Facebook brought its small business training event, Community Boost, to Baltimore Monday, the 46th stop on a 50-city tour.
In addition to this week’s training, Facebook also announced that it would be working with Baltimore City Community College to create a digital marketing certificate program and would provide a grant to the city’s Small Business Resource Center.
“The framework and the general ethos is all the same,” Ash Jhaveri, Facebook’s vice president for business development said. “It’s about how do we help people who are not digitally as literate as they want to be, or should be, get online and get the skills to get what they need.”
Several hundred entrepreneurs and small business owners met at the Lord Baltimore Hotel for the three-day Community Boost event. They crowded into the ballroom for a welcome session featuring Jhaveri, Rep. Elijah Cummings and a panel of Maryland entrepreneurs who have used Facebook and Instagram tools to help develop and grow their businesses.
The planned sessions range from the introductory, like Getting Started with Facebook and Instagram 101, to courses for people with more digital experience like Taking Facebook Ads to the Next Level. There were also courses in business topics like Funding Options and Financing Your Business.
A key part of this week’s Facebook event is not just kicking off the learning and training this week but leaving a system in place to grow the use of Facebook and other digital tools. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has committed to training 1 million people and small businesses by 2020.
In addition to just spreading the resources from this week by word of mouth, Facebook also committed to creating infrastructure to continue that development.
Part of that is a grant of about $250,000 to the Baltimore City Small Business Resource Center that can be used to help small businesses use these tools to help grow. The grant will help owners “amplify” their businesses, said Paul Taylor, the center’s executive director, especially by learning to use tools like Facebook Insights.
“That helps them to enhance the services that they provide,” Taylor said. More and more people are recognizing the value of having a digital footprint.”
Facebook is also working with Baltimore City Community College to become one of about 20 colleges across the country offering a digital marketing certificate.
They hope the program helps people become familiar with the digital tools they need to either grow a business or learn the tools they need to get jobs within the growing digital marketplace.
The certificate will likely be a six-course program and focus not just on Facebook skills, but general digital skills, Jhaveri said.
“We really thought hard about continuing because it would be one thing to show up for three days and then leave,” he said. “That’s somewhat helpful, but it’s really the ongoing commitments. Both with SBRC and BCCC, these programs are designed and tailored so that we can leave these things behind.”
The courses run on a rotating basis at the Lord Baltimore Hotel through Wednesday afternoon.
Cummings encouraged the attendees to use the opportunity to make their businesses more effective and efficient while also using the time to network. He challenged all of the attendees to leave with the business cards of at least 20 new people.
He also said platforms like Facebook are helping to democratize the economy.
“This is very important because there have been a lot of complaints about whether the Facebooks of the world, the social media outfits of the world, the Silicon Valley, the question is whether they are doing enough to be inclusive of all communities,” Cummings said. “I think this outreach is extremely important with regard to that because more and more we are trying to get African Americans and women and others to be a part of it.”