By Cathy Piciulo
In the wake of Amazon’s decision not to bring its HQ2 to our region, another opportunity has come to light that offers tremendous potential to grow our small business community in a very real and practical way.
Last week, Facebook and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report: "Examining the Impact of Technology on Small Business: How small businesses use social media and digital platforms to grow, sell, and hire." The report explores the role that digital tools play in helping small businesses grow and find new markets, offering some powerful numbers: across the nation more than 60% of small and medium sized businesses perceive digital marketing as a critical channel for growth, trade and hiring.
As a small business person, myself, I found the report to be educational, offering an interpretation of how small businesses – my colleagues and competition – utilize digital marketing to sell their products and services. For any small business not engaged with their customers in that way, the writing is on the wall. While different platforms might be appropriate for different kinds of businesses, it’s clear that you must be engaged somehow.
As a part of the announcement, Facebook announced the kick-off of a 30-city tour to bring its “Community Boost” program across the country. The program offers training for entrepreneurs and small businesses on everything from digital marketing to cross-border trade to the best ways to safeguard customer data, including initiatives to help the unemployed and underemployed with coding and digital skills training and, most importantly, securing employment. As per the report, 62% of small and medium sized businesses said that digital and social media skills are an important factor when hiring – a higher percentage even than where a candidate went to school.
While Facebook announced just the first five cities on the tour – St. Louis, Houston, Albuquerque, Greenville (SC), and Des Moines – others will be announced in the near future. To have Buffalo Niagara included on this tour would be a true boost to our small business ecosystem, and demonstrate the growth potential of our community.
Facebook’s ask is for communities interested in the help to tell their stories, which can be done on the Community Boost Facebook page. Buffalo’s small business community is vibrant, and includes businesses of all sizes, from well-established companies to sole proprietors to innovative start-ups to “gig” entrepreneurs. As both a small business person and a chamber executive, I can tell you that small businesses will take all the help we can get. And if Facebook is offering to come to Buffalo and show small businesses in a hands-on way how to grow using digital tools, we should do whatever we can to bring them here.
Cathy Piciulo is executive director for the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Chamber of Commerce