April: social media roundup

Social media usage continues to grow across the world – LinkedIn has reported its community has grown to 500 million members – more than the US population – and Instagram announced that its user base now has over 700 million monthly active users, which is the same number of left-handed people in the world. While LinkedIn didn’t discuss why it has seen such fast user growth, Instagram said that the last 100 million joined more quickly than ever and that it has seen its community double in size in the last two years. They say this is due to the ease with which people can join the network, post updates and strengthen connections with friends. They have also attributed this rapid growth to Stories, live video and disappearing Direct Messages, meaning people can contact other users in more ways than ever before.

Twitter wants to air 24/7 live video – Twitter has announced its plans to eventually air live video content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Speaking to Buzzfeed News, the network’s COO and CFO Anthony Noto discussed the plan to show live video on both the website and app, making Twitter somewhat of a TV equivalent. It wants to show 24-hour news and information, and to broadcast coverage of events, sports and entertainment on a rolling basis. These videos are unlikely to be Netflix-style glossy programmes but instead are more likely to consist of content such as rolling news networks or always-on sports channels. The goal is “to be a dependable place so that when you want to see what’s happening, you think of going to Twitter”. While Noto didn’t say exactly when this will begin, he said the platform is currently working on programmes to make the dream a reality.

Talking of live video… Everyone on Facebook can now live-stream 360-degree video – Following the debut of Facebook Live 360 late last year, the platform has now made this available to everybody. All Pages and profiles will be able to go live in 360-degrees, as long as they have a 360 camera. This latest push for live-streaming is showing just how much effort Facebook is putting into encouraging live, immersive video content.

Snapchat’s Stories ‘search’ rivals YouTube – Snapchat recently introduced Search for Stories, repositioning itself as a database of all the short-lived live content being broadcast on the platform. This move follows its IPO strategy: that Snapchat wants some users to spend a lot of high-quality engagement time on the platform rather than encouraging everybody to spend a little time there. Snapchat is using algorithms that scan caption text, time and visual elements included in the photo or video that is submitted to Our Story – which is then grouped by theme. There will be more than 1 million themes available for searching. Snap Inc. has said it will continue to expand the ways in which it categorises submissions, perhaps growing to identify background music or what people are talking about. As it stands, ads, sponsored lenses and sponsored geofilters aren’t included in Search collections, which means this isn’t a new channel for brands to compete over for advert views. In fact, Search for Stories makes the platform more like a live, ephemeral version of YouTube. It allows for the searching of immediately-posted live content, that is quickly identified and filed, filling the gap that YouTube leaves between filming and posting. One of the biggest breakaways from Snapchat’s main functionalities is that some videos will be available for weeks – or even months. If the content on a particular theme isn’t replaced very quickly, the Snaps will stay live longer to offer search results for those who search for content on that subject.

Amazon dips its toe in the influencer pool – Amazon, with its vast selection of retailers and products, has decided to make the most of influencer marketing. The site is currently beta-testing the ‘Amazon Influencer Program’, which will only accept influencers with “large followings and a high frequency of posts with shoppable content” and will offer commission on the sales they drive. To be considered, influencers’ fan engagement on posts across their social platforms, quality of content, and the level of relevancy will all be taken into account by Amazon. When an influencer is working with Amazon, they will be given a unique vanity URL on the Amazon domain, allowing their followers to easily find their page and see the curated selection of products they recommend.

Facebook Town Hall lets users contact officials – ‘Town Hall’ is available to all desktop and mobile users in the United States, allowing them to easily get in touch with those in their local government. It is available as a tab in Facebook’s app, or at facebook.com/townhall, and offers a list of local government representatives for users to follow or contact. From within the app, users can call, message, or email the official, or can visit their Page to follow them or take a look at what they’ve been doing recently. This could well be a reaction to the news that Facebook played a part in Donald Trump’s success in last year’s US Election. Not only does it allow users to keep tabs on what their local government officials are up to, but it also gives them a voice for their concerns.

The New York Times joins Snapchat Discover – The New York Times has joined Snapchat Discover, two months after it announced it was planning to do so. The publication will share stories every day from Monday to Friday, with content based on its ‘Morning Briefing’ feature. It will also include a small crossword puzzle that users can get involved with by drawing the letters on the image. The channel is available for users who live in the US, Canada and Australia and is a build on the publication’s current Snapchat usage: it has been sharing content through Snapchat Stories for the past two years. This move, however, places the New York Times alongside CNN and the Daily Mail in Discover, putting its new stories front and centre in that section of the app.

What does the new ‘rocket’ icon on Facebook mean? – Some Facebook users have started noticing a rocket-shaped icon appear in their Facebook mobile app, positioned next to the main news feed icon. Clicking on this icon enables users to see popular posts from people and pages that they haven’t befriended or liked, but that do reflect their interests and geographical location. Facebook said it has launched (no pun intended) the new feature in response to user demand for more ways to discover new content. The new feature is not dissimilar from Instagram’s ‘Explore’ tab which shows users posts that the company’s algorithms have determined to be relevant to their interests.

Facebook plans free version of Workplace – Facebook is planning to roll out a free version of its social networking tool for offices, Workplace. The new product, which is still being tested and therefore not widely available (yet), will look and feel similar to the paid-for version but will not offer companies the administrative and analytical tools available to paying customers. This new product will be called ‘Workplace Standard’ whilst its paid-for version is called ‘Workplace Premium’. Facebook says it has signed up thousands to Workplace since it officially launched, but this move will undoubtedly be an attempt to increase adoption by smaller companies and also take on competitors including Slack which has over 5 million users (and 1.5 million paying subscribers) as well as Microsoft which introduced its new workplace chat tool in November last year.

Publishers can now add a ‘Call to Action’ in Instant Articles – Facebook is adding email and call to actions (CTAs) to ‘Instant Articles’ for publishers, as well as testing CTA units for free trials and mobile application installations. The goal is to drive more direct lines of communication between publishers and readers – for example – enabling users to sign up to newsletters, like a page or subscribe to a free trial. The new feature has been tested via The Huffington Post which has reported incredible results, calling the email sign-up feature ‘one of the highest-performing acquisition channels for driving subscriptions to its newsletters’. Expect to see a lot of CTAs when using Instant Articles in the future…

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