How Facebook Takes Temperature Of SMB Market

Last month, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) didn’t cut their digital ad spend by as much as some experts were expecting.

One of those experts was Brian Wieser, global head of intelligence at GroupM.

“I thought they would get obliterated, but they ended up doing less poorly than expected,” Wieser said on Wednesday.

In part, Wieser said he knew this because Facebook did less poorly than expected last quarter.

Data provided during Facebook’s recent earnings results indicated “approximately flat” trends during the first three weeks of April, which represented an approximate reduction of around 20% to 25% from the pace of growth observed during the first couple of months of the year, he said.

By contrast, other digital media owners whose revenue bases are more heavily skewed away from small businesses, appear to have experienced more significant rates of deceleration or decline.

Remarkably, the relative resilience of SMBs only really benefited two companies, according to Wieser: Facebook and Google.

That’s because they’re the primary seller of media for many small businesses.

So, to the extent that small businesses make up a larger share of Facebook’s revenues than other digital media owners, “We have at least one indication that small business have been disproportionately resilient as advertisers during the pandemic, at least on digital media,” Wieser summed up.

Speaking from his home on Tuesday, Wieser said he has relied on SMBs more than he expected during the pandemic.

“Rather than buying my regular cup of coffee from a local shop, I bought a $75 bag of coffee [from them] online so I could make it at home,” he said. "And, for Mother’s Day, I needed a book, so I went to my local bookstore.”

Of course, there are tons of SMBs that have and will continue to struggle, Wieser said.

“The survivors will be more reliant on Facebook and Google than ever,” he said.

Beyond Facebook, how small businesses fare is important for the health of the entire advertising industry.

According to GroupM’s analysis of 2014 data from the IRS in the United States, the most recent year data was available, companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue -- and average spending on advertising amounting to $5,000 annually -- accounted for 10% of total ad spending.

Companies with less than $50 million in revenue, where average ad spend was $10,000 on average accounted for 21% of economy-wide ad spending.

Critically, these businesses accounted for substantially higher shares of spending on print and digital media given the relatively low-price points at which advertising can be purchased in most instances.

In the United States, small businesses -- which are defined here as companies with fewer than 500 employees -- account for approximately 40% of total payrolls, and 47% of total employment, according to our analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

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