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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Small Businesses Get Big ‘Boost’ at Meta Event

MARKETING: Firms Share Social Media Success Stories

San Diego small businesses looking to sharpen their social media marketing skills lined up to take part of Facebook parent company Meta’s Meta Boost Small Business Studios event.

The two-day event held Oct. 12-13 at Liberty Station featured workshops for using Meta products like short-form video platform Reels, as well as the company’s business offerings through its Facebook, Instagram and What’s App social media and messaging platforms.

Marne Levine
Chief Business Officer

In her opening remarks to kick off the event, Meta Chief Business Officer Marne Levine said the company’s latest small business report found that small businesses are shifting out of “pandemic survival mode,” but are now facing a “challenging macro-economic environment” with rising operating cost and inflation.

“During the pandemic, many small businesses pivoted to an online presence when stores closed and that digital presence is more important than ever,” she said.

Levine said the report also found that in 2021, there were over 2 billion digital buyers worldwide; 63% of businesses surveyed had generated online sales in the last 30 days; one third reported increasing sales through online tools; and another one third reported increasing customer or supplier base using social media.

Small businesses create two thirds of jobs in the U.S., Levine said, adding, “that level of importance in our economy deserves our attention and more importantly our support.” The Meta Boost stop in San Diego was the “grand finale of what has been a fantastic multi-city event” to offer that support.

Other cities that hosted Meta Boost Small Business Studios events included Austin, Kansas City, Columbus and Detroit. San Diego was important to include, Levine said, because Meta opened its first office here this year that “will serve as a prime location to house some of our teams that are building technology for the metaverse.”

Panel Discussion

To kick things off, Levine hosted a panel discussion featuring local small business founders David Favela of Border X Brewing and Nadia Martinez of Kallie & Co., as well as Jerry Sanders, CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, a partner in the event. The founders shared stories of how social media has bolstered their business and Sanders shared how the Chamber also serves as a resource for the region’s small businesses.

Jerry Sanders
San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

“We do a whole track of programming for small business,” Sanders said, and pointed out that the chamber has over 1,500 member businesses with 10 or fewer employees. He also highlighted the chamber’s online webinars and workshops held several times a month that offer help building business skills like marketing.

“As a chamber member, we have a whole range of networking opportunities. We have found that at these networking events, all these businesspeople become very good friends,” he said.

In addition to the chamber’s networking opportunities like its business alliance groups, Sanders also suggested small business owners build community through volunteer opportunities that give meaning.

“Every community has something. In Kensington it’s the litter pickers. Once a month there’s a whole group of people who go pick up litter all over the Kensington area,” he said. “You can find something, and you can find a lot of the people you interact with already have those organizations.”

David Favela
Founder & CEO
Border X Brewing

Favela shared his founding story of bringing Latino-inspired craft beer to San Diego in 2013 when he opened Border X Brewing in an industrial area in Otay Mesa. At the time, he said, he used Facebook to post content about the new brewery and to organize an event for his grand opening.

“The most incredible thing was when we opened up on our first day there was 50 people in line waiting to come into Border X Brewing,” he said, adding that his was an “unprepared success story” because he did not expect such a large turnout on day one of opening.

Border X has now expanded into multiple breweries and taprooms including one in Los Angeles and the company still uses Facebook to market brewery events like chef dinners or concerts, Favela said.

Martinez founded Kallie & Co. after moving from her native Sinaloa, Mexico to be with her Marin Corp. Husband. She said her concept was to manufacture fair trade, slow fashion shoes using artisans in Mexico and also utilize a workforce of military spouses in the U.S.

Nadia Martinez
Kallie & Co.

“We rely heavily on social media and ecommerce for our sales,” she said, adding that platforms like What’s App and Messenger allow for easier communication between her team members who are located in Mexico and also at different U.S. military base cities.

Martinez said she has built a community on Instagram for her products which has allowed her to utilize customers who help market her shoes through short videos, testimonials and images on Instagram.

“At the end of the day, you create that sense of community and your customers become your best influencers,” she said.


Following the panel, Levine and Meta Vice President of Growth – Small Business Group Gigi Melrose hosted a roundtable discussion with more local small business owners sharing their experiences using social media and included input from San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce VP of Public Affairs Stephanie Benvenuto.

Stephanie Benvenuto
VP, Public Affairs
San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

“One thing we learned from the pandemic is the need for community. The need for sharing,” Benvenuto said, adding that businesses that were not already networking with a chamber or other business group faced greater challenges navigating all the new rules surrounding things like mask requirements, vaccination status and other pandemic regulations. “What social media did is if you didn’t have those networks already, was give you some space to go for that information.”

Benvenuto said chamber members are using online tools to market their businesses but now bring up questions about rules surrounding using customers as influencers like if using customers’ photos are OK or how to ask permission for testimonials. She said the chamber helps them with those questions and can also offer advice on topics like the rules surrounding working from home and other online work issues.

Tracy Childs
Tracy’s REAL Foods

Tracy Childs, co-founder of Tracy’s REAL Foods, started her business selling healthy treats during the pandemic and reached new customers using social media. Today, she said, her biggest challenge is that the company’s two-person team of her and her husband are “doing it all” and is looking to social media business tools to make it easier to market and sell her products.

Girlie Garage owner Talena Handley also launched her business – an online consulting people with questions about auto mechanical issues – during the pandemic. She said her business model made even more sense at the time because people became more familiar with using online tools when staying home.

She said her challenge today is reaching the “227 million licensed drivers in the U.S.” and because social media is what makes her successful, she is always looking for help from new online marketing tools.

Talena Handley
Girlie Garage

Tony Wang, co-founder and general manager of The Cat Café, said that during the pandemic his business lost tourism customers and turned to social media to stay connected with local community.

“We had to shift to targeting people who live in the area, much more focus on San Diego residents,” he said, adding that he did that by stepping up his social media content – mostly cat videos – to grow the business.

Kallie & Co. founder Martinez also took part in the roundtable, sharing her successes with marketing on Instagram and garnering influencer support form customers. She said her biggest challenge in marketing is competing with large brand names who are now competing in her space of fair trade and slow fashion.

Tony Wang
Co-Founder, General Manager
The Cat Café

Following the roundtable, Levine said the Meta Boost events was an opportunity for the company to brings its Small Business Studio with partners Adobe and Vimeo to “work hand in hand with small businesses” and learn from them what challenges they have that online tools can help them with.

She said one issue that frequently came up during the multi-city event was that businesses want is to address communication.

“We are investing heavily behind messaging,” she said. “Customers want to be able to talk to businesses and businesses want to be able to talk to their customers and there are going to be new and better ways and other things you can do all in that messaging thread.”

The other lesson from the events is that more businesses are using Reels – the nest product in Meta’s Small Business Studio – to market their products or services.

“Short-form video is one of the fastest growing formats on our platform across Facebook and Instagram,” she said, adding that last quarter the company saw a 30% increase in time spent on Reels.

Meta Platforms, Inc

Founded: 2004
CEO: Mark Zuckerberg
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Revenue: $117 billion (2021)
Employees: 71,970 worldwide
Website: meta.com
Notable: Meta is considered one of the Big Five American information technology companies, alongside Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.


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