Wchicken Facebook wanted to raise Apple’s heat earlier this year in a dispute over advertising and privacy, Facebook brought some ringtones to the battle. There were several in the prominent online ad campaign small businesses are discussing how Apple’s decision to allow users to stop collecting data would not only eat up Facebook’s trillion-dollar market value, but would also harm little boys, limiting the effectiveness of Facebook’s targeted ads.
Marketing pulled the ribbons, emphasizing the effort of ordinary mom-and-pop-type companies. But at least two of the small businesses on display, Morgan Miller Plumbing in Grandview, Missouri and Enlightened Marketing in Windsor, Colorado, actually have in-depth connections to Facebook as part of a familiar Big Tech strategy to use relationships to support small businesses and small businesses. according to lobbying groups in public policy public relations campaigns new research the impartial Tech Transparency Project.
“They describe these as a kind of grassroots rise, in support of small businesses for Big Tech rather than what they really are, which is this highly cultivated group of mouthpieces,” says Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project.
In a recent example of the Facebook campaign, Morff Miller founder Jeff Morgan says on the company’s website in his official biography that he has “the privilege of visiting Facebook headquarters to share ideas”. Meanwhile, Jeremy Howie, founder of enlightened marketing, is a member of Facebook’s Small Business Council, an advisory group set up by the social network to help it better understand its small business customers. In addition, Howie says on the company’s website that he has also visited Facebook headquarters several times, met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and “participated in several internal Facebook beta tests.”
In addition, researchers point out that both Stella Crewse, CEO of Morgan Miller, and Howie, founder of Enlightened Marketing, sit on the board of the Connected Commerce Council. The Small Business Advocacy Group, known as 3C, counts Amazon, Google, and Square as official partners; Facebook was also one until recently, a 3C spokesman says. (“3C appreciates partner companies’ investment in training programs and general support from 3C member companies,” the Advocacy Group website reads.)
For the sake of clarity, there is nothing illegal about creating ad campaigns, which may seem less than fully authentic to some viewers. “Facebook doesn’t apologize for working directly with some 200 million companies on our forum to show how they can reach new customers and create jobs in their communities,” a Facebook spokesman says. “We are public about our efforts, including creating opportunities for small businesses to provide feedback and advice to us and each other. We will continue to offer free services and affordable advertising that was previously only available to the largest advertisers.”
But it illustrates the tightly coordinated internal action of Big Tech’s battles in these public policy battles. When the anti-Big Tech competition began in 2019, 3C produced Pro-Big Tech marketing aimed at influencing Congress. Included were Myles Hagan, owner of Geoff’s Farmhouse Tables at Travelers Rest, South Carolina, and several other small businesses. according to a previous Tech Transparency Project report. “Without companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, I wouldn’t have been able to find a clientele outside the borders of my beloved Palmetto state,” Myles Hagan said in a press release. “Small businesses like me usually get hurt when Congress goes after big guys.” And sometimes these small businesses are even recycled: While Morgan Miller last appeared in the Facebook campaign, it also occurred the 2020 and 2021 Google marketing campaign will tell you about the benefits of its tools for small businesses.
3C was founded in 2018 by Jake Ward, former chief public relations officer and brief newspaper secretary for Senia Olympia Snowelle, a Maine Republican. In the past, 3C has submitted small business comments to the FTC, which supported Big Tech’s digital tools such as digital payments and video conferencing; flown other small businesses to Washington to meet with regulators and legislators; and compiled press releases like this, which opposed the government ‘s new competition cases against Big Tech and contained quotes from small companies praising these large companies.
3C, which does not comment on this story, is not the only company dedicated to helping Big Tech defend itself in this way. Another active advocacy group identified by the Tech Transparency Project is the Small Business Roundtable, an organization in Washington DC founded by two democratic political actors, Rhett Buttle and John Stanford. Last May, the Small Business Roundtable and Facebook collaborated on the “Small Business Status” report. The document mentioned findings made in a study of 68,000 small businesses already active on Facebook. Against this background, their main conclusion is not too surprising that Facebook’s online advertising market and other digital tools had been crucial in supporting failed businesses. Nevertheless, Sandberg publicized the report in a press release and through operators, and the company also used paid advertising campaigns online.
“Big Tech has got this group of small businesses that they can take advantage of, and they’ve been pre-screened: They know they’re being sent a message,” says Paul, Tech Transparency Project Director. “It’s just very easy for them to come back well because these guys are part of the team.”