(Australian Associated Press)
Melissa Westcott has become accustomed to fluctuating sales at her two brick-and-mortar shoe shops, especially given one is based in the heart of a Queensland mining town.
But a massive spike in sales through her online store in the past year – which she credits to marketing training provided by social media giant Facebook – has made those retail ups and downs far easier to bear.
“It’s just made us very stable, which after 10 years of having a start-up I feel very happy about,” she told AAP.
“If I was just to rely on my retail stores, it would be very difficult to keep going through.”
Ms Westcott’s business Big on Shoes – which sells women’s shoes up to size 15 is one of 3000 small businesses based in regional Australia to have received in-person training from Facebook in the past year.
The social media company has run workshops covering a range of topics in eight towns, including Mackay and Wollongong.
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg committed to the program in a year ago, alongside former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vietnam.
Ms Westcott said she used a workshop in Mackay to seek advice on conducting paid marketing through the platform.
She now credits such advertisements with a trebling in sales through her online store, where her business began, in the past three months.
“We are seeing direct outcomes from it, and the business is growing.”
Facebook policy director Mia Garlick said helping smaller businesses better understand the platform and current trends, such as Instagram stories, can give them a big leg up.
“There’s this tremendous opportunity for small business, particularly those in regional Australia, to really leverage the power of technology to be a great equaliser, and let them connect with customers and grow their business,” she said.
Ms Garlick said Facebook will continue training businesses in using its product even though it’s met its goal of 3000.
“We want to do more. So we’re hoping to be able to reach more communities around the country,” she said.
The platform has also picked 30 of the businesses to have benefited from its free training to feature in a gift guide being launched in Canberra on Wednesday.