Facebook downsizes small business sales in Europe, reportedly 30 jobs affected in Germany

As Facebook’s advertising business continues to grow globally, the social network is also streamlining operations in certain markets. TechCrunch has learned that Facebook is consolidating sales operations in Europe focused on small and medium businesses. In the process has cut 30 jobs including in Hamburg, according to a source among those cut.

The cuts are of “support” staff that were contracted from a third party.

30 is a small proportion of Facebook’s overall employee count of 15,724 (as of the end of September). It’s notable for a company that has not made regular practice of laying people off.

It’s not clear what the subtext might be for this latest cut, if any.

“Facebook’s support to Small and Medium Businesses in Germany remains unchanged. To the contrary, over the past year, we have been ramping up our SMB efforts across Germany. This included founding the industry initiative ‘Digital Durchstarten‘, which will continue in 2017. The next event in Münster will be taking place tomorrow.”

From what we understand, the company’s SMB director in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Stefanos Loukakos, who is based out of Facebook’s global headquarters in Dublin, made the cuts to consolidate SMB operations across fewer locations.

Our source said that the Hamburg office covered Facebook’s SMB business, selling ads in Facebook and Instagram in German-speaking markets (Germany, Austria and Switzerland); as well as Turkey and Israel — regions that will now be covered from SMB sales offices in Dublin and Lisbon.

There will still be SMB activity in Hamburg and across Germany, where Facebook does some marketing outreach to SMBs in the form of online content and events.

Other small rounds of layoffs this year have pointed to bigger thematic changes at the company. They included around 40 people going in the wake of Facebook restructuring parts of its ad-tech business, specifically at LiveRail, which has since been shut down.

There were also reportedly around 15-18 contractors let go who had been working on Facebook’s Trending team, a group tasked with curating news for Facebook. News has been a problematic area for the social network for a while, but it’s come into the spotlight especially this year, as many have accused Facebook of being a haven for disseminating fake news. Facebook’s still trying to fix this.

Turning back to today’s news, in September, Facebook announced that it had hit 4 million advertisers on its platform, and while it does not break out specific numbers or the performance of specific regions, it’s been long understood that small and medium businesses form a large part of that base, both in the U.S. and internationally.

But over the years, there have been some tense moments between Facebook and SMBs, as Facebook has sought to build out more of its paid ad products over organic reach (that is, unpaid distribution) on the platform.

More generally, Facebook has been shuttering parts of its ad business that are seeing less activity. Just last week, it closed down the ad-serving part of its Atlas platform to focus on Atlas’s measurement tools.

In the German market, Facebook has not been a stranger to regulatory heat, specifically from the country’s data protection watchdog. In March, it became the subject of an antitrust privacy probe, and in September Germany was the first country in Europe to order Facebook to stop tapping into data from WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook. (That’s now extended to all of Europe.)

Story updated with quote from Facebook and further detail about nature of cuts — contractors versus full-time staff.