By Daniel Hunter

A series of initiatives for British businesses has been launched by Facebook, including a flagship advertising credits programme to help small businesses reach potential new customers.

British businesses will be the first in Europe to access the credits programme, with countries across Europe to follow soon.

The three-part scheme follows research published by Deloitte in January, which found that the growth of Facebook and mobile applications in recent years has already contributed an estimated £2.2 billion to UK GDP and generated 18,400 jobs in small businesses across the country.

Increasingly businesses are seeking growth through new technology, using Facebook’s free pages to build loyalty among existing fans and connect with new customers from the 30 million people on Facebook in the UK let alone the 870 million users beyond. Facebook’s landmark programme is designed to support more of Britain’s small businesses through difficult economic times by ensuring they are fully equipped to reap the benefits of social media.

As well as being the first in Europe to access the free advertising credits programme, from today British business owners learn everything there is to know about the opportunities offered by Facebook.

Published in association with small business support experts Enterprise Nation, Boost Your Business with Facebook is a free downloadable guide and offers all the practical advice required to build and maintain a Facebook page, engage fans and master advertising.

Facebook has also teamed up with the British Chambers of Commerce to take its expertise on the road. Marketing and growth experts are giving practical advice, face-to-face, at free breakfast workshops in six cities this summer. The roadshow has already visited Birmingham and Glasgow, with further events planned for Manchester, Sunderland, Sheffield and London.

“Many small businesses have thrived despite difficult economic conditions in recent years, thanks to savvy entrepreneurs spotting the opportunity to benefit from new technologies which bring people closer together," Simon Milner, Facebook’s UK and Ireland Policy Director said.

"We want more businesses to prosper in this way, which is why we are rolling out this series of initiatives to give all businesses, whatever their digital experience to date, the confidence to use Facebook as an efficient and highly rewarding platform for growth.”

Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk MP said the link between Facebook and the British Chambers of Commerce was good news.

"It is fantastic to see Facebook and the British Chamber of Commerce working together to give SMEs the tools and knowledge in technology they need to help them innovate and grow," he said.

"The rapidly changing world of technology means that SMEs need to keep pace so they can connect with customers in the UK and abroad and continue to promote British business. We have some of the most innovative SMEs in the world and we want to make the UK the best place on the planet to start and grow a business."

David Riches, Commercial Director at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that businesses must utilise all means of growth, including Facebook.

“Britain’s businesses, large and small, are working really hard in a challenging climate to find new ways to generate growth," he said.

"Sites like Facebook are great platforms for businesses to share ideas, gain advice and promote the good work that so many of them are doing up and down the country. This is why we are supporting the Business Boost programme, as it will give businesses the chance to connect with new audiences and reach potential new customers. It will be the private sector that drives the economic recovery, so any efforts to help companies expand and create new opportunities for growth should be strongly encouraged.”

The Boost programme will be rolled out to 50,000 businesses across Europe, starting in the UK today and following in France, Germany, Spain and Italy later this month. Businesses with over 50 fans can automatically register for £20 of credit, with the chance to apply for a further £60 as they increase their fanbase.

To take part in the Boost programme, find the full British Chambers of Commerce schedule and download the Enterprise Nation e-book, visit: facebook.com/FacebookMarketingUK

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