A new study from Deloitte estimates that Facebook’s economic impact is worth £12.7bn to the EU and Switzerland, supporting over 232,000 jobs.

The report, which was commissioned by Facebook, found that in the UK alone it supports 35,200 jobs and contributes £2.2bn to the country’s GDP.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made the announcement at the DLD conference in Munich today, where she also revealed that Facebook would be giving away £4.2m of free advertising to help SMEs.

The Ad Boost programme aims to reach 50,000 SMEs across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy and will offer ad credits worth around £80.

Facebook says the free advertising will help SMEs grow their business on the social network, but that it will also open the site up to thousands of new advertisers.

If the ads are a success, it will also prove to be a useful case study when selling Facebook’s ad platform to new customers.

The Ad Boost programme will be promoted through a series of roadshows, run in conjunction with the British Chamber of Commerce, where businesses will be shown how to build and maintain a Facebook page, engage fans and use Facebook advertising.

Looking more closely at the £12.7bn economic impact, at £12.5bn almost the entire total is down to what the report calls ‘broad effects’ – classified as business participation, platform effects and technology sales.

More specifically this means things like adding brand value through business pages and ads (£5.5bn), increased sales of broadband (£4.2bn), and the app economy (£1.6bn).

In the UK, the app economy is said to be worth £467m, generating 7,500 jobs.

There is potential for this figure to grow even further as more brands make use of Facebook’s new timeline apps, which it unveiled last week.

Gi Fernando, co-founder of Experian-owned Techlightenment, said there was still room for growth in the app market.

If you look at all the different devices now available we are just scratching the surface of the app economy. There is still plenty of room for growth and for brands to take advantage of it.”

The Deloitte report also attributes £0.2bn to the EU economy through ‘social activities’, which it describes as “the positive economic effects of additional and larger events organised through Facebook.”

The overall job estimates are “largely reflective of the relative scale of economic impacts.”

It breaks down as 111,000 job created through business participation, 32,900 from platform effects and 85,300 associated with induced technology sales.

These numbers, though estimates, are impressive and show the massive economic power wielded by Facebook, which lest we forget is still only seven years old.

Showing off Facebook’s financial strength will of course help its valuation before its upcoming IPO, which is now rumoured to be scheduled for May.

Facebook released the infographic shown at the bottom of this post to visualise its economic impact across Europe.

Sandberg also announced that Facebook would support the Next Generation skills campaign to ensure young people have the right skills to join and lead the UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries. 

It is working with organisations, including Apps for Good, A4e and Techlightenment, to give young people the chance to learn how to design, code and build social applications.

Fernando said he had been involved in one of the courses in Brixton where unemployed young people were given training in coding and challenged to come up with ideas for apps.

It was amazing to see them come up with such great ideas for apps. They use Facebook all the time and understand that peer pressure is what makes apps successful, but it’s about breaking down that fear of coding and actually creating something.”

He said that the programme would help overcome the lack of technical skills that the UK requires to grow its digital economy.