Facebook has unveiled a new set of features to support SMBs impacted by COVID-19, including a 'Support Small Business' sticker for Instagram and an update to Messenger to help streamline direct response.
Here's what's been announced:
First off, Facebook is rolling out a new 'Support Small Business' sticker for Instagram, which includes not only the new sticker itself, but also enables users to share thumbnail images of the latest three Instagram posts from the business that they choose to highlight within their Story.
As you can see here, after you've selected the 'Support Small Business' sticker for your Story, you then enter the Instagram handle for that business. Instagram will then populate the sticker with preview images from that account. Users can't control which images are chosen, but it provides another way to help showcase SMBs and get more people interested in tapping through to check them out.
This could be a hugely beneficial tool for showcasing brands, while also, essentially, promoting more Instagram use. Not only does this get more people visiting more Instagram profiles, but it also provides added incentive for SMBs to maintain a more active, attractive Instagram presence to support the preview stickers.
In addition to this, whenever the Support Small Business sticker is used, that Stories frame can be added to a shared Story, dependent on your privacy settings - you can see an example of this in the final image above. Tagged businesses are also able to re-post these Stories via their own profile.
As noted, that could provide even more impetus for SMBs to maintain their Instagram profile, and to call on their fans to use the 'Support Small Business' sticker to help promote their products and services.
If you run a small business, you should definitely be thinking about not only the content you're posting on Instagram - and how enticing it might be in a three-frame preview - but also, who you can call upon to share the new sticker, be it influencers, friends, your existing audience, etc. There's a lot of promotional potential in this option.
Worth noting too that the 'Support Small Business' sticker was first spotted in testing by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong last month, adding to Wong's long track record of feature discoveries.
Over on Facebook, The Social Network is promoting the use of the #SupportSmallBusiness hashtag to help improve discovery of SMBs in its main app.
Hashtags on Facebook have always been a somewhat uncertain proposition. Some reports have suggested that adding hashtags to your Facebook posts has no impact on subsequent reach and discovery, while others have found them to be beneficial, within certain parameters.
Facebook itself has teetered on hashtag usage over the years, with the increased privacy measures and personal sharing settings on the platform limiting the effectiveness of hashtag discovery - which is why they're more beneficial on more open networks like Twitter and Instagram.
But lately, Facebook has been looking to give hashtags more focus. Over the last few months, Facebook has been testing new, blue highlighting for hashtags within Facebook posts, making the tags stand out more within text.
The use of the #SupportSmallBusiness tag here aligns with this increased focus, and could be another step in Facebook looking to re-emphasize hashtags an improved discovery measure.
And for SMBs, similar to Instagram's new support sticker, it may be worth calling on your community to use the hashtag to help promote your business. If Facebook is prompting more people to search through the listings with News Feed prompts like the above, it's worth considering how you can get your business within the frame.
As you can see here, the new tag will add an 'in support of' note to the top of a creator post.
As explained by Facebook:
"The “in support of” tag new tag designed for creators to show their support for small business partners in which no exchange of value has occurred. Creators must select “Tag Unpaid Promotion” in the Post Composer in order to use the tag. Businesses will receive a notification when they are tagged and will receive the same information they would ordinarily receive for a branded content post. Not all small businesses will be eligible to be tagged."
Again, for SMBs it's worth considering if there are any creators that you can call on to add the tag, while it also provides yet another means to gain exposure to a broader Facebook audience.
Facebook's also adding some new elements to its 'Businesses Nearby' listings, which use your location data to showcase local businesses that you can support.
Facebook has been working on local business discovery options over the last few years, which it's now looking to give more focus to help support impacted businesses during the pandemic.
And lastly, Facebook's also looking to update its messaging tools for businesses, in order to make it easier to manage your direct queries, and maintain connection with your customers:
"To improve how businesses stay connected with their customers in this critical time, we will be launching a major upgrade of the Business Inbox in Messenger, making it easy for businesses to communicate with customers directly in the Messenger app. With just a few clicks, businesses can also leverage our Chat Plugin to enable seamless chat experiences on their websites."
As you can see here, the new update will make it easier to switch between business and personal accounts within your messaging streams, helping to maintain connection on the go.
These new options come in addition to Facebook's various other tools to help support SMBs through the COVID-19 lockdowns, including new order and business promotion sticker on Instagram, gift card listings and business support tools on Facebook, and the dedicated COVID-19 business support hubs on both Facebook and Instagram.
These new options further enhance Facebook's support for SMBs - and there's a lot of potential in here, a range of ways that could help small businesses get through the crisis.
For its many flaws and problematic elements, Facebook can also be a hugely beneficial connective tool - and while some businesses have been burned in the past for putting too much reliance on The Social Network, leaving them at the mercy of its algorithms, initiatives like these underline the valuable role the platform can play in facilitating opportunity, which Facebook has sought to showcase in its various responses to the pandemic.
You can read more about Facebook's latest SMB tools here.