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Facebook lets small businesses go global with international ad-targeting tools

With 1.65 billion users scattered around the world, Facebook is a truly global social network. The platform is now making it easier than ever for local businesses to tap into that worldwide audience.

Facebook has updated its “lookalike audiences” targeting tool to allow businesses to easily reach people in new countries that are similar to their existing customers. In the past, business pages would have to manually target international users with detailed analytics, now Facebook automatically does the hard part.

Facebook is also expanding its location-targeting tools with a focus on the global. Business users now have the broad option of setting their ad targets to reach users “worldwide,” or by region (i.e., Europe). Facebook also allows pages to set the ad-targeting field by free trade area. Facebook claims that by automating a process that previously relied on manual “guess work” it has freed up businesses to “explore new markets.”

Related: Facebook fine-tuning app install ads, allowing better targeting by developers

Not only does Facebook want to help businesses create ads, it is also offering to teach them about potential global customers. To this end, the company has produced a document known as the “Cross-Border Business Handbook,” which is available to download for free for business users. The publication includes data on markets including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Brazil, Canada, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia, and anecdotal information on how businesses “are successfully using Facebook and Instagram to grow around the world.” The platform is also hosting online webinars that deal with business trends, ad analytics, and global audiences.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared a characteristically personal message about the new tools via her Facebook profile. Referring to her great-grandparents’ local paint store in New York, which relied on word-of-mouth marketing, she claimed that technology (like Facebook) can now power businesses to go global like never before.

“Today we’re launching new solutions to make it even easier for businesses to reach the people who matter to them,” said Sandberg. “Instead of expanding country by country, businesses can use these tools to grow customer by customer — whether they’re around the block or across the globe.”