Facebook’s Ad Boost programme goes live today, offering small businesses in the UK the chance to sign up for £20 of free ad credit.

It is one of three new schemes aimed at encouraging SMEs to use Facebook’s ad platform, including a new business guide and workshops with the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC).

COO Sheryl Sandberg first announced the Ad Boost programme in January.

It followed the publication of research by Deloitte which suggested that Facebook had contributed £2.2bn to UK GDP and generated 18,400 jobs.

Today’s announcement confirms the details of the scheme, which goes live in the UK today before being rolled out to France, Germany, Spain and Italy later this month.

Businesses with more than 50 fans can automatically register for £20 of credit, with the chance to apply for a further £60 if they increase their fanbase to more than 100 users.

It’s no surprise that Facebook is trying to refocus attention on the day-to-day business of selling advertising following the PR disaster of its IPO.

While it is common for SMEs to have a free Facebook brand page, the Ad Boost programme is obviously an attempt to convert them into paying customers.

Research from Basekit found that the social network is now the UK’s most popular customer acquisition tool, used by more than a third of UK businesses (36%).

Twitter is also becoming more popular among local businesses, and has also taken steps to target SMEs with its new self-serve ad platform.

While the popularity of social marketing is driven primarily by the low cost of entry, if Facebook can convince even a small percentage to start buying ads it should have a noticeable impact on its profit margins.