Coronavirus: Facebook allows businesses to hold paid online events

The company launched the new feature in 20 markets and won't collect fees for at least a year

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 28, 2019 A picture taken on August 28, 2019 shows the logo of US online social media and social networking service, Facebook displayed on a tablet in Lille. Facebook on August 14 joined the attack on Apple's operation of its App Store after the iPhone maker refused to forgo its commission on live online events hosted on the social network that allow people to make money during the pandemic. / AFP / DENIS CHARLET
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Facebook has launched a new feature to help small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) monetise online events free of cost on its platform in an effort to help them ride out the pandemic.

Facebook page owners – including businesses, entrepreneurs, educators, publishers and content creators – can create an online event, set a price, promote the event, collect payment and host the event all in one place, the company said.

“We remain committed to supporting SMBs, and we will keep finding ways to make it easier for them to bring their businesses online,” Fidji Simo, vice president and head of Facebook App, said.

“By combining marketing, payment and live video, paid online events meet the end-to-end needs of businesses. Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences,” she added.

Businesses are using Facebook to host various events including expert talks, podcast recordings, cooking classes, meet-and-greets and fitness classes after the pandemic necessitated social distancing and put a temporary halt to large gatherings around the world. The social networking giant has seen an uptick in such events as more businesses turn to online platforms to reach wider audiences in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said it is also testing paid events with Messenger Rooms – a video chat room where users can share links to connect with more people – for more personal and interactive gatherings.

In the first phase of the release, Facebook launched the feature in 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, India, Spain, Singapore and Belgium.

To support small businesses and creators who have been affected by the coronavirus, Facebook will not collect any fees from paid online events for at least the next year, the company said.

More than a quarter of SMBs around the world closed their doors at some stage in the first five months of the year due to the Covid-19, according to a survey released last month by Facebook, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

However, this number surged to more than 50 per cent in some countries such as Ireland and Bangladesh.

“Many businesses are struggling and every cent matters. Shifting in-person events to online is costly enough that businesses shouldn’t have to worry about fees charged by platforms,” said Ms Simo.

“For transactions on the web and on Android in countries where we have rolled out Facebook Pay, small businesses will keep 100 per cent of the revenue they generate,” she added.

The social media giant, which has more than 2.6 billion users globally, also launched Shops – an e-commerce platform that is likely to compete with industry titans such as Amazon, Alibaba and eBay – in May as more people make digital transactions during the stay-at-home measures.

This service allows businesses – irrespective of size and budget – to list and sell products directly to consumers across Facebook’s apps for free.