PM+: Digital economy driving EU growth

Written by Erika Mann on 29 September 2014 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

Social media platforms are connecting Europe's SMEs to vast audiences that they would otherwise be unable to access, argues Erika Mann

When Jennie Browne launched ‘Goodness Cakes’ in Galway she was travelling to local markets selling her cupcakes every week. Soon she set up a Facebook page to inform her customers of which flavours she would be bringing along.

As a result, demand has increased significantly, and Jennie has subsequently opened a shop that employees three people, and she is looking to recruit more. Her story is one of many; she is an example of how social media popularity translates into real business growth.

This week is SME week, an opportunity for all of Europe to recognise and celebrate the contribution that entrepreneurs bring to the economy and to broader society in terms of jobs opportunities.

"With the internet and digital communications playing an increasingly important role in society, the digital economy is key to economic growth, and digital entrepreneurs are creating significant job opportunities across Europe"

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) actually make up 99 per cent of European businesses in the European Union, and employ over 60 per cent of EU private sector jobs. SMEs are therefore a critical part of Europe’s economy.

With the internet and digital communications playing an increasingly important role in society, the digital economy is key to economic growth, and digital entrepreneurs are creating significant job opportunities across Europe.

As European commission vice president Neelie Kroes has stated, “it is widely accepted that the growth of the so called 'digital economy' not only has a wide impact on the traditional economy, but also has become more and more intertwined with it. One simply does not exist without the other.”

Innovative start-ups across sectors are regularly underlined by policymakers as key to fostering sustainable growth, technological development and job creation, particularly for young people.

The Italian EU council presidency has placed special emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises, supporting their integration in global value chains. Across Europe, there has also been particular focus on the data driven economy, including investment in tech skills, and support for the app market. Opportunities are endless.

"Social media platforms provide connections to a vast audience that businesses would otherwise be unable to access"

Social media platforms provide connections to a vast audience that businesses would otherwise be unable to access. As Jennie Brown from ‘Goodness Cakes’ noted, “I can honestly say that without Facebook, I wouldn’t have the business I have today”.

In fact, 75 per cent of her sales come as a result of Facebook campaigns. From travel to baking, language learning to children’s play gyms, SMEs across Europe are taking advantage of social networks to promote their activities.

The Play Stop Gym, a company which provides soft play and bouncy castles for events around Bedfordshire, UK, had struggled to find customers through traditional routes, however has now increased its sales by 30 per cent by using Facebook to target its audience and create awareness.

Facebook enables SMEs to grow their businesses, which in turn creates jobs and wealth. “Facebook without a doubt has taken our business to another level and driven sales. Being able to target your audience is great. The company would not be where it is today had we not used advertisement on Facebook,” said founder Leanne Walsh.

This week is one of many but crucial to celebrate the role that SMEs play in stimulating Europe’s economy while acknowledging how important it is that they are supported by the EU, national governments, and other, more established industry.

Large and smaller firms are deeply interconnected: it is the entire ecosystem which allows SMEs to thrive.

The digital economy in particular, including companies such as Facebook, provides the conditions that help business owners transform their ideas into reality, no matter how big or small.

About the author

Erika Mann is head of Facebook Brussels

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