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Facebook plans to 'friend' small businesses

NEW YORK--Facebook wants to increase its advertising and get more clicks on all kinds of ads. It believes tapping into the lucrative small business market will help it achieve those goals.

Sheryl Sandberg, the social media company's operating chief and “Lean In” author, says the key is showing business owners how to find new customers by creating Facebook pages and by buying ads that appear on individual Facebook users' pages. The company plans a campaign called Facebook Fit with workshops in five cities to show small business owners the nuts and bolts of using Facebook as a marketing tool.

“They don't have enough customers. This is their No. 1 problem and we can help them solve it,” Sandberg said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The small business market has been difficult to crack for digital companies like Facebook and Google, said Greg Sterling, an analyst with the mobile technology research service Internet2Go. Many owners with Facebook pages are reluctant to advertise, limiting the revenue the company can make from small businesses.

“Many of them are struggling just to provide regular content updates or to understand how to use social media, let alone become masters of social media advertising,” Sterling said.

Meanwhile, Facebook needs to get more small business advertising to stay competitive with Google, said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer, a digital research company.

“They need to be sure they're seen as a strong partner to small business owners,” she said.

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