Driving digital recovery through SMEs

BusinessToday speaks to Facebook Malaysia’s Country Director, Nicole Tan on the importance of SMEs leveraging digital tools to expand their offerings and why platforms like Facebook hold the responsibility in helping the community 

Back in early October, Facebook Malaysia launched the Small Business Grant, offering financial aid of up to RM3.2 million in grants to local businesses. Highlighting the importance of small businesses as the heart of communities as well as the backbone of our economy, Country Director, Nicole Tan was aware of the importance of supporting them.  

The support for the SME segment did not just end there. At the recent Facebook Summit Malaysia 2020, Tan reaffirmed Facebook’s commitment towards fast forwarding Malaysia’s digital progress through Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  

“We know the pandemic has hit the smallest businesses the hardest. However, with Facebook tools, they have also managed to leverage on opportunities throughout these unprecedented times,” she said. 

As such the platform will be continuing their partnership with MDEC on the eUsahawan programme and will also be launching a new train-the-trainer programme to certify a 100 digital marketing trainers by this year through their flagship digital marketing certification, the Facebook Blueprint Programme.  

“I don’t think online is becoming just one of many channels, it is very much a main channel now for businesses hence the importance of digital tools. We are seeing a rise conversational commerce and consumption of video so it’s important we educate SMEs on these so they will be able to use them very quickly for their business,” Tan tells BusinessToday via a Zoom chat.  

She also says that by adapting to these digital tools, it provides SMEs the potential to build brand loyalty with their followers. Evidently, Facebook Malaysia’s collaboration with Loreal through a virtual beauty seminar proved her theory.  

“People are seeking for the confidence in brands that are reliable and able to deliver new ways and channels to buy products.” 

While these tools have been around for some time even prior to the pandemic, Tan says there was a lack of awareness and education. But all this only makes digital upscaling all that more important to Tan and her team.  

“Most SMEs knew the tools are important but did not have the necessary skills to use them. There was also no big push from the market at the time but now with recent events, there is greater demand,” Tan says.  

Train-to-train  

“So, the way we look at things is how do we enable technology to help as many people and scale that up as much as possible. While the SME grant was important but that alone is not going to be sustainable or scalable,” she says.  

The Facebook Blueprint Programme has been in the market for some time, as a self-serve tool online however Tan and her team realised the Malaysian market comprises of entrepreneurs who want to learn but would need training and guidance.  

And so, Facebook Malaysia partnered with MDEC to do it in a more scalable and sustainable way, hence the train-to-train model was born. Through the model, both platforms will get potential trainers certified through the Certification programme so they can then go on to teach other SMEs the best ways to utilise the digital tools.  

“There is no one size fits all model. The blueprint was flat years ago, we learned through feedback and has made it more adaptable now. It customises according to your needs allowing you to design the right course. 

Some advertisers and SMEs may be involved in cross-border work while others may be doing work on the creative side so there is something for everyone on the programme,” Tan tells BusinessToday.  

What does the digital future require from SMEs? 

“The Southeast Asian market is very fast moving and very dynamic. The current digital acceleration can get overwhelming and so SMEs will have to look at areas they can digitally transform and at the same time to not increase their costs dramatically,” Tan says.  

Tan further highlights the importance of brand reliability and how SMEs can stand out in the crowd. “A lot of businesses made sure they communicated their SOPs, and they can use a lot of the free tools on Facebook to keep their users abreast of these updates as well,” she says.  

And if SMEs lack the fund, the Facebook and Instagram shops that require little costs would be suitable for them to sell their products and expand their offerings digitally. The ads manager on the other hand helps SMEs to run their campaigns on the go as well.  

As for 2021, Tan says she is dedicated to drive the digital economy recovery and hopes to play a role that would provide insights and thought leadership, and necessary data to allow SMEs to thrive in the coming year.  

“We also want to make sure we are able to create a sustainable and scalable impact and at the same time expand our offerings through our existing initiatives,” Tan highlights.  

“SMEs remain one of our most important stakeholders. Millions use our free tools, and we are aware of our important role in keeping these businesses stay connected. We have an important responsibility and desire to achieve our aim for the country’s digital progress and we are committed in doing so,” the Country Director concludes.  

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