Facebook taps local comic book shop for small business council

Two years ago, Facebook announced plans to turn 25 million small businesses into advertisers that would help the ubiquitous social media network with strategy and development.
John Dudas, owner and co-founder of Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop, became part of that plan earlier this month when he was invited to join Facebook's 2016 Small Business Council (SMB). Dudas spent two whirlwind days at the mega-company's Menlo Park headquarters in California, representing one of 13 businesses selected for the group.
Prior to the announcement, Dudas went through an extensive interview process that weighed how his Kamms Plaza shop engages customers through its social platforms. Facebook reps were impressed with C&J's family-friendly online presence, illuminated by a Facebook page that cheerily welcomes everyone.
"Comics are a male-dominated industry, so we use social media to show how important it is for women to feel comfortable in the store," says Dudas, who runs the shop with his mother Carol Cazzarin.
The SMB council is modeled after a 12-member client committee Facebook launched in 2011, which includes agency leaders as well as representatives from the company's largest advertisers. The small council advises the company on development of its tools. In return, Facebook provides ongoing support through a password-protected page.

"We'll test beta programs and ideas, and (participating council members) will communicate with each other with any issues we have," Dudas says. "Once you're on the council, you're on for life."
Joining the store owner at Facebook's sprawling, city-like headquarters was a diverse range of businesses, from a retro pinball arcade to a 24-hour diner. The fast-paced two days were spent exchanging ideas and engaging in a kind of social media walkabout, where participants shared hashtags to show online followers where they were on Facebook's campus.
The trip had its share of surreal strangeness as well. Seeing his shop's logo on the Jumbotron at 1 Hacker Way was particularly overwhelming, Dudas says. He also met Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who popped in to thank group members for their hard work.
Now that he's back in Cleveland, Dudas is mulling his own social media strategies for upcoming C&J events including its annual Free Comic Book Day on May 7. One possibility is targeting cell phone carriers located within a 25-mile radius of the shop.

"Like we can do a 'Captain America for President' campaign during the RNC, and people will get it on their phones," poses Dudas.
Whatever comes next, the comics' proprietor is excited to share love for the medium through his digital channels.
"We care about our product and get to engage with the community," says Dudas. "We're glad we can make that kind of impact." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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