Facebook Ireland has announced its plans to introduce 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.
Facebook said it will also offer specific training to industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic, in particular retail and tourism.
On 24 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, it added.
A similar session for the tourism sector is 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.
State Of Small Business
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.
A lifeline for many businesses during the pandemic has been a migration to online sales, with thousands of entrepreneurial companies across Ireland finding new and innovative ways to service their customer base throughout lockdown.
This is evidenced by the 160% surge in eCommerce revenue for Irish retailers in 2020, accelerating from the average 32% per annum growth experienced in 2017 to 2019.
Boost with Facebook 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.
David Harris, director of Global Business at Facebook 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."
According to Harris people are now buying directly through social media with eight 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.
"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,” he said.
The social media platform highlights that SMEs are the engine room of the Irish economy, accounting for three out of five jobs in the private sector and employing over 1 million people.
'The recovery of small and medium sized enterprises was crucial to the recovery of the Irish economy after the financial crash, and with the unemployment rate currently at over 22%, it will play a vital role as we recover from COVID,' it added
Irish businesses interested in registering for Boost with Facebook, free digital skills training can register by visiting here.
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