Facebook Ireland this week announced an initiative to train over 10,000 small Irish businesses in 2021 to support their recovery from the challenges caused by Covid-19. The Boost with Facebook programme will provide digital skills training to help businesses grow their online footprint, establish an online shop front, connect with new customers and reach new audiences.
The announcement comes as Facebook’s latest State of Small Business report shows that of the Irish businesses that remained open during the pandemic, 62% experienced lower sales, and 25% reduced employment. On a positive note, whilst 32% of SMEs reported having to close their business, this was down significantly from the 58% reporting closures when the survey was last conducted in July 2020.
Facebook will also offer specific training to industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic, in particular retail and tourism. On 24th June, Facebook in partnership with Retail Excellence will deliver training to Irish retailers on how to find new customers and create a virtual storefront for products and services. A similar session for the tourism sector is planned in September.
Businesses can register for the training by visiting Facebook Ireland’s new Business Training Website which is also home to virtual on-demand training as well as upcoming sessions hosted throughout the year by Enterprise Nation. Facebook says the programme builds on Facebook’s existing programme of support for SMEs which included providing €4.6m in 2020 to over 1,000 small businesses across Ireland. The grants were a combination of cash, to help cover essential bills and payroll, and ad credits to help SMEs generate revenue through online marketing and sales.
Speaking this week, Director of Global Business at Facebook, David Harris said, "Our research shows that SMEs have suffered during the pandemic, which is why helping to drive their recovery is crucial. Business owners in Ireland are learning to embrace the benefits that digital and social media channels can play in growing and driving sales. People are now buying directly through social media with 8 in 10 Instagram users discovering new products or services on the platform. However, for some business owners, the idea of pivoting to online retail can seem daunting."
He added, "Through the Boost with Facebook programme, we will offer 10,000 small businesses in Ireland free training that will provide them with the digital skills to compete in what is a rapidly changing marketplace. This builds on our support for SMEs in 2020 which included providing €4.6m to SMEs across Ireland."