In a Facebook post this morning, the company's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, says that the company will be launching a massive grant program to help small businesses suffering from the Coronavirus. Specifically, the company will provide $100 million in "cash and ad credits" to 30,000 businesses in the 30 countries where Facebook operates.
Facebook has also created a page where small-business owners can sign up to receive more information when the program starts accepting applications. While the site doesn't say exactly when that happens, Facebook is clear that this is more than just providing free ads on its platform. In fact, the company gives several examples of how small businesses might use these grants, like covering operational costs, paying for rent, or covering employee wages.
The company also launched a "Business Resource Hub" with information about how to cope with the effect of the current pandemic. There, small-business owners can find tips for managing their businesses, as well as downloadable content with best practices and a self-assessment.
Look, I've been vocal in the past about Facebook's business practices and the way it handles customer information. I've written about why it seems that Facebook, and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, just don't get why the company has a brand problem. I stand behind all of that criticism, but for a moment, I'd like to just say that the company deserves credit for standing by small businesses.
No matter what you think about Facebook (or its CEO), $100 million in real money. And these grants could be the difference-maker for many of those 30,000 small businesses. That's worth pointing out.
Of course, those small businesses are Facebook's customers, and the world's second-largest advertising platform obviously has a huge incentive to see those customers survive. Then again, so do we all.
In fact, that's a great lesson for every company right now. Consider what you can do to help your customers get through the current challenge. Not only is that the right thing to do, but it also happens to be an investment that will pay off when life returns to normal. It might very well be a different type of normal--but, right now, let's just all figure out how we get there, together.