Card network Visa has launched a social networking application for small business owners on Facebook and is paying $2 million to advertise the service on the site.
The Visa Business Network, which has been designed specifically for Facebook, is billed as a one-stop resource for small business owners. Visa says the application has been developed to enable small businesses to connect and network with other companies, manage their operations more effectively and target new business.
Visa says it will give $100 in advertising credits to the first 20,000 US small businesses that download the application via Facebook.
"Visa is breaking new ground by harnessing social networking to connect business owners. We are putting the power of the network in the users' hands, and it will be fascinating to see how the community evolves," says Antonio Lucio, chief marketing officer, Visa.
Visa says the new site will help small business owners tap into a global network of peers and advisers from among the 80,000 small businesses already on Facebook. It will provide company owners with business applications and advice on identifying and targeting prospective customers. The site will also include tools provided by Google, including maps and calendars.
"Small business owners can grow their business by reaching more than 80 million active users worldwide and more than 80,000 small businesses on Facebook," says Visa in a statement.
Dan Rose, vice president of business development at Facebook, says the networking site "gives small businesses a great opportunity to connect with their customers and other business owners".
Visa is the latest in a number of financial services firms that have launched applications on the social networking site. In May European online payments outfit Moneybookers has launched an application that enables account holders to send and receive money via their Facebook profile.
Earlier this year online investment club Cake Financial opened for business on Facebook, offering users the opportunity to track and share investment portfolios and trading activity with their social network.
Person-to-person lending platforms Prosper and Lending Club have also tapped Facebook to target potential customers.