Instagram: social media in times of social distancing

The coronavirus crisis has forced many businesses to adapt and reinvent themselves quickly, and while large multinational corporations can call on vast resources to weather the storm, for many small businesses, this really is sink or swim time.


In these unprecedented times, it’s never been more important to not only be seen but be engaged. Small businesses struggle for recognition at the best of times, but the advent of social media in the last couple of decades has allowed many of them to gain much-needed ground.


Now, in the time of social distancing, social media has arguably never been more critical. From the fundamental practice of letting people know you are still there, to finding new and innovative ways to bolster falling revenue, it is more vital than ever that small firms seek to increase their social media engagement.


Instagram is helping to give small businesses a leg up in these trying times by expanding functions for both its mobile app and desktop versions. They have introduced new features and added compatibility with other apps and partners to add to the tools a small business can use to engage with customers.


Being seen

Many small businesses will have benefitted hugely from Instagram over the years. It is traditionally the most visual of social media platforms. When used well, it can pull in the views, and those leads can be pared into significant ROIs. Whether your business runs its own social media operation, or enlists a professional third party, catching the eye on Instagram has been a great way to pull in customers, whether through images or live video.


To assist small businesses in gaining some lost ground in the current climate, Instagram has introduced a few new features which can allow them to freshen up contact, reach out to socially-distanced customers, and provide some light relief in stressful times. Here are a few of the measures which can help you up to your social media game at a challenging time:


Live video on desktop

Another new feature Instagram has introduced the ability to view live video on desktop. As a brand, business or influencer, you won’t be able to host it in this way, but viewing it on this device while streaming through your phone, you will give you a comprehensive picture of how people are interacting with your content.


Video on desktop naturally gives you a better view of the content. Instead of drawing likes and emojis over the top, they are along with the side of the video where comments will also show up, giving you an unobstructed view of the video.




Bringing DMs to desktop

Instagram users can now use the direct message function of the app on their desktop computers. Instagram usually has been a mobile-driven platform, which is great for businesses and users alike. As a business, you can reach your customers wherever they are and quickly curate content on the go.


However, with many people confined to their homes these days, and a large number of potential customers working from home on desktop computers, the ability to reach out to them through this medium is an undoubted advantage.


Sending and receiving DMs via desktop has many advantages. For a start, it makes it easier to type out, and you can often respond to clients more quickly. It allows you to be more detailed in your messages and strike up a conversation with clients, answer queries in real-time, and even send links. You can reach out to influencers and other brands with more detailed ideas and proposals.


Instagram is available on desktop through the browser, and this can allow you to share content more easily across other social media platforms.




Gift cards and fundraising

Many small businesses have seen a huge chunk of their revenue evaporate overnight as they have been forced to pull down the shutters. Many depend on a loyal customer base to keep them ticking over, but if they can’t open their stores, not even the most dedicated of clients can give them their business.


Now, businesses can use their Instagram pages to attract revenue thanks to new functions that allow customers to buy gift cards or contribute to a fundraising drive for their favourite brands.


Purchasing a gift card means a business can receive revenue now and provide the service at a later date. It will be possible to buy gift cards on Instagram through a button on a company’s profile page. A gift card is an excellent way for customers to send gifts to friends and family if they aren’t going to see them over their birthdays or simply as a way to tell someone that they miss them and are thinking of them.


Fundraising drives through Instagram are linked to Facebook’s well-established fundraising mechanisms. Companies can host advice or instructional videos as part of a virtual social or conduct video Q&As and ask people to chip in.


For example, if you run a hair and beauty shops, you could offer make-up tutorials, tips to cutting hair while in isolation or instructional videos on manicures. You won’t be giving away any trade secrets, as customers will only be too glad to put themselves in the hands of the professionals once it’s safe to do so. Still, this kind of innovative fundraising drive through Instagram can help keep up connected with your customers while also bring in some much-needed revenue.




Online food ordering

One industry that does seem to be able to keep its head just above the water in the current crisis is the food and restaurant business, however not without considerable challenges. While restaurants cannot host customers at their premises, the demand for take-out food has sky-rocketed.


Now Instagram has made it even easier to order from your favourite places. The new action button can be added to the profile of a restaurant on the app. Food outlets can also add an order sticker to their Instagram stories which will allow customers to click through and place an online order to be delivered to their home. Businesses can even post pictures of certain dishes and invite customers to click on them to order them directly.


This puts Instagram at the frontline of food ordering, making it a one-stop-shop for businesses to engage, interact with, and serve their customers all at the same time.