Facebook will make a stop in Helena as part of an initiative to boost local businesses by providing training in digital marketing and social media skills.
Facebook recently launched Community Boost, a project to visit cities that include Helena, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Denver in the coming months. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last fall that Facebook would increase its efforts to support small businesses. Helena was chosen in part after Facebook conducted a study that found 39 percent of small businesses in Helena saw Facebook as an essential tool and 37 percent said it’s helped them have the means to hire additional employees.
The dates and event details for Helena have not yet been announced but the company will offer free workshops, business training and networking with a goal to reach more potential customers and improve digital presence. A recent training in Houston covered Facebook for beginners, connecting with local shoppers, taking Facebook ads to the next level and workshops on financial readiness.
Brie Harrington, owner of The Painted Pot, was identified by Facebook as a Helena business to invest in. The studio, which has been in Helena for 12 years, offers painting your own pottery, glass fusing and canvas painting. When Harrington started, she was using traditional forms of advertising, but eventually found they were less visible to her target customers. While she still advertises traditionally to cover her bases, she started focusing on building her business with Facebook.
“We have become much more reliant on Facebook than in the past,” she said. “Now everyone has a Facebook page.”
Now, over 3,000 people follow The Painted Pot on Facebook. Almost 50 percent of Harrington’s customers come through Facebook. She posts events, like a Harry Potter themed night, ahead of time which requires people to pre-book. She knows in advance if she’ll have a good turnout or if she should reschedule the event. The Harry Potter event sold out in under 24 hours and she in turn scheduled two more themed nights that also sold out.
Harrington said she’s been fortunate to receive some digital marketing training through membership with a national pottery organization that offers social media tips. Through trainings and trial and error, Harrington now posts something almost every day with relevant content. Because Facebook prioritizes posts with visual content, Harrington always posts with a photo or video. Facebook also allows small business owners to target a certain area or age group.
Harrington and other businesses have the ability to see how many people have seen a post or clicked on the link, allowing them to get almost immediate feedback about what is or isn’t working. She has the opportunity to promote certain posts for a relatively small cost. She said $100 is an expensive month for her on Facebook.
Although Harrington has been fortunate to have training in marketing and social media, she said the algorithms are always changing and training directly from Facebook could be particularly helpful for small businesses.
“There’s just so much stuff out there now,” she said. “It’s just about visibility now.”
Facebook has been crucial for Harrington, but she said it’s still imperfect. A negative review left on Facebook can be crippling to a small business owner and doesn’t give the two parties a way to have a face to face conversation or a way to resolve the issue.
Harrington also said word of mouth, even if it drives someone to the Facebook page to learn about events, is the best way to get someone to come to a business.
“When people come in, most of the time a friend told them about it,” she said.