Facebook’s looking to help communities as part of its mission to ‘bring the world closer together’. So how can Facebook facilitate more connectedness and inclusion, and unite community groups? By teaching them Facebook and associated digital skills.
It may seem like a bit of a stretch – particularly given the way that Facebook has, reportedly, been used by foreign entities to fuel civic division – but as Facebook broadens its community focus, The Social Network has announced that it will embark on a new initiative which will see Facebook’s ‘Community Boost’ team visit 30 US cities in 2018.
Facebook’s team will offer locals assistance in a range of areas, including:
- If you’re looking for a job, we’ll provide training to help improve your digital and social media skills.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, we’ll have training programs on how to use technology to turn an idea into a business, or show you ways to create a free online presence using Facebook.
- If you’re a business owner we’re going to offer ways your business can expand its digital footprint and find new customers around the corner and around the globe.
- If you’re getting online for the first time or you want to support your community, we’ll provide training on digital literacy and online safety. And we’ll also help community members use technology to bring people together, with features like Events and Groups.
So, cool, right – Facebook’s coming to your hometown, to teach you about the new, digital world. While the initiative definitely does have some promise – and Facebook has underlined that they have local leadership support in all of the areas they plan on visiting – it does feel a bit odd.
Maybe it’s just the timing – as noted, Facebook’s in the midst of an investigation into how Russian-backed organizations were able to use their platform to pump out issue-based ads, which were designed to “amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos around the 2016 presidential campaign”.
The fact that the very platform at the center of this storm is now teaching people how to come together is somewhat ironic, but then again, from Facebook’s perspective, they probably see this as a way to avoid similar from occurring again, by educating users on the ins and outs of the platform, and making them aware of the perils of fake and misleading news.
But then again, that’s not how Facebook is framing it – the main focus of the announcement is job creation, and using digital platforms to provide more opportunities.
According to Facebook, 80% of US small and medium businesses on their platform say that it helps them connect to people in their local community, and when you also consider that small businesses reportedly create an estimated four out of every five new jobs in the US, it makes sense for Facebook to provide assistance, where possible.
In addition, Facebook says that:
“62% percent of US small businesses using Facebook said having digital or social media skills is an important factor in their hiring decisions — even more important than where a candidate went to school.”
The project seems much like Mark Zuckerberg’s famed US road trips this year, in which Zuck posed within various communities in an effort to show his broader connection with the average person, despite himself being one of the richest men in the world.
Many speculated that this could be Zuckerberg’s effort to frame himself as a future Presidential candidate – something Zuckerberg has denied – but really, it seems to have been more focused on softening the CEOs public persona, and by extension, diluting speculation around the potential evils of Facebook itself.
Community Boost seems to be an extension of that, which, as noted, aligns with Facebook’s renewed mission to bring people closer. But it does so through the framework of business benefit, which may be a more effective PR angle to take than Facebook’s ‘happy communities’ 2018 tour.
The Community Boost tour will begin with Houston, St. Louis, Albuquerque, Des Moines, Greenville and South Carolina. More information here.