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.
Elon Musk Outlines Roadmap for ‘Twitter 2.0’ in New Slide Deck
Elon Musk has provided some more insight into his evolving plan for Twitter, which will now also see the company embark on a hiring push, after firing 65% of its workforce, in order to get in more development and engineering talent to help realize Musk’s grand vision.
And with that, Musk has put together a new pitch deck, of sorts, which aims to clarify his current plan. Which, as noted, is evolving quickly, so it may end up being totally different, it may be indicative – we don’t know for sure as yet.
But he is slowly clarifying and honing in on specific elements.
Here’s a look at the collection of slides that Musk has put together to present his current strategic outline for the app.
As you can see in this first slide, Musk’s presentation shows that new account sign-ups are at an all-time high, with the chart going back to 2014.
I’m not sure what that means in isolation. Definitely, that could mean that more people are keen to get in on Twitter conversation, and with Facebook getting stale, and Instagram suffering an identity crisis, Twitter is seemingly becoming a more interesting consideration.
But it would also be worth noting where these new sign-ups are coming from. Are these US users, maybe freedom of speech-ers signing up to Elon’s new, more open public square? Are these users in developing markets, as has been Twitter’s predominant growth trend for the past three years, as US usage has stagnated?
Could this be scammers signing up for a lot more accounts very quickly – because in order to qualify for Twitter Blue, and get a blue checkmark, accounts will have to have been active for at least 90 days prior?
It’s a stat, for sure, but without further context, it’s hard to make any conclusion on what it means.
The next chart is User Active Minutes, which is also at an all-time high.
That is interesting – based on this chart, divided by the current number of active users, which Musk has also shared, the average Twitter user is now spending 31.5 minutes per day in the app.
That’s not radically different than what’s been previously reported, though some reports have suggested Twitter usage has declined significantly in recent times. These numbers actually reinforce that, with Twitter’s session time down in the low teens (seemingly) till 2021, then rising again of late – though I suspect the lower chart is supposed to say ‘November 2022’ at the bottom right.
Basically, the data shows that Twitter is back at its previous usage levels, after losing its way for some time. Which is not surprising given Musk’s capacity to spark controversy and discussion.
There are also some more questionable charts that show a decline in hate speech:
Note that the qualifier here is tweets ‘with 1+ slur’ from a curated list, and a ‘Toxicity score’ of 0.91 or higher. This is a little vague and lacks the full context of what this represents.
There’s also this:
Which just shows that a lot more people were engaging in impersonation in the app when Twitter started allowing them to buy Blue verification ticks, then, when Twitter pulled the $8 verification plan, fewer impersonations were reported.
Like, yeah, you opened the door for them to scam people with misleading verified accounts, so they took advantage, and now they’re not, because they can’t. At least until Twitter re-launches the $8 verification plan next week.
Musk then also shared this overview of his current roadmap, which is pretty much a re-angling of Twitter’s current features.
‘Advertising as entertainment’ uses an example of an automated sampling script to create a more engaging ad experience (‘like this tweet and I’ll show you which house you belong to based on your tweets’). Not sure if Musk is suggesting that this is something Twitter will be offering as an ad tool, but thus far, these types of activations have been created by brand partners, in collaboration with Twitter. If Twitter does move to make this an actual ad feature, that could be difficult to scale.
Note that Twitter also released Branded Likes, a related ad engagement option, back in June.
The next frame, as you can see, just says video with a randomized example
Not sure exactly what this means, but Musk has flagged allowing longer video clips to be attached to tweets, while he’s also talking about a creator monetization program, which would offer a more beneficial revenue share than YouTube’s 45/55 split.
Encrypted DMs are fast becoming the standard, with Meta also integrating full encryption across Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp. That’s raised the hackles of many law enforcement groups, who say that this will offer protection for criminals, but it will also provide more security, and assurance, for general users.
There’s also Longform Tweets, for which Musk has shared a screenshot of Twitter Notes, which has been in development over the past year.
Notes enables you to create posts of up to 2,500 words, which are then natively embedded into the Twitter app for easy sharing.
Then there’s the revamped $8 verification plan, which I’ve shared my thoughts on here.
Oh, and payments:
No examples here, but based on Musk’s previous statements, it seems like he’s looking to follow the same game plan with payments that various other apps have already tried. You start off by facilitating funds transfers between accounts, enabling fee-free remittance, a key benefit in developing markets. Then, once people are already moving money in the app, you offer more ways to use it, via in-app purchases, bill payments, banking, etc.
This is Musk’s big, overarching plan to make Twitter a more critical app – but as noted, various others have tried, and the regulatory hurdles alone have made it a nightmare to enact.
Maybe Musk will have better luck in moving things forward, but it’s a big challenge, which will take time – which is also why there’s no example image for this as yet.
Of course, the mention of payments will also fire up all the crypto enthusiasts, who view Musk as a key leader in mainstreaming crypto payments. That definitely won’t be happening, but I suspect that this is another reason why Musk has left this slide blank, to offer a glimmer of hope to his fanatical fan base.
Which is what Elon does best. Question his business and intellectual acumen all you want, but he sure does know how to get attention, which is really the most valuable, tangible skill that he brings to any project. He’s a walking PR machine, who’s now been given the keys to his own platform millions of users, and it’s pretty clear that he’s enjoying the attention he now commands as Twitter-in-chief.
The next question then is, how many media tricks does Elon have up his sleeve?
Each of these actions has sparked its own media cycle, and brought a heap more attention to Musk and Twitter as a result, but when the stunts run out, what then?
Can Musk keep coming up with more attention-grabbing changes at the app, or will this roadmap actually lead to a more sustainable business, enabling him to stop grabbing headlines, and leave Twitter to its own devices?
In essence, that’s what these usage charts show, that Musk is really good at getting attention.
But it’s what comes after that will make or break the business.
Oh, also, someone has suggested that the tweet character count should be expanded to 420 instead of the current 280. Given Musk’s affinity for this number, that’ll probably happen.
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