Business How Facebook are working to help those affected by COVID-19

If you are looking for ways to boost business during these strange times, look no further than social media. With people spending more time than ever online, now is a perfect opportunity to get posting and grow your online presence. But it’s also a time where social media platforms are changing (even more than they usually do), and as a small business owner, it can be very hard to keep up with yet another thing changing in these uncertain times we are in.

On Friday (U.S. time), Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook live to stream a broadcast regarding the efforts his company is undertaking and developing to help people stay connected, as well as assist in helping small businesses and economic recovery. In this broadcast, he also took the opportunity to discuss new product features and updates that will be launching across America and the world over the next few months to make virtual life a bit easier.

In times where people are relying on social media platforms more than ever as a means of staying connected with friends and families, Facebook, who look after Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Portal, have seen elevated levels of usage across all of their platforms. With the virus in the forefront of the Facebook team’s minds, their efforts online are done in the hopes of delivering authoritative information, limiting the spread of misinformation (done so in the form of their COVID-19 health centre, which sits at the top of the Facebook app- something that 2 billion people have seen a link to), assist in public health response, help small businesses and the economic recovery (especially with U.S. businesses being able to apply for small business grants, and the development of tools like gift card purchasing to support small business worldwide), and taking care of their employees and community.

Zuckerberg noted in his livestream that video presence has become incredibly important during these strange times to stay connected, predominantly for professionals, but are seeing an immensely growing number of users jump on for general socialization. Their three main categories of focus for updates and new products over the next few months include Video Calling, Video Rooms, and Live Video.

WhatsApp and Messenger have seen 700 million daily video calls made within their apps, with the number of calls doubling due to COVID-19, with people desperately trying to stay connected with their loved ones. In efforts to help with this, they announced that they are increasing the number of people allowed on group WhatsApp calls from 4 to 8, developing AI-powered tools on Messenger including 360ᵒ backgrounds and mood lighting to make video calls more fun, opening access to Messenger Kids to more than 70 countries, and creating privacy protected virtual dating options within Facebook Dating.

When it comes to Video Rooms- this could, in fact, be the biggest news. Compared to video calling, which is essentially a call, video rooms are more organized, in which you can invite people ahead of time to catch up via video. In an effort to compete with Zoom during these times, shortly Facebook is launching Messenger Rooms, a platform integrated within its native host, Messenger, where you can organize video chats ahead of time. Simply said, you can create a room, invite people you wish to join and hang out! Facebook will be installing a tray of rooms at the top of the Facebook feed in which you can drop into rooms your friends are hosting. You can also create a private room through link sharing, to prevent problematic people from joining your room. Zuckerberg also noted in this feature that they are working on refining this feature to be able to show your room on those people’s feed who you interact most with, a function that would be highly suited to businesses if this feature is allowed for businesses as well as personal.
Amongst other options within this feature, the privacy features are of the highest standard. There will also be the ability to schedule rooms and have people notified prior to the commencement of the room. Messenger rooms will also be well integrated with Facebook Events as there is immense growth in the number of online events happening now.

In their third and final focus point, he discussed Live Videos. Currently, 800 million users engage with live videos on Facebook and Instagram daily. Instagram users are already allowed to go live with 2 people at once, with ‘Live With’, a feature which will now be introduced to Facebook Live videos soon. As Facebook pivot their events team to be better suited to online events, they are developing better tools for Facebook events. If you are hosting a Facebook Event online, the platform will now allow you to charge a fee for holding live events, something that will certainly aid in supporting small business growth. Instagram has also seen the launch of the ability to watch Instagram Live on desktop.

With all these features, as well as the newly launched features in Australia of gift cards and food ordering functions on Instagram, now is the time to be active, consistent and highly engaging on social media. As Zuckerberg and the Facebook community aim to make a difference in how they can help combat against the stress of COVID-19, take advantage of these new features when they become available in Australia for your personal and business use, as they could make a difference in the lives of others in your community.