28 February 2024

Rich Rao from Facebook: We Want to Assist Small Businesses with Commerce in Various Ways

By Ronald Smith

Hi, I’m Rich Rao, and I work at Facebook. Today, I want to talk to you about how we aim to support small businesses like yours. We have exciting plans to help you with commerce in a number of different ways.

Firstly, let’s discuss the different ways we can assist you in growing your business. We understand that expanding your reach to potential customers is crucial. That’s why we’re committed to providing tools and strategies to help you succeed.

Through Facebook, we offer a range of features that can help promote your products and services. By leveraging our platform, you can increase your visibility and connect with more customers.

Moreover, we’re continually developing new tools to enhance your selling experience. We want to ensure that your business has everything it needs to thrive. From streamlined payment processes to improved customer support, our goal is to make commerce easier for you.

Secondly, let’s talk about how we can customize our assistance to meet your unique business needs. We understand that every small business is different, and we want to provide tailored solutions for you.

Whether you’re a small shop or an online store, we have strategies in place to help you succeed. We can offer guidance on optimizing your online presence or utilizing social media to reach your target audience effectively.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that our commitment to supporting small businesses goes beyond just technical assistance. We understand the challenges you face, and we’re here to support you in overcoming them.

We’re constantly listening to your feedback and learning from your experiences. This allows us to develop new features and improve existing ones to better serve you and the small business community.

In conclusion, we at Facebook are dedicated to helping small businesses like yours prosper. With a variety of tools, customized strategies, and a genuine commitment to your success, we’re excited to partner with you on your commerce journey.

Thank you for joining me today. I’m here to answer any questions you may have, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Rich Rao from Facebook: We Want to Assist Small Businesses with Commerce in Various Ways

Almost eight years ago, I had my first conversation with Rich Rao when he was the Director of Worldwide Sales and Operations at Google. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him again for a LinkedIn Live chat. Now, Rich is the Vice President of Small Business at Facebook.

During our conversation, Rich told me about Facebook’s efforts to assist small businesses in transitioning to online operations. He discussed the role of AI in helping these businesses connect more efficiently and effectively with potential customers. Additionally, he mentioned how Instagram and WhatsApp are integrated into Facebook’s approach to building a community. Here’s an edited portion of our conversation. To listen to the full conversation, click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

Rich Rao: We currently have 200 million businesses using Facebook for their operations. Their main purpose is to connect with their community, which includes current customers as well as potential customers who are interested in their products or services. Just like individuals, businesses use social media to post information about their business and engage with their community. Ultimately, their goal is to increase sales and grow their business, and we help them achieve that. We offer various free tools that businesses can use to establish their online presence, communicate with customers through messaging (which is a growing trend), and reach new customers through advertising.

USamerica.US: So how has my engagement with Facebook changed during the pandemic?

Me: Well, I’ve noticed a big shift towards using the internet more. In fact, there was a study that said 85% of people around the world are now shopping online. So, that’s where everyone is, and businesses are following suit by going online as well. These trends have been speeding up, and we’re doing our best to help businesses transition to the online world. People are creating Facebook pages and Instagram profiles, and they’re sharing a lot more about themselves. One interesting thing we’ve observed is how communities and businesses have become even more connected. In fact, I would argue that these relationships have grown stronger during this time. People are actively looking for ways to support small businesses, and many businesses have opened themselves up to engage more with their supporters and find new ways to do business.

USamerica.US: The Transformation of Main Street in the Digital Age

What I often hear from small businesses is a recognition of the need to embrace digital transformation. However, there seems to be some confusion about what this transformation truly entails, especially considering the impact of COVID-19 and what awaits us in the future.

But you know what they say, necessity is the mother of innovation. And that’s exactly what we’re experiencing now. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, this necessity has fueled creativity and sparked innovation. Many businesses have come to the realization that this transformation was always on their to-do list, but now is the time to take action.

The beauty of digital transformation is that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. It’s a journey, and every step counts. Prior to the pandemic, only a third of small businesses had a website, let alone the ability to engage in e-commerce. However, we have witnessed a remarkable surge in progress and innovation across various industries and sectors.

I want to highlight the modernization of main street, an area of great importance. Local businesses have embraced the digital world, bringing about a transformation that is revitalizing main street itself.

So, here’s the thing: I’ve noticed a really interesting trend happening all over the place. You see, I live in the Bay area, while you’re over in Atlanta. Well, there’s this little toy store called Adventure Toys in Los Altos. It’s a local spot, and they always used to get people coming in to their brick and mortar store on main street.

But then, something big happened: the pandemic hit. And all of a sudden, they had to switch things up. They couldn’t have people coming into the store anymore, so they came up with a clever solution. They put their catalog online, just like a printout of it. That way, folks could call in an order, drive by the store, and have their toys brought out to them. It was a streamlined system.

But that’s not all. Now, Adventure Toys has taken it a step further. They’ve gone ahead and set up an online store. Yep, now you can even buy their toys right from the comfort of your own home. Pretty cool, right?

So you see, this is a prime example of what’s happening in the world right now. Businesses are adapting and finding new ways to reach their customers, even in challenging times like these.

In my role at Facebook, we’re focused on supporting businesses in various ways. We want to make it easier for them to engage with customers and conduct transactions online. One product we introduced, called Shops, was actually launched in response to the pandemic. It allows businesses to create a complete presence within Instagram and Facebook. It’s remarkable to see that around 70% of shopping now takes place on mobile phones. The demand from consumers is constantly evolving, and businesses are working hard to keep pace. I’m proud of the assistance we’ve provided, but even more so, I’m impressed by the innovative solutions being developed by small businesses.

USamerica.US: Despite the pandemic and the fact that many of us are confined to our homes with numerous large screens, we continue to use our mobile devices for shopping.

Rich Rao: I believe this shows how mobile is everywhere and will continue to be. It’s important in all aspects of marketing, sales, and transactions. At Facebook, we’ve noticed the shift to mobile, with people primarily using their smartphones and tablets to access our app. They use it whether they’re at home or on the go. We’ve also seen a change in behavior where people are not just interested in a brand, but they’re also looking to visit websites and make purchases. This is happening more within Facebook and Instagram, with onsite shopping becoming more popular.

So, guess what? We’ve actually made some awesome changes to our apps that give you even more space to shop. You know how you’re always on your phone, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook? Well, now you can do your shopping right there, too! It’s super convenient because as you’re browsing and discovering new things, it just makes sense that you’ll want to make some transactions, right? Trust me, this is a trend that’s only going to get bigger!

Now, let’s talk about AI. It’s a fancy technology that people were already talking about a lot, even before the pandemic hit. But I noticed that a lot of small businesses were having trouble figuring out how AI can help them. Well, let me tell you, AI has some serious benefits, especially right now in the midst of everything we’re going through.

Rich Rao: Hey Brent, this is a question that really matters. You know, AI is one of those things that everyone talks about, but not everyone really knows what it is or how to actually use it. But the cool thing is, we can look at how we use it in our everyday lives and get a clue. Let me give you an example – when you hop on Facebook and scroll through your feed, you see stuff that’s tailored just for you. And as you keep engaging with it, the content gets even better and more relevant. The idea is to give you what matters most. So yeah, we use AI all the time in our personal lives. And that got me wondering, can we harness this same technology for our businesses? Our clients seem to think so. They want to tap into AI, but they also want to stay in control.

So, the right combination I believe is the melding of AI and machine learning. But it’s important to have the ability to understand what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. That way, you can have control over how you manage them. Now, you might be wondering, what can you actually do with AI right now? Well, there are quite a few things that you can take advantage of within our product platform, and I’m sure others have their own options too. Let’s take automated ads as an example. Some businesses are already using this, while others are still discovering its benefits. Essentially, it allows you to set up your ads, but it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing. You’ll still need to identify your objectives, provide a budget, and come up with creative content. However, once that’s done, the AI takes care of the rest. It handles the running of your ads for you, which not only improves results but also saves you time.

Messaging, let me tell you, is a super important thing. We’ve seen big improvements in how people… Oh, sorry, I mean consumers, want to chat with businesses. The thing is, how can we do that in a really good way? Technology is the answer. It’s being used to make it happen. Now, here’s something cool: creative stuff. I absolutely love this example because let’s go back in time, like, two decades ago. Making a video ad or TV ad? It was soooo hard for a small business. It required fancy technology and lots of money. But now, get this, anyone with a phone can shoot a video. And with a few tools, they can make a super high-quality production. It’s amazing! So, those are some of the ways I believe artificial intelligence can be used today.

Let’s talk about how small businesses are using social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Are they focusing on one platform or using a combination of them? Are they finding ways to integrate their marketing efforts?

Well, here’s what I’ve noticed: Most businesses usually start by choosing one platform, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, especially if they operate internationally. Once they’ve made their choice, they create a profile or a business presence on that platform. Then they start exploring and realize that each platform has its own unique audience, along with some similarities. So, they expand their presence and start using multiple platforms and products.

Thankfully, our tools make it easy for businesses to do this. For example, when it comes to advertising, you can simply check a box and choose to advertise across all our platforms. Our system then optimizes your ads based on your product, target audience, and the amount you’re investing. It finds the best audience for your money, maximizing the value you get from your ad.

This expansion and integration of social media channels have proven to be beneficial for many businesses. They start with one platform but quickly realize the advantages and efficiency that come with using multiple platforms together. It’s all about scaling up and reaping the rewards!

USamerica.US: That’s cool, and it seems like advertising is becoming more accessible and affordable for small businesses. Are you seeing more small businesses willing to give advertising a try, even if they hadn’t considered it before?

Rich Rao: Definitely! We’ve noticed an increase in small businesses experimenting with our products, including advertising. More and more people are taking advantage of our free tools and one trend that was already in motion before the pandemic is messaging. Businesses are communicating with each other through messaging instead of just relying on phone calls or in-person visits. It’s become a constant channel of communication. And then there’s advertising. What’s fascinating is that now, anyone with a few dollars and a mobile phone can create an ad. The barriers to entry are so low. Typically, businesses try ads for a couple of months and then start to see results. They fine-tune their ads, personalize them, and optimize their goals. And that’s when they begin to see the benefits and returns on their investment.

So, you don’t have to wait a whole year to start seeing a return on your investment. And what sets digital advertising on Facebook apart is the ability to measure and track the results. It’s not like doing a radio ad where it’s harder to know how things are going. With Facebook ads, you can quickly see how well they’re working. And let me tell you, we’ve seen it work wonders for many businesses.

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