Social media platforms Instagram and Twitter have recently unveiled a number of changes designed to help small businesses manage negative comments and deliver better customer services to their followers.

Recent statistics from Instagram show 7 million Australians now use the photo and video-sharing platform every month, which is up significantly from the 5 million users the platform had in 2015, and a massive 4.2 billion posts are liked on the platform every day.

For businesses already comfortable on the service, Instagram is looking to make them even more so with recent changes to comment posting.

Comments made on photos or videos can now be filtered for both offensive language and specific keywords nominated by the account holder. Instagram revealed the change in a blog post on September 12, with chief executive and co-founder Kevin Systrom saying he aim is to “maintain what has kept Instagram positive and safe”.

“The beauty of the Instagram community is the diversity of its members. To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment,” Systrom said.

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The comment options available to all accounts

On users’ account settings, a new ‘comments’ section has been added. Through this, account holders can nominate the keywords they wish to filter, and choose to hide inappropriate comments.

“We know tools aren’t the only solution for this complex problem, but together, we can work towards keeping Instagram a safe place for self-expression,” Systrom said.

Elena Antoniou, co-founder of underwear company Mighty Good Undies, is an Instagram natural, having used it to promote the business’s crowdfunding campaign. Antoniou told SmartCompany the company’s Instagram account has just hit 11,000 followers, and the platform is perfect for telling a company’s story.

“Instagram has been an integral part of growing our business. The platform doesn’t really lend itself to making sales, I think it’s better used as a window into your brand,” Antoniou says.

“It’s more about the aspirational side, and telling the story of your company.”

Despite its thousands of followers, Antoniou says Mighty Good Undies doesn’t encounter any negativity on the platform, meaning so the new comment filtering features won’t necessarily be useful.

“It’s probably not for us, we usually just get questions about the product in our comments,” Antoniou says.

But for small business owners who may be daunted about getting started on Instagram, Antoniou says it is “absolutely pivotal” to try the service for yourself first.

“Try it out for yourself first and work out how the platform functions. Work out who your competitors are, and who your followers are,” she says.

“Understanding some of the supportive tools for Instagram is helpful too. I’m not a graphic designer, but knowing how to use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop is invaluable.”

This news comes on the back of a recent feature test from Instagram that introduced a contact button on businesses’ profile pages, allowing customers to email or receive directions to the business right out of the app.

Twitter introduces customer support changes

Twitter has followed in Instagram’s footsteps with a similar feature for businesses, mostly focusing on customer support features. Twitter explained the new options in a blog post, outlining the new customer support page that can be found in the website’s Dashboard settings, which are available on any account.
Twitter customer support features

The changes provides three options on the page, including one that allows accounts to receive messages from anyone on Twitter, regardless of if they follow the account or not. This is a feature that has been available for a while, but Twitter has changed it to make the contact option more visible.

When a business ticks the ‘Support Account’ box, the direct message button becomes more prominent on its Twitter account, and an indication is added in Twitter search results that the account provides support.

Mighty Good Undies also uses Twitter, but only has 2,500 followers on the service. Despite this, Antoniou says she will definitely use these customer support features.

“Twitter lends itself to customer support anyway, so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re doing this,” she says.

A notable change with these features is the direct message button now takes the place of the usual “Tweet To” option on businesses’ profile pages. This may be to encourage customers with problems to message businesses directly, rather than take potentially negative customer experiences public.

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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