Q&A with Dan Levy, Facebook’s global director of small business

07/27/2014 1:00 PM

07/27/2014 2:33 PM

Facebook is serious about small businesses. And for Dan Levy, Facebook’s global director of small business, that means starting each day with a laser-like focus on how the social media giant can help small-business owners get the most out of using the platform to promote their products and services.

Having owned a small business himself for two years, Levy understands how difficult it can be to be successful.

“I get it,” said Levy. “I started Justarrive, a cloud-ticketing company for college and professional sports teams, while I was in college. It was a great experience to have the opportunity to build something, and it allowed me to understand the opportunities and challenges of being a small-business owner.”

Levy brings his experience running a small business and what he learned from the seven years he spent at PayPal after graduating from Stanford University to make Facebook a platform that can help small firms achieve success.

Levy, who lives in Palo Alto, California, was in Miami last month to speak at a Facebook Fit seminar at Soho Studios. The daylong event focused on teaching small-business owners how to get the most out of using Facebook to sell their products and services.

He sat down with the Miami Herald to talk about what Facebook is doing to better serve the small businesses that use it, what the future holds in the social media space, and how companies can benefit from mobile services.

Q. How did you get your job at Facebook?

A. I found my job through Facebook! I received a message on Facebook from an old friend asking if I wanted to help them with payments. I spent seven years at PayPal working with small businesses, so it was a great transition!

Q. How is Facebook focused on meeting the needs of the small-business owner?

A. Small businesses are very important to Facebook, and we are making a strong push to reach out to them and teach them how they can use it to grow their businesses.

To do that, we convened a council of small-business owners from around the U.S. earlier this year. We wanted to talk with them about what Facebook could be doing to make their experience on platform. One of the things we heard from those who participated is that they wanted to learn more about how to use Facebook specifically for business.

So to do that, we organized a series of small-business events around the country called Facebook Fit. We’re doing the events in Miami, New York, Chicago, Austin and Menlo Park, California. These half-day events give small businesses strategies on how to use the power of Facebook to succeed.

In addition to wanting to learn more about how to use Facebook for small business, the council also told us that the process of figuring out how to buy ads and what options were out there needed to be simplified. So we worked to make the process easier.

Facilitating that dialogue with small-business owners really helped us to understand what they needed from us, which is going to help us better serve their needs in the future.

Q. How do you stay in touch with the small businesses that use Facebook? How do you maintain a dialogue with them?

A. We have a great team at Facebook who is increasingly focused on proactive, in-person support for small businesses. These specialists are a great resource, and one of our goals with the Facebook Fit tour was to have them come to each city where we hosted an event.

At each event, we have two counters set up where small-business owners can come up and ask our experts questions about Facebook. This has proven to be valuable for small-business owners and valuable to our team at Facebook. I work the booth, too.

And when I’m not on the road, I keep up on message boards and read user comments. We are always looking to learn from our customers and improve their experiences. We will continue to look for more ways to stay engaged, and be a resource for the small-business community.

Q. In addition to the Facebook Fit events in cities around the U.S., what else is Facebook doing to help small business?

A. Well, for one, we are focusing on mobile. Mobile is the future. There is no doubt about that. To help small businesses take advantage of the mobile space, one of the things we are doing now is testing new tools and applications that would help them reach their customers through mobile.

For example, we are working on applications that involve video and looking at how small businesses can leverage that to grow their customer base.

Q. What are the top three advantages of using Facebook for a small business?

A. One of the big advantages is that Facebook is easy to use. I tell small-business owners that if you can use Facebook as a regular person in your everyday life, you can use Facebook as a business.

Another advantage is you can decide how much you want to spend if you advertise on Facebook. You can post something on your Facebook page and boost that particular post for a nominal amount of money. Or you can go a bit larger-scale and use our advertising platform to make more-robust ad buys. Either way, you can set the budget and control what you spend, which is an advantage.

Another advantage is that by using Facebook, you can stay engaged with customers on a regular basis quickly. The way Facebook is designed makes it easy to stay in touch with your customers and potentially find new ones.

Q. Does the average small business need to supplement its page activity with Facebook paid advertising to see measurable results?

A. There’s really no “average” small business. Many business owners on Facebook who I speak with do use paid advertising on Facebook to reach their business objectives — such as driving customers into their store, selling a product online, or building local awareness. The page is still the heart of your business on Facebook — that’s why there are more than 30 million active small-business pages today. Advertising can be as simple as a few clicks with content you already have on your page.

Q. In terms of mobile, can you elaborate on what tools you’re working on that could help small businesses in the future?

A. The future is mobile. It’s where your customers are and where business owners tell me they spend an increasing percentage of their time.

We’re building mobile tools to make using Facebook even easier — such as our new Pages Manager App, which is used by more than 10 million page owners and the newly released Ads Manager on mobile so you can edit your campaigns from a mobile device.

Q. What should a small business be doing to maximize the potential of Facebook?

A. For a small business or any business using Facebook, it’s really about engagement. Whether or not someone on Facebook is a customer, for a small business the platform offers tremendous potential to reach millions of people from around the world and interact with them in a meaningful way that benefits the business.

Doing things like sharing content regularly and getting creative with the content that is posted can help small businesses stand out on Facebook.

Q. How do you see the social media landscape evolving over the next five years for the small-business owner?

A. I don’t think it’s social media. Take Facebook — it’s not social media, it’s marketing for businesses to reach the people who matter to them, where people spend more time than ever before. I think more and more businesses will see the benefits of platforms like Facebook not just as a way to interact with customers, but as a way to drive sales.

Tasha Cunningham, a principal in the Cunningham Group communications firm, often writes about how small business owners can leverage social media and other online tools. Reach her on Twitter: @mediaprbranding

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