(This article originally appeared in The Washington Times)
I don’t work for Facebook. I’m not being paid to write about Facebook. I have no relationship with Facebook. And I’m not going to make excuses for the actions of Facebook ‘s senior management. I get it.
According to a whistleblower’s testimony last week in Congress, the company has done things that they know can harm members of their audience, particularly younger members. They’ve mishandled data. They’ve violated people’s privacy. They’ve manipulated news. They treat some people — particularly celebrities — better than others. Their senior management is arrogant, out of touch, and egotistical.
All of this is bad. But is Facebook a bad company? Not when it comes to small businesses like mine. For us, Facebook has been very, very good. Allow me to explain why.
For starters, Facebook is hugely popular with small businesses. I’m not happy that the company excludes some businesses that they arbitrarily deem as “negative” or “controversial.” But aside from those companies, more than 200 million of us worldwide use the social media giant’s tools. We rely on the platform to sell our products, communicate with our customers, market to our communities, research our industries and connect with potential prospects. The company provides a livelihood for millions of software developers, real estate agents, online training companies, content providers, and small businesses in the travel, automotive, financial services, and gaming industries.
That’s because Facebook’s community provides a massive opportunity for small business owners like me looking to sell our products or make our content available to new prospects. There are almost three billion monthly active users on Facebook. Three billion! Sixty-nine percent of Americans use the platform. Seventy-three percent of its active users visit Facebookevery single day. And it’s not older people either. According to one research firm, 30 percent of Facebook’s active users are under the age of 25, and only five percent are over 65. For many small businesses, the market that Facebook provides is critical to their livelihoods.
Because their audience is so vast, Facebook’s advertising opportunities are enormous and relatively inexpensive. That’s why the company reports that more than 10 million firms advertise on its platform. It makes sense. The average Facebook user, according to research, clicks on 12 ads every month. Facebook ads to its two-billion-member community have one of the lowest industry costs-per-clicks and provide the highest return on investment amongst all paid advertising channels.
For small businesses looking to sell their products, Facebook provides an enormously active platform. Its Marketplace, where individuals and companies offer their wares, has over a billion active participants. In 2019, 15 percent of their users used the social platform to look and shop for products. That resulted in more than 18 percent of all U.S. adults making a purchase on their Marketplace or through Facebook in the last year. Two-thirds of Facebook users visit a local Business Page at least once a week. Imagine where these businesses would be without this source of customers? You don’t have to imagine. When Facebook went dark this week for a few hours, countless small business owners suffered.
Finally, Facebook is relied on by millions of small businesses for critical information and for staying in touch with their communities. 48.5 percent of B2B decision-makers use Facebook for research. There are 40 million monthly active businesses using Facebook Messenger. The social media’s communication service has 10–80 times better engagement than email, and Messenger Ads can reduce the cost per lead by 30 to 50 times.
Unfortunately, and as I briefly mentioned above, some small businesses can’t take advantage of Facebook. The company bans firms that sell weapons, tobacco, adult products or services, surveillance equipment, or those that offer same-day loans. Businesses can get banned from Facebookif the company’s auditors deem their behavior as “inappropriate,” or if they use graphics that are determined to be offensive, or even if they don’t respond to customer complaints. Unfortunately, these rules are applied inconsistently. As a small business owner, I’ll never understand why many legitimate firms, who are conducting their business entirely within the law, are not allowed to conduct their business on Facebook. I mean, who’s judging who here?
But anyway, I digress. And I hope these rules change one day. I hope many things about Facebook changes. But I also hope that many things about the social media platform stay the same. Facebook has a lot of haters, but I’m not one of them. I appreciate all the many other opportunities its service provides this country’s small businesses. Yes, Facebook is far from perfect. But it’s a platform that has improved the lives of many American entrepreneurs.