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Instagram Testing New FAQ Feature

Brands could eventually be able to leverage it to offer fast automated responses to common queries.

Marketers could soon have a new Instagram feature that will help with responsive customer service on the social media platform.

Under the feature that Instagram is reportedly testing, brands would be able to provide clickable question-and-answer options within their direct feeds on their business Instagram accounts to deliver quick responses to common queries.

As the screenshots of the under-work feature in the above tweet from social media commenter/consultant @MattNavarra illustrate, brands could spotlight frequent questions in the message window. Users could then click for speedy answers.

“At this stage, it seems that businesses can set up four questions that will be displayed in your initial message interaction, giving brands a simple, automated way to address the most common queries,” reported Andrew Hutchinson of SocialMediaToday.

Instagram on phone

It’s unclear when the Q&A feature will be rolled out to all users.

However, social media analysts said it makes sense that Instagram is taking this step to enhance customer service functionality through the platform. Parent company Facebook already provides a similar feature on its Messenger in which Facebook Page managers can deliver automated responses to oft-asked questions.

Plus, with both Facebook and Instagram delving deeper into ecommerce, the feature could prove a “handy function to address common queries around shipping, returns, etc.,” wrote Hutchinson, who continued: “It could provide another helpful option to consider for connecting with your Instagram audience, while also lessening the response load at your end.”

Study Finds Cloth Masks Protect Wearer, Others

Researchers from Virginia Tech recommend well-fitted three-layer masks to help prevent the spread of COVID.

A recent study out of Virginia Tech found that cloth face coverings help to protect both the wearer and others who are nearby from spreading the coronavirus.

The research, led by airborne disease transmission expert Linsey Marr, found that a well-fitted three-layer mask with outer layers made of a flexible, tightly woven fabric and an inner layer designed to filter small particles provides at least 75% filtration efficiency from respiratory droplets produced during breathing and speaking.

Linsey Marr, and team
Linsey Marr, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech, and students Charbel Harb (left) and Jin Pan (right) worked on a recent study on the effectiveness of cloth masks.

“Some people say, ‘Well, an N95 respirator can block 95% of that most penetrating particle size, and anything else is worthless,’ ” says Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. “It’s true that some of the cloth masks that we looked at only block 10 or 20% at that size. But once you get up to the sizes that we think are more important for transmission, like 1 to 2 microns or even 5 microns, those cloth masks are able to block half or more.”

SAR-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is about 0.1 microns large, but, Marr notes, “it doesn’t come out of us naked.” Instead, it’s carried in larger respiratory droplets, or aerosols, that contain salts, proteins and organic compounds, leading to aerosols up to 100,000 times larger in mass than the virus itself. For their study, Marr’s team focused on a size range of 1 to 2 microns for testing homemade and commercially available face coverings.

“It’s not something I would ask a healthcare worker to wear in high-risk situations,” she says. “They would need the best protection we can get. But given that it’s impractical to have everyone in the general public walking around wearing an N95, I think homemade masks are definitely helpful.”

In the study, Marr and her team of researchers set up conditions as close to day-to-day life as possible to best match how people go about a typical day wearing face coverings. They looked at nine homemade masks, as well as a surgical mask and a face shield, evaluating their ability to trap particles in size from 0.04 microns to more than 100 microns. Each mask was tested for outward efficiency – how well it traps particles exhaled by the wearer – and inward efficiency, for mask wearers as they inhale. At the low end of particle sizes, homemade masks performed poorly, but at the larger end, several of the masks could trap 50% to 80% of particles in tests of both inward and outward efficiency. Given what scientists have learned in the last year about how the coronavirus is spread, that performance is significant, Marr says.

Virginia Tech shared electron microscope scans of the material tested in the study
Virginia Tech shared electron microscope scans of the material tested in the study. Click here for a larger image.

In the testing, researchers mounted two manikins on opposite sides of a chamber to mimic a pair of inhaling and exhaling people talking closely. They connected the exhaling manikin to a medical nebulizer that generated droplets from the mouth. The other manikin had a vacuum line in the mouth to mimic inhaling. Measurements were taken of particles in the chamber from both sides.

The team found that masks tended to perform better as sources of outward protection than inward, but the differences in most cases weren’t statistically significant.

Because of the controlled setup and lack of human subjects, the research has some limitations, according to Marr. Chiefly, the experiments didn’t factor in things like mask adjusting or variability in airflow that occurs when people breathe in and out. Still, Marr believes her team’s work is a good complement to other studies being done on reducing transmission of the coronavirus.

“No one study by itself is going to tell you the whole story,” Marr says. “And no one intervention will stop the spread of COVID-19 alone. The mask is one of the many interventions that we need to combine together.”

The Virginia Tech study, published in November on medRxiv, has not yet been peer reviewed.

Facebook Buys Kustomer for 1B

The acquisition continues the social media juggernaut’s push to help companies use its platforms for business.

In another major acquisition for the social media juggernaut, Facebook has purchased Kustomer, a startup specializing in customer relationships. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but people familiar with the matter said it would value New York-based Kustomer at a little over $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Kustomer’s technology gathers conversations from different channels, such as customer-service platforms and chatbots, and displays them on a single screen. It’s a helpful tool to examine the history between a company and its customer and will fit quite nicely in Facebook’s ever-growing offering of platforms for companies to do business online, especially during the pandemic. In May, the company launched Facebook Shops, which lets businesses create online stores through Facebook and Instagram.

Prior to the acquisition, the companies already had a relationship. Kustomer allows businesses to aggregate and respond to customer inquiries that come in through Facebook Messenger. In October, Kustomer said it also began integrating with Facebook’s Instagram messaging. Messaging companies on social media rather than picking up the phone is becoming the preferred method of interaction for customers. For example, Facebook said more than 175 million people reach out every day to businesses using its WhatsApp messaging service.

Kustomer was founded in 2015 by Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, two entrepreneurs who sold a previous company to Inc. Kustomer was valued at $710 million in a private funding round roughly a year ago, according to PitchBook.

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