Facebook Commits to Training a Million Business Owners in Digital Literacy by 2020


Looking to get a better understanding of how Facebook works, and how you can use the platform to market your business?

You’ll soon have access to even more resources to do so, with Facebook announcing a commitment to train a million US business owners, and “equip more people with the digital skills they need to compete in today’s workplace”, by 2020.

The pledge is part of Facebook’s broader effort to help enhance local communities – as noted by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

Strong small businesses create strong communities. That’s because small businesses create jobs, provide services, and bring people together. A lot of small business owners end up being leaders in their communities too.”

Facebook already serves more than 70 million small businesses, helping them to grow their brands and reach a wider audience, but through its network of more than 2 billion users, Facebook has the capacity to do more. Their new ‘million business’ training target is an ambitious one, no doubt, but certainly not beyond the company’s capacity.

So how will Facebook do this?

First off, there’s their Community Boost program, a traveling, Facebook for Business roadshow which aims to teach digital skills.

That program will be extended – as explained by Facebook:

“Last November we announced a new digital training program, Facebook Community Boost, which will now expand to visit 50 US cities by the end of 2018We’ve also partnered with and trained more than 60 organizations in twelve US cities. By the end of the year we plan to establish new local partnerships which include teaming up with 20 community colleges to offer digital marketing training.”

That digital marketing training element is interesting, because while Facebook is most definitely well qualified to explain the intricacies of the practice, you’d also suspect that their lessons would logically be highly Facebook-centric.

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The problem with this is algorithms – earlier this year we were reminded that Facebook can and will change their algorithm to suit their needs, not those of the businesses who may be using their platform. Such changes can have devastating impacts – and as such, building too much reliance on The Social Network is probably not a good thing.

Yes, helping small businesses can enhance local communities, but chipping away at their organic reach, and diluting their efforts to establish brand engagement, can also have significant negative impacts on bottom lines – essentially the opposite of the stated program aims.

The pervading advice in digital marketing circles is that brands should be very wary about building too much reliance on any outside platform, and no doubt Facebook’s training highlights this, to at least some degree. But still, there must be some concern about the objectivity of such advice coming from Zuck and Co.

But then again, it’s not just Facebook platform training the team provides:

“In Michigan, for example, we’re partnering with Grand Circus to train 3,000 people in digital marketing and coding over the next two years. We’ve trained 16 local organizations and have started running free workshops for hundreds of people across the state. And 85% of the first coding bootcamp graduates have either found a new or better paying job.”

Coding, most definitely, is a key skill that more people should be at least somewhat aware of – in fact, Facebook says that the skilled labor shortage in America could create 85.2 million unfilled jobs by 2030, and you’d imagine coding, and understanding of algorithms and system processes, would be a significant part of that. I mean, that’s also assuming robots don’t take those jobs first – but still, it is encouraging to see that Facebook’s training extends beyond just digital marketing, and provides more nuanced understanding of how systems work, not just how to use Facebook’s ad platforms.

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In addition to this, Facebook’s also launching a new online training resource called ‘Learn with Facebook’, a compliment to their existing Facebook Blueprint courses.

The new program will:

“…provide access to digital skills training for people across skill levels and interests; whether you’re a student wanting to learn digital marketing skills, a job seeker wanting to bolster your CV, a seasoned professional looking to retrain, or a budding entrepreneur wanting to turn an idea into a reality, we’ll have tools available to help you reach your goals.”

The new system is not live yet, but people can sign-up here for alerts.

As noted, while the initiative is to be commended, there will rightly be some skepticism over the advice provided, and how much it favors Facebook, and assists the company in building its own business. That’s a logical connection – Facebook’s not a charity, and there’s no doubt an angle for their own business benefit. But exactly how objective, and realistic, the training courses are on this front will dictate their success.

But then again, people need more digital skills, and as we at SMT well know, tapping into the capacity of digital marketing can be a game-changer for business. When done right.

As such, Facebook’s commitment to train a million business owners should be commended. Questioned, sure, but also viewed for its potential benefit.


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