The Atlantic

I Sat Through the First Stop on Facebook's Feel-Good Road Show

Amid scandal, the company is traveling across America to teach local businesses how to make it big online.
Source: Jeff Roberson / AP

Some time ago, a man named Stephen found himself yearning for his home-state’s famous peaches. He’d grown up in Georgia, but lived in Nashville, Tennessee, where the peaches—desiccated, tasteless things—barely merited the name. Sensing a market, Stephen started selling Georgia peaches out of the back of his truck.

The peach truck was a hit, as was Stephen’s subsequent online peach store. In just over a year, he saw his sales double. What was Stephen’s secret?

He had bought a bunch of advertisements on Facebook.

So said a speaker at an event put on by, yes, Facebook. Stephen’s good fortune was one of many success stories paraded before an audience of small-business workers in downtown St. Louis last month. There was the coffee brewer, the boutique shrubbery grower, the woman who manufactures a device that turns vegetables into spaghetti. Learn the right tools, the audience was told, and you too could see “in-SANE” results.

The event was the inaugural stop in Community Boost, a kind of roving technical college that Facebook plans to bring to at least 30 mid-sized U.S. cities this year. Each installment offers a few days of lectures, smaller “breakout” sessions, and one-on-one consultations, free for anyone who shows up. The goal, according to Facebook, is to teach business owners and

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