How Facebook is Helping SMBs Engage New Audiences



Through Paid Online Events, Facebook is giving small businesses the chance to reach new audiences and generate income as we continue to adhere to social distancing.


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A few months ago, Facebook announced a $100M grant program in support of SMBs. Shortly after it introduced Facebook Shops to help them sell online. Today, the social media giant is building on these efforts by introducing a new product to monetize classes and online events dubbed plain and simply, ‘Paid Online Events.’ At launch, the option will be available in 20 countries for Pages that meet its partner monetization policies.

The growing role of broadcasts

In June, Facebook saw live broadcasts from Pages double compared to the same time last year, largely driven by a spike in broadcasts since March and the outbreak of COVID-19.

In response to this trend, the platform is putting additional resources towards allowing businesses and creators to monetize the events they’ve had to pivot to digital. More specifically, through a new update business owners now have the ability to create the event, set the price, promote the event, collect the payment, and host the event itself all from one place.

“With social distancing mandates still in place, many businesses and creators are bringing their events and services online to connect with existing customers and reach new ones,” explained Head of Facebook App Fidji Simo. “People are also relying on live video and interactive experiences more when they can’t come together physically.” With much of the country still grappling with closures of music venues, event spaces, and other venues for public gatherings, the app seeks to fill a significant void for SMBs and other marketers in need of alternative revenue options.

A frictionless, in-stream process

What’s important to note that the offering meets the end-to-end needs of a local business spanning marketing, payment, and live video. They create drive engagement via organic or paid advertisements and can subsequently create custom audiences from event or class attendees. For paid online events, event hosts will receive payouts once per month after they cross a minimum threshold balance of $100.

So how does payment actually work? The new option will enable businesses and creators to charge directly on Facebook for access to their online events. Depicted by the snapshot below, users will tap on the ‘Purchase Access’ button and immediately be taken through the in-stream payment process, which is facilitated by their in-app settings.

In testing, events with early users included talks, trivia, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, meet-and-greets, and fitness classes. Meanwhile, Facebook also revealed tests of the ability to host smaller, more interactive gatherings in Messenger Rooms. The company also hinted that it would soon offer brands and creators the option to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog before going live. Those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can easily tap to learn more and purchase.

No fees for a year

Facebook has promised to not collect any fees for paid online events for at least the next year. Further, transactions completed on the web, and on Android in countries where the platform has rolled out Facebook Pay, SMBs and creators will keep 100% of the revenues they generate from paid online events. While Google agreed to waive the fees for Android devices, Apple decided to stick with its normal 30 percent commission for the App Store creating a point of tension as Facebook looks to unite the technology space in supporting businesses during this uncertain time.

According to Simo, Apple was also presented the option of using Facebook Pay so the platform could absorb the added costs but this was also declined. “Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs will only be paid 70 percent of their hard-earned revenue.”

Whether the rollout of paid events will transform into a long-term, viable business solution remains to be seen but in the present, it offers relief during a time many businesses continue to take a hit as a result of the pandemic. It’s also a win for Facebook — primarily by allowing it to showcase its live-streaming and video capabilities.

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