in ads targeting users in each city.

Results
The five events drew about 4,000 small-business owners. All events sold out in advance.

"Attendance, engagement, and media coverage exceeded our expectations," Diana notes. "We had to expand in certain venues because the events were so incredibly popular."

Diana also reports use of a Facebook ad targeting a product called Custom Audiences doubled among attendees.

"We gleaned from the New York and Miami events that the effort had a meaningful impact on the number of small-business owners that signed up for a new Facebook page or are using existing pages more actively," she adds. "Those are good signs that more people are increasingly leveraging Facebook to grow their business."

The contest yielded more than 1,100 videos.

"Contest entrants told us things about their businesses that we don’t know because they live it every day," Afflixio notes. "That insight is crucial." 

The events garnered 5,319 Twitter mentions. Attendees also posted 690 Instagram photos that generated 11,379 likes. Earned stories totaled 688 in outlets such as USA Today, AP, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fox Business, among others.

Future
Facebook will continue to work with Access on a project basis. "We’re continuing to put a face to Facebook in a number of ways, including increasing Facebook Fit events in the US next year and launching them in international markets," Diana explains.


PRWeek's View: It is fantastic to see Facebook engage offline with small-business users. The events made it clear that the company listens to and cares about their needs. Working with other companies to address needs beyond using Facebook as a marketing tool was smart and reinforced Facebook’s commitment to serving as a partner to small businesses. This campaign is certainly a very strong foundation from which to expand offline engagement.

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