In 2020, during the racial reckoning brought on by the murder of George Floyd, the call to support Black communities was at an all-time high. Activists took to Instagram to promote campaigns like the fifteen percent pledge, which urges major retailers to commit to stocking 15% of their shelves with Black-owned products, mirroring the percentage of Black people in the U.S.
Companies like Facebook and Instagram created their own initiatives to sustainably promote and support the Black community. On June 15, 2020, about two weeks after Instagram pages were filled with Black screens during #BlackoutTuesday, Instagram promised to take a “harder look at how [its] product impacts communities differently.”
Now, the company’s recently founded equity team, which was created in September 2020 to address the issues raised by the Black community, has created a “Black-owned” label that will appear in the bio section of businesses’ Instagram pages if they have a virtual shop.
“The products that you have in your shop on Instagram, they’ll also have a label that says Black-owned as well,” said Rachel Brooks, product manager for Instagram’s equity team. “There are also going to be some curated shops and that kind of thing in the shop tab, and so the products from folks that opt into it, will also be adopted into some curation.”
Brooks said that the equity team saw a growing trend of people adding Black-owned to their bios and captions and saw the community on Instagram becoming increasingly vocal about supporting Black-owned businesses and trying to make sure they survived despite the effects of the COVID-19.
“We started seeing and noticing people using the #BuyBlack and adopting different ways of labeling and stories so that people can identify and find Black-owned businesses to support, and we just saw this natural phenomenon that was happening on Instagram. And so it was really inspired by the community themselves and people wanting to support businesses that they really love,” said Brooks.
The team worked with Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurial individuals who are active on the platform to design and develop the label together.
“We’re really careful to make sure that we include the types of people that we serve in our design and development process,” said Brooks. She went on to say that the company wants to “make sure that it’s creating something that, one, will resonate, two, people will use, and three, is useful and make sense ultimately for the people we’re trying to empower.”
These Black-owned businesses will have to self-identify by editing their profile’s diversity information. Instagram will not be identifying businesses on their own. Though this is the first official label that Instagram has introduced, it may not be the last.
When asked about whether or not an official label would be created for the LGBTQ, Latinx community or others like it, Brooks said: “It’s definitely the first of its kind of more of an official capacity, but we do see that people somewhat organically take on concepts like this for various communities.”
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