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Facebook: The Small Business Recovery Is Underway, but Inequalities and Challenges Persist

Since the early months of the pandemic, Facebook has been surveying small businesses around the world to find out what they’re going through and what help they need. Throughout 2020 and 2021, our State of Small Business reports have painted a consistent and sobering picture. The pandemic has been devastating for small businesses everywhere. Many…

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Since the early months of the pandemic, Facebook has been surveying small businesses around the world to find out what they’re going through and what help they need. Throughout 2020 and 2021, our State of Small Business reports have painted a consistent and sobering picture. The pandemic has been devastating for small businesses everywhere. Many have closed for good, and many of those who remained open have seen sales slump and staff laid off. And it has hit businesses led by women and under-represented communities the hardest.

Today we’re publishing the results of our latest survey of more than 35,000 small business leaders, across 30 countries and territories, carried out this July and August. It finds that closure rates are falling around the world in a majority of surveyed countries, a sign that the small business recovery is underway. But there is still a long way to go and many of the inequalities and challenges persist.

Globally, 18% of small businesses said they were currently closed, down from 24% in February. In the US, both numbers were slightly lower, at 16% and 22% respectively. However, of those businesses still operating globally, more reported reduced employment this time around, rising from 30% in February to 36% in July.

Women and minority-led businesses were still more likely to be closed than the global average. 20% of women-led businesses were closed globally, compared to 16% of those led by men. In the US, Hispanic-led businesses were the most likely to report being closed at 24%, a drop of two percentage points since February. Minority-led businesses in the US were also more likely to report lower sales compared to the same period in the previous year, with 44% doing so compared to 29% of other small businesses.

One silver lining is that many small businesses have found success by shifting online. The use of digital tools has increased during the pandemic, and it’s up again in this survey to 88% of all businesses compared to 81% in February. More than half expect their use of digital tools to be permanent. For some, shifting online has been the difference between staying afloat or going under. For others, it’s given them a whole new lease on life.

However, most small businesses are still struggling financially. 60% stated they had some form of difficulty in paying business-related expenses, and roughly a quarter reported struggling to pay down loans or debt (26%), bills (25%), rent (25%), and employee wages (24%).

With these challenges in mind, Facebook is marking National Small Business Week in the US by announcing new programs, tools and resources to help small businesses, including The Good Ideas Exchange. Next month, business leaders from Facebook, American Express, HubSpot, Indeed, UPS, Vimeo and more will come together to hear from small business owners on some of the biggest challenges they are facing. Teams from each participating company, big and small, will then take part in a Hackathon to develop solutions that can help. Good Ideas resulting from the Hackathon will be announced in early 2022.

To address the needs small businesses are facing with cash flow, we are introducing two new ways for diverse businesses to access capital more easily:

  • After a successful pilot with Facebook Diverse Suppliers, we are expanding the Facebook Invoice Fast Track program. Beginning October 1, eligible US-based small businesses will have the opportunity to get cash immediately for the goods and services they’ve invoiced their customers, instead of waiting the 60 to 120 day period it normally takes to get paid. We will be funding $100 million in invoices on an ongoing basis.
  • We’re introducing a new small business funding resource on Facebook that connects small business owners with purpose-driven grant & loan opportunities, business resources and small business networking groups.

Screenshot of Small Business Funding resource on Facebook

Today’s report also reveals that over a fifth of small businesses expect the final three months of 2021 to represent the majority of their sales for the year. To help them get ready for this critical sales period, we are also announcing the second year of our 2021 global holiday program, The Boost with Facebook Good Ideas Season. Beginning next month, small businesses can access free resources, digital skills training, thought leadership and networking opportunities needed to prepare for a successful holiday season.

Facebook is in the business of small business. More than 200 million businesses use our apps every month to create virtual storefronts and reach customers — with millions using our tools to help them make the transition online since the start of the pandemic. Whatever challenges they face, Facebook will continue to do all we can to help them find success online.

Read the full State of Small Business report.

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Facebook: Recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day

As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page…

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As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page to spread awareness and share local recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

In addition to providing community to people with disabilities, we’re also working to make the digital world more accessible. 

We will demonstrate our latest accessibility features today at our annual Accessibility Summit. Join us at 10:00AM PT for this livestream on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page. In addition to product demos and updates, we will host an interview with Molly Burke, a digital creator and blind advocate.

Through a video series on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page, we’re highlighting how people with disabilities connect and build communities through our technologies, much like Carly. We’ve created both the captioned and audio described versions of these stories.

Today, we’re recapping advances we’ve made over the past year to make our technologies more inclusive. 

Meta Quest

  • Audio Accessibility
    • Audio balance: This option enables you to adjust the balance of the left and right audio channels for comfort, and to better match your ability to hear in each ear. 
    • Mono Audio enables you to hear the same audio from both the left and right speakers on your headset. 
    • You’ll find both features under the Accessibility tab in your headset’s Settings menu.

Product mock of audio accessibility on Meta Quest

  • Adjust Height  
    • This feature allows you to experience VR from a “standing” vantage point even while reclining or seated. This can improve the VR experience for people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility or are unable to use the Quest headset while standing. 
    • We first introduced this as an experimental feature (called Raise View) last June and have now made it permanent after receiving positive feedback from the disability community. 
    • You can find this feature in the Accessibility tab in Quest’s Settings menu.

Portal

  • Video relay service (VRS)
    • In December, we began supporting video relay service (VRS) applications on Portal  for people who use American Sign Language (ASL), through a collaboration with ZP Better Together.
    • Through the ZP apps on Portal and human interpreters, people who use American Sign Language can now easily communicate in both English and Spanish. 
    • Portal’s unique AI-powered camera always keeps you in frame and in focus, even when you’re moving, so your face and hands can always be seen.
  • Captions
    • We’ve also added customizable closed captions for streamed content on TV and Touch, as well as added support for live captions into integrated work productivity apps Zoom and Workplace Live.

Instagram

  • Auto-generated captions for Feed videos
    • In March, we introduced auto-generated captions for Feed videos on iOS and Android in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi and Japanese to start. 
    • More importantly, captions are automatically turned on by default when a creator uploads a video to their Feed. Over 140 million videos were created with auto-generated captions in the last 30 days.
    • Creators retain the ability to turn captions off when they choose and viewers can turn captions on or off using on-screen controls.

Product mock of Instagram auto-generated captions

Stickers on Facebook and Messenger

  • We added alt text descriptions to the more than 10,000 stickers available on Facebook and Messenger, making it possible for people who are blind and visually impaired to understand and use them. 

Avatars

  • Earlier this year, we introduced the ability to have your same avatar across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Quest. 
  • There are also new avatar options, including over-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implants in addition to more face shapes, skin tones, expressions, and stickers. 
  • Wheelchairs are now available as stickers on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger so your avatar can better represent who you are or who you want to be.

Product mock of accessibility features of Avatars

Open Source

  • Lexical is a JavaScript framework built to improve text editing on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Workplace, with accessibility as a priority. 
  • In April, Lexical was released into open source to allow the rest of the world to benefit from these improvements. 
  • With this new framework, people can express their ideas in text via dictation, and readers can experience character-by-character navigation — a feature previously unavailable in similar editors.

Reality Labs Research

  • We’re exploring how improvements in audio quality can enable more realistic presence and perceptual superpowers in augmented and virtual reality— technological advancements that can also help us hear better in noisy environments. 
  • Our team of hearing scientists is also exploring how to reencode sound and present it through closed captioning.
  • While this is still early research, we are excited to learn more about how emerging audio technologies can improve the lives of people with hearing loss. 

Image showing audio research

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Facebook: Announcing New Products to Make Business Messaging Easier

The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural…

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The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural business messaging event, we discussed how messaging is transforming interactions between people and businesses, and announced new products to make conversations easier.

Introducing Cloud-based API on the WhatsApp Business Platform

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced we’re opening up the new, cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business Platform, hosted by Meta, to any business across the world. With this new API, we’re offering free, secure cloud hosting services so businesses and developers can easily access our service within minutes, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and increase their response time for their customers. So now, whether a business wants to work with one of our 100+ partners or access our service directly, it will be much faster to get up and running on WhatsApp.

When growing a business, you need smart, robust and easy-to-use conversation tools. For smaller businesses using the WhatsApp Business app, we’re building tools so it’s easier to handle an influx of chats as they grow their customer base. 

Launching Recurring Notifications on Messenger

Today we’re announcing a new way for businesses to keep the conversation going with Recurring Notifications. As businesses acquire new customers and begin to scale operations, there’s incredible opportunity to build loyalty and trust — and we believe this is where the value of messaging really shines. This new capability makes it easy to re-engage people right in the messaging thread and deliver tailored messaging at the best time for customers, whether to hear about special promotions, new product drops or tips and tricks.

You can choose the topics you’d like to let people opt-in to, how often customers can hear from you and shape your content, so your messages are always on-brand and relevant. Recurring notifications will also be available for businesses on Instagram this fall.

We also highlighted our click-to-message ads to help customers immediately start conversations with businesses, our CRM platform Kustomer and Meta Business Suite for higher volumes of messages across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Read more about our product investments in business messaging on our Meta for Developers blog.

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Facebook: Introducing New Members of the Oversight Board

Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin. Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to…

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Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin.

Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to support and work with the board to select additional members. The new members reflect a wide range of views and experiences, and will bring a variety of perspectives to the board’s existing expertise.

The Oversight Board represents a unique model for social media governance. From its inception, we knew its impact would come not just from its decisions on individual cases, but also from broader recommendations on how we can improve our policies and processes. In the time since they began hearing cases and issuing decisions and recommendations, they’ve been playing a bigger role in setting precedent and direction for our content policies and how we enforce them.  We look forward to welcoming the new board members into this process.

We will update this Newsroom Post as additional members are appointed. We are grateful to all board members for lending their expertise to our content moderation efforts.

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