What’s the one thing entrepreneurs should know in order to leverage their presence on Facebook?
Well, according to the social media giant’s public policy manager for Latin America, Maria Cristina Capelo, it’s knowing your competition.
In the social media space, offline competition differs significantly from online, because it’s not necessarily other businesses one may be going up against, but content—especially personal content.
“The store next door isn’t your competition, it’s the photo of my niece or status update from a friend,” Capelo told Business Day in an interview at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad), Port of Spain.
She and a team from Facebook were in TT last Wednesday, partnering with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Planning and Development to offer training and insight on how the local entrepreneurs could leverage technology and social media platforms to maxmise the reach of their businesses. The event was the first of its kind in the Caribbean.
The event was part of the Ministry’s Global Services Promotion Programme, aimed at improving and increasing the quality and quantity of digital skills in TT.
Businesses are fighting for prime timeline real estate among their followers, and Capelo suggests the best way to stand out is to focus on creating content that is authentic.
Facebook, after all, is a community-based social platform.
“It’s about who you are; how you build your business and how you go about inspiring and being part of that community,” she said.
Facebook also allows users to access markets beyond their local sphere.
“Entrepreneurs create really valuable content and connect with people and that’s what Facebook is about. I would love for them to know that people are out there and looking for them, craving their goods and services,” Capelo said.
The company has 2.1 billion active monthly users, 1.4 billion of whom follow a business place; 1 billion of those actually follow businesses outside their countries.
“They want to know about tourism and crafts and services offered all over the world. They don’t care only about what’s next door but they want the best service possible and if they have to look beyond they are totally fine with that,” Capelo said.
The company understands the importance of being attractive to the business community, providing the necessary tools to help entrepreneurs to gain reach, including features like boosted posts, Facebook live feeds, and product pages versus profiles. It’s also a important medium to forge personal connections with potential and actual customers, through engagement via instant messaging and comments.
The company also shares some of these features, like Stories, across other social media platforms that it owns, including WhatsApp and Instagram.
“Businesses and individuals have more opportunities, and depending on their sector, have options for different platforms. There is a lot of competition in this (social media) space. But for each individual, whichever platform is best for you to reach your (target market), you can learn how to best leverage it,” Capelo said.
The training session dovetails with the Ministry of Planning’s aim to diversify the economy, creating sectors sustained by human capital and not the extractive industries. In her speech at the opening of the event, Planning Minister Camille Robinson Regis said through partnerships such as this, Trinidad and Tobago can use the skills and knowledge acquired to compete in the burgeoning digital economy.
“In both developed and developing countries, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have been recognised as important engines of growth and economic reengineering. It is most apparent that MSME founders and owners, especially those who are not yet fully ¨activated¨ digitally, would benefit greatly from the use of Facebook and Instagram to expand their markets thereby continuing to drive revenue and employment,” she said.
In developed countries, these MSMEs contribute over 50 per cent to the gross domestic product, Robinson Regis said.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the latest data (2013) suggests there are 20,000 MSMEs, employing 200,000 people, and contribute 28 per cent to GDP.