By Bryan Smyth
More than 400 SMEs from Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, Galway and Dublin gathered on Friday at the O’Callaghan warehouse on Custom House Quay, Cork for Facebook’s Boost Your Business event.
The event, co-hosted by Facebook and Cork Chamber aimed to provide SMEs with greater insight into the potential of the digital economy. Through workshop sessions and one-to-one mentoring, businesses benefitted from practical training on brand building in a mobile world, how to drive sales both online and in-store with Facebook and Instagram and best practice tips and advice from business owners sharing their success stories.
Figures supported by European Commission research have shown that SMEs who actively engage with consumers on the internet have experienced sales growth rates that are up to 22 percentage points higher over three years than those companies in countries with low or no internet presence.
More than 2 million of Ireland’s 2.6 million Facebook users are connected to at least one Irish SME and more than 55 million people from around the world are connected to a business in Ireland. With 84% of Irish users connected to a local business it shows the incredible appetite of people to support their local economy and community.
Three Irish businesses Huckleberry Doughnuts, Babyboo.ie and Wellnice Pops, shared their experiences on building a presence online, finding new ways to connect with customers and using the latest tools to grow the customer audience beyond Ireland.
At the event, Minister of State for European Affairs, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Dara Murphy TD spoke with RTÉ broadcaster, John Murray, about how Ireland is already ahead of the EU curve, with ‘’businesses extending their reach and boosting their sales potential in a very cost-effective and targeted way through the use of social media and digital marketing tools.’’ Minister Murphy referenced that, per the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index 2017, businesses here are ahead of the EU average in embracing digitisation and eCommerce, but huge opportunities and challenges remain: ‘’With new EU Data Protection rules coming into force in May 2018 opportunity exists for those who embrace the shift in how business value and handle personal data.’’
Niamh Sweeney, Head of Public Policy, Facebook Ireland said: ‘Small businesses are the backbone of the Irish economy and Facebook is proud to be in Cork today with so many of them who are using our platform to boost their online presence.
The digital economy still promises huge potential for Ireland, and today’s event is about helping businesses to capitalise on that opportunity by learning about the new tools and technologies that can help them grow.”
Commenting at the event, Barbara-Anne Richardson, Director of Member Services at Cork Chamber added “Cork Chamber is delighted to be working in partnership with Facebook for today’s ‘Boost Your Business’ event looking at the myriad of ways that mobile technology and social media can grow businesses. What has been really interesting today is the blend of speakers from Minister Dara Murphy’s European overview through to the hands on workshops and case studies from local business who are really making these platforms work for them. At Cork Chamber we take a dual role as both users and advocates of Social Media where we have seen first-hand the power it can deliver, we continuously support businesses on their Digital Journey with training programmes, expert speakers and of course our Cork Digital Marketing Awards.
“It is super to be in a room of 400 business from across the region knowing they will come away inspired and armed with the information they need to grow their online presence.”
For more information on using Facebook for business go to the online resource centre which has information on getting started and running campaigns to examples of business success stories for inspiration. The website can be found at Facebook.com/business.
Cork Chamber represens the interests of 1,200 businesses employing over 100,000 people in the Cork region. Cork Chamber has a mandate to develop and promote policy recommendations that create an enabling business environment and support the region’s economic development.