Facebook is rolling out some new measures to assist businesses dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdowns, including more specific detail on its $100 million small business grant program, and new tools that will enable people to support local providers.
First off, on grants - last month, Facebook announced a $100 million grants program with the aim of assisting 30,000 SMBs in 30 nations. Facebook has now provided more detail on how the grants program will work - as per Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg:
"In the US, we are committing $40 million to support 10,000 small businesses in 34 locations where our employees live and work. Those local businesses can go to facebook.com/grantsforbusiness to see the eligibility for applications, which will start in the US next week."
Facebook is working with small business support platform Ureeka to facilitate the grants in the US, while the remaining $60 million will be allocated via the next stage of the program, which is yet to be announced.
In addition to the grants, Facebook is also rolling out some new tools to help impacted SMBs connect with their customers via Facebook.
The main addition is a new gift cards listing, where people will be able to find digital gift cards for their favorite local restaurants and businesses.
As you can see here, the new gift card registry will be available via special News Feed prompts, while users will also be able to access the listing via the function menu.
The process will make it easier for people to show their support for impacted stores by buying gift cards, even if the store itself is unable to open. That could help to prop these businesses up in the weeks ahead, as they push to meet financial obligations as a result of lost business.
The gift card registry is being rolled out to selected users in the US from today, and will be available broadly across the US within the coming weeks. Facebook notes that Instagram is also working on a similar registry, which was spotted in testing by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong last week.
Businesses who want to register for the gift card registry, and who are in the regions where it's being made available, can sign up for the program here.
In addition to this, Facebook is also adding a new option that will enable business owners to create personal fundraisers on Facebook, in order to call on their customers for support.
The option will provide another way for businesses looking to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 shutdowns to seek support from their local communities.
And finally, Facebook is also adding some new Page options which will enable impacted businesses to list temporary changes to their operations as a result of COVID-19.
As explained by Facebook:
"Businesses that have changed how they operate, like fitness studios offering virtual classes or restaurants offering delivery instead of dine-in service, can easily indicate those changes to customers. Businesses that are subject to closures can share that they are temporarily closed."
Any changes you make will be reflected on your business Page, in Page previews when people come across them in the app, in search results, and in curated lists of local resources on the platform.
The annotations will make it easier for users to quickly understand whether you're open for business - and what services you're able to provide - or to learn that your business is temporarily halted because of COVID-19 (but will return when possible).
"Businesses can access this feature by going to Page Settings > Page Info > Hours > Select “Temporary Service Changes”. There, they can either indicate that a location is “Temporarily Closed”, or select from multiple options under “Open with Service Changes”, like:
- Online Services
- Other Changes
Businesses that choose “Other Changes” are encouraged to post about special hours for the elderly, access to gift card purchases or similar options."
These are some good additions, which will provide assistance for the many businesses that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. The current global shutdowns are set to have a huge economic impact, and while many businesses are simply unable to operate, some are still finding ways to push ahead, and keep their revenue moving despite the conditions.
The more we can support these businesses, the better - and with gift cards, we can also support those that are losing out entirely because of the enforced closures. These new tools will enable people to contribute to those in their local community, and help to minimize the financial hurt that many will be feeling in the months ahead.
These are important additions, and it's good to see Facebook continually working to find ways to support businesses in need.