According to surveys by Main Street America, 7.5 million American small businesses are on the brink of closing down due to the coronavirus pandemic. This surprising figure has compelled social media platforms such as Instagram to innovate new ways to help local small businesses survive. The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, took this to his personal Instagram account to say “We want to make it as easy as possible to support amazing small businesses right now,” as they launched one of their many new features.
The importance of small to medium businesses to Instagram cannot be overstated, as over 90% of Instagram users follow at least one Instagram Business account, which amounts to 140 million businesses across the Facebook ecosystem in which 8 million of them advertise and contribute to Facebook’s advertising revenue.
Here are 3 key features that Instagram recently launched that could be the solution to your business’ growth during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Support Small Business Sticker
As the name suggests, the new sticker was created by Instagram to help people support small businesses by boosting their discovery on social media during coronavirus. The sticker functions to give a preview of a small businesses’ account to stories posted by users simply by mentioning the business. All you need to do to gain exposure is to include the Support Small sticker on your business’ Instagram Story, and Instagram will automatically feature your business in the prioritized Support Small Instagram Story feed.
Instagram will ensure this story will show up on the first line-up of stories for all followers to see. It will also allow viewers to visit or directly follow the mentioned brand by tapping on the stickers. If you are a business that has been promoted by a user using the Support Small Business feature, you will be notified and this can be your chance to connect with him or her to build organic engagement.
2. Instagram Gift Cards
At a time when giving to your loved ones requires keeping a distance, Instagram is pushing to popularize virtual gifting for users to express affection among their social circles, whilst supporting local businesses. Instagram has allowed businesses to offer Gift Cards where users can buy and send gift cards to other users. This feature was initially launched in the United States and Canada and rolled out globally after the positive impact it achieved among users and businesses. The gift cards themselves are a source of income on their own. However, businesses can also take advantage of the sharing feature to advertise their businesses via their fans and customers.
3. Food Delivery
While lifestyle food & beverage businesses have been hard-hit by the pandemic, delivery-oriented food businesses have been positioned well to survive or even thrive in this difficult period. Instagram now makes it easier to generate online food orders by displaying a food delivery option right in front of users’ eyes in Instagram Stories. This can be significantly beneficial as it reduces the number of clicks and lengthy processes that customers take when deciding to have their food delivered.
Instagram partnered with ChowNow in establishing this feature, a food ordering platform from Los Angeles that connects customers with local restaurants. This delivery feature co-functions as a marketing channel as ChowNow’s CEO, Chris Webb, stated that “one of the most critical things for a restaurant is to engage their customer base and let them know that they are able to order food… and the number one channel restaurants are using to do that is Instagram”. Instagram is not the only technology business forging strategic partnerships to thrive during the pandemic, in other news, Uber has also reportedly approached GrubHub to potentially acquire them to bolster Uber’s food delivery business. TikTok, the recent social media phenomenon by Bytedance, has also announced several initiatives to support its TikTok fans and businesses during this pandemic.
Beyond the three Instagram coronavirus-inspired features mentioned above, businesses can also get creative by using other new functions such as the Donation sticker or Challenge sticker if you’re looking to focus on branding during this period. These stickers allow you to hold a virtual fundraising event or a challenge-based campaign. This can be a way to show thoughtfulness as a brand, to entertain quarantined audiences, or simply to advertise your brand. All in all, whatever stage your business or brand is in, Instagram is making sure you are well-equipped with the necessary tools to boost your exposure with an audience that is using social media more actively during recent lockdowns.