Facebook is to establish an SME Council in Ireland - as it aims to grow its usage amongst small businesses here.

The council will be made up by a number of Irish firms, including Life Style Sports and Obeo - and will be led by the company's SME manager for the UK and Ireland.

"SMEs are incredibly important to the Irish economy, they account for 99% of all companies here, they drive 2 in 3 private sector jobs and they're vitally important to Facebook too," said Facebook's vice-president of SMEs in EMEA, Ciaran Quilty. "Our community on Facebook love to engage with SMEs, discover new businesses, experiences and products and services too. 

Today, about 2.2m people will use Facebook, 2.1m of which will do it on a mobile phone, and 86% of those people are connected to a local business."

The Irish SME council will be made up of 14 firms that will meet twice a year to share their experiences of selling online.

Facebook hopes it will help to spread the word about their business-focused tools - though it also wants to use the platform to get feedback from those operating at the front lines.

"The way we expand is through feedback," Mr Quilty said. "From these 14 clients we will work very hands on and get great feedback around the ways we need to get better.

"That's around improving our products, improving our solutions and improving the education programmes that we run."

However the social media giant is also hoping that the firms involved will help to spread the word about what's available so that people can make better use of their Facebook presence.

"We do hope that it's the start of a movement where more and more SMEs are aware of the opportunity that mobile presents and start to help each other more to figure out all of the capabilities and tools that exist to help them grow their companies and employ more people," he said.

"Recently we did a survey with the OECD and nearly one in two Irish SMEs prefer to learn from other SMEs"

Just a few years ago a company looking to build its presence online would start with a website - with social media accounts acting as more of an added extra. However today many small companies simply set up a Facebook Page, using that as their main point of reference for consumers.

That does have its advantages - but also the potential risk of Facebook changing its policies down the line. But Mr Quilty says it's not a case of one or the other, and businesses should use all tools available to build their online presence.

"For a lot of businesses it will be both," he said. "The opportunity that exists is really mobile. Every entrepreneur today is looking around and sees all of their potential customers spending an extraordinary amount of time on mobile devices. 

"That's the backdrop and the big question that all businesses - large and small - have is 'how to I reach people where they're spending the vast majority of their time?'"