Sheryl Sandberg explains how Facebook got more small businesses to buy ads

A simple strategy shift helped Facebook turn a bunch of new small businesses into advertisers.

COO Sheryl Sandberg said on stage at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco that she believes that going after small business advertisers is one of Facebook’s “biggest opportunities” for the future, and that it can get more on board by getting better at giving them “a very simple product that links to clear business objectives.”

For example, Facebook realised that when it approached businesses asking if they wanted to become advertisers, it sounded like an intimidating process that would be a lot of work.

So, instead, Facebook started prompting businesses to advertise on a post-by-post basis.

When a small business posted something on Facebook, Facebook asked them whether they want to pay a small sum to “boost” their content so that more people could see it.

That technique of making the experience very simple with a clear outcome (in this case, more exposure) led to a lot of new conversions, Sandberg said.

The pitch for smaller businesses is simple: they often don’t have the resources to make and keep up their own websites. About 35% of US SMBs don’t even have an online presense, according to Facebook.

“For those businesses, how do you get online?” Sandberg asks. “It’s Facebook.”

For business users that already probably have their own Facebook profiles, making a business Page is much easier than making a website or app, Sandberg says. Once Facebook gets a business to use Pages — 50 million are doing so right now — it can convince them to ramp up their advertising.

Sandberg also repeated her mantra about Facebook advertising: “Our goal is to be the best dollar and best minute that small businesses spend.”

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