Facebook wants to help small businesses (SMBs) survive the COVID crisis — and make money.
A few months ago, the company announced  $100M in cash grants and ad credits for SMBs. It later introduced  Facebook Shops to help SMBs sell online. And today it announced  a new product to monetize classes and online events called, matter-of-factly, “paid online events.”
Potentially powerful new channel. Paid online events is currently a free product that enables “businesses, creators, educators and media publishers” to set up paid events or classes online and keep 100% the revenue themselves — except on iOS, where event hosts must give up the 30% “App-Store tax,” as Facebook called it.
The offering is self-contained: hosting, promotion, ticket sales and payment processing are all provided. Businesses, publishers, creators and educators can determine whether they’re eligible here  .
Marketers create the event, promote it to their organic followers or through Facebook ads and collect payment through Facebook. (You need to link a bank account to receive payment.) Event creators will also need to comply with the company’s partner monetization policies  and other requirements.
One additional benefit of using the product, marketers will be able to create custom audiences from event or class attendees.
Apple and Android payment flows
No fees for a year. Facebook says it won’t collect any potential fees “for at least the next year.” A cynic would say this is a way for the company to drive product adoption until it has a large, installed base of users. But to the extent it may actually help generate revenues for SMBs, it’s valuable.
Speaking on a press call earlier today, company representatives made a big deal about their request that Apple to waive the 30% App-Store revenue cut. Apple reportedly declined. This is where most of the press questions were focused and so where wasn’t time to ask more product-specific questions. However I followed up with Facebook in email.
Facebook told me there’s no integration with Facebook Shops right now. However, soon, “brands and creators will be able to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog before going live and those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can easily tap to learn more and purchase. We’re starting to test this with businesses on Facebook and Instagram, and we’ll roll it out more broadly in the coming months.”
Positive SMB testimonials. The call showcased several SMBs that had been beta-testing the platform. They all provided upbeat-to-enthusiastic testimonials, with one characterizing it as a “game-changer.” Facebook says that event creators have been using the tool “to host expert talks, trivia events, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, intimate meet-and-greets, fitness classes and more.”
Facebook added that paid online events will be immediately available in the U.S. and 19 other countries, including Canada and Mexico, major European countries and parts of Asia.
Why we care. There’s more to learn and understand about paid online events. But it could become a powerful new revenue generator and sales channel for SMBs and many other marketers. It also plays into Facebook’s larger video content and live-streaming strategies. And it will help further normalize online events and classes for consumers.
Facebook positions itself as a champion of small business interests. This is an example of “enlightened self interest.”
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