August: social media roundup

Happy Birthday to the #Hashtag – Everyone’s favourite social media feature turned 10 last month after it was first used on 23rd August 2007 by Chris Messina, a former Google engineer, who asked “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” Since then its use has grown exponentially, with 125 million hashtags now tweeted every day on average – and that’s just on Twitter. The hashtag has become such an integral part of modern culture that its adapted usage was added to the dictionary in 2014. To compare 2007 against current use, the most tweeted hashtag 10 years ago was used around 9,000 times; this year, the most popular was tweeted more than 300 million times. Included in over 1 billion tweets, #NowPlaying is the most shared hashtag of all time, the most popular regularly-occurring hashtag is #FF, for ‘Follow Friday’, and the most used hashtag last year was #Rio2016, closely followed by #Election2016 and #PokemonGo.

Businesses spend more on digital ads than traditional media advertising – For the first time, digital advertising has made a bigger contribution than traditional media to the UK’s total advertising spend. In the first quarter of 2017, the digital slice of ad spend hit a new high, helped by faltering spending for traditional media. Spend on internet adverts grew by 10.1% during Q1, an increase that was driven mainly by mobile which saw a 36.2% year-on-year increase. In comparison, total spending on adverts only grew by 1.3%, seeing its lowest increase since mid-2013. In the first quarter of this year, newspapers and magazines suffered the most. Total spending with regional news brands fell by 16%, spend on magazine brands decreased by 13.9% and national news brands saw a reduction of 6.6% compared to the same time in 2016. Spend on TV adverts fell by 6.2%. It is therefore the substantial increase in digital advertising (coupled with a strong performance from cinema advertising) that has contributed to the small increase in total ad spend in Q1. eMarketer also predicts that digital will be the only major media type in the country that will see double-digit growth for the year, indicating the strength of online advertising compared with traditional media.

Facebook morphs into YouTube – Facebook has launched its video offering! Facebook Watch is its new, TV-like rival to YouTube that will let users discover videos from outside of their news feed more easily, create lists of videos to watch and have an easier way to follow shows from particular artists, brands and publishers. To help populate it and inspire other creators, Facebook has funded a number of original “community-oriented” shows. Partners who produce original video content exclusively for Facebook will earn 55% of revenue generated by ad breaks that are inserted into the content – Facebook takes the rest. Facebook’s plan with Watch is to keep people on the platform, so it can serve users more adverts and boost revenue. Watch reflects YouTube’s functionalities, with sections such as “Most Talked About”, “Shows Your Friends Are Watching” and “What’s Making People Laugh” (based on reactions). Despite rumours that Facebook was launching a feature to rival Netflix, Watch far more closely resembles YouTube.

Facebook wants a slice of the influencer marketing pie – A couple of months ago, Facebook launched its Business Partner feature which let influencers more obviously mark when they are working alongside a company. The platform has now introduced the ability for influencers to tag brands they’re working with in their posts, which advertisers can then boost directly without needing to share themselves. Companies are able to authorise certain accounts to tag them, and will be able to access analysis on reach, engagement, total spend and CPM to determine how effective their campaigns are. This update is likely to change the way in which these relationships work. An influencer’s “influence” – in terms of their their follower numbers – is deemed of less importance, since this reach can now be achieved through paid spend. It means that Facebook campaigns will now combine the network’s excellent audience-targeting capabilities and the chosen influencer’s pre-existing reach, and that brands can choose influencers who are the perfect fit for their product or service without concerning themselves with their follower numbers.

Facebook allows brands to advertise to event attendees – Facebook is adding yet another Custom Audience targeting option to its top-of-the-class advertising arsenal; the new feature will let brands target their adverts to users who RSVP’d to their events. The new Custom Audience will consist of users who either responded ‘Going’, ‘Interested’, or ‘Going or Interested’ to the company’s event, and allows advertisers to further target those who have already expressed an interest in the brand in question. This feature lets advertisers target those who engaged with their events as far back as 180 days in the past. It is likely to encourage brands to use events more, firstly to build on users’ interest in their company as well as to follow up with them afterwards. The platform will also allow advertisers to target a ‘lookalike’ audience of users who have similar characteristics to those included in the Custom Audience.

Stories – the new way to access world news? – Google and Facebook have both made moves that show they see Stories as a news-sharing format. Google is preparing to launch ‘Stamp’, a combination of Snapchat’s Stories format with Google’s proprietary Accelerated Mobile Pages. This means news outlets can share slideshows of photos, videos and text that will appear in search results as well as being hosted on a publisher’s site. Facebook is seemingly choosing to integrate its news into Stories. The social network lets public figures share Stories with their followers and is also testing viewing on desktop and Live Stories. This allows journalists to string together photos and videos to create an immersive news experience, especially so when live broadcasting comes into play. Exactly how Facebook Stories fits into the social media landscape makes more sense when it is considered a news-focused complement to Instagram and WhatsApp Stories (both of which are also owned by the platform). The next step is to open Stories to publishers. Both are focusing on a more graphical approach to news, choosing to show rather than tell. These developments could reinvigorate news consumption, although only time will tell how successful it will be.

YouTube – the new Twitter? – Another social network that is dipping its toe into news-sharing is YouTube. Twitter re-categorised its mobile app in the Apple App Store, choosing to file it under ‘News’ rather than ‘Social Networking’. Perhaps with this in mind, YouTube has updated its mobile apps and desktop homepage to include a ‘Breaking News’ carousel. This move indicates the site’s intention to make it easier for users to find important and trending content amongst the 300 hours of videos uploaded every minute. It’s not yet known if this will be populated by an algorithm or whether a dedicated team of editors will curate the news in this section. It is also not yet clear if the carousel only appears during breaking news cycles or if it will contain more ongoing news events. The update does seem to be a move to make YouTube’s video browsing simpler, taking some of the focus off recommended videos, but how exactly it will work in practice – and how well it will be received by users – remains to be seen.

Native video spreads across social media – Reddit now allows users to upload videos directly from desktop and mobile, without the need to rely on third-party services. Reddit’s mobile apps will let users record videos and post them, as well as upload already existing videos they have in their camera roll. Desktop users can upload videos directly from their computer. Each video can be up to 15 minutes long and will also be able to be converted into GIFs with the native GIF converter. In other news, LinkedIn will now let any user upload a video to the site via the mobile app. The idea behind this is that users will share projects, product demonstrations and other work-related videos, and it follows a limited release earlier in 2017 where videos were shown to be shared over 20 times more than other content. The next step is live video which, from a professional point of view in terms of meetings and events, could prove invaluable.

Native video is coming… to LinkedIn – Along with Reddit, LinkedIn is launching an update that will allow users to shoot native video within the mobile app. For now, the feature is only available to a group of 500 LinkedIn influencers which includes some of the biggest names in business, but social media experts have no doubt that this will be opened up to everyone in the near future. The native video feature allows people to shoot videos for up to 30 seconds. When a user you already follow posts a video, it will appear on your feed and you will have the opportunity to comment and respond to other users’ comments. This new in-app video feature is accessible via a new icon located next to the already-existing camera icon. What opportunities are there for businesses? As well as another way to share engaging content, people speculate that this open up to advertisers in the not too distant future…

Facebook removes accidental clicks on ads – We have probably all had moments of scrolling through Facebook and clicked on an ad without meaning to. Businesses have, quite rightly, had enough of paying for ads that users have clicked on by accident. Luckily, Facebook has found a solution. The social media giant announced it is sorting out the issue of unintentional clicks by discounting instances where a user bounces back after two seconds or less. The likelihood is that if you clicked on an ad and then immediately clicked back, you probably didn’t care about the ad in the first place. Facebook’s Product Marketing Manager Brett Vogel said ‘Unintentional clicks end up delivering really poor experiences for people and advertisers. It’s not a good path for publishers to build sustainable businesses’.

Twitter is testing an ad subscription for $99 a month – Twitter is testing new ways to monetise the social network. The platform is testing a $99 per month advertising subscription, where users will see their tweets and profile automatically amplified for 30 days. This includes analytics, so the advertiser can see the exact additional reach, engagement and followers being driven by the campaign. Twitter’s pitch to encourage users to sign up for the test version is that the service is incredibly low friction – the user does not have to create dedicated ads but rather their posts and profile will be promoted as is. The programme is currently being beta tested and is being offered to some users as a 30-day-free promotion. Twitter will send a report card every other week highlighting the additional reach, followers and engagements achieved by the promotion. The platform says that this allows users “to grow [their] audience and [their] influence without starting a campaign or ever creating an ad”. It will be interesting to see whether users choose to take Twitter up on its offer, or if they would prefer to stick with traditional advertising as it currently stands.

Instagram tests joint live streaming – Instagram now allows users to stream live broadcasts with a friend in split-screen mode. This is easy to do, by just tapping an icon on the bottom right and choosing the friend to add, the screen will be split vertically. Everything else works the same. This comes after Instagram “noticed that a lot of folks were using [live streaming] with friends in person”, and so this new feature simply brings this offline behaviour online. The idea behind this development is that live video will function more as a virtual conversation being broadcast in public. The platform describes it as “a fun way to go live with a friend”, envisioning this update as a way to overcome the intimidation that many users may feel when sharing a live stream alone. Broadcasters can add anybody who is currently watching their video, and they can be removed and replaced at any point. This feature is currently undergoing testing and will be rolled out globally in the next few months.

Facebook Live’s popularity is growing – A report from digital performance agency L2 shows that brands are growing increasingly confident about Facebook Live. The report shows that live-streaming on the platform is growing in popularity, climbing from a 1% share of Facebook’s posts in August 2016 to an impressive 4.4% in June 2017. What’s also interesting is that this upward trend is followed by a surge in promotion of Live video. For the first time, in June, promotion for Live videos was more than pre-recorded video posts. According to L2, live videos also fare much better in terms of engagement. In fact, they yield up to 25% more when compared to conventional video posts. Thinking about utilising Live for your business? What are you waiting for?

YouTube allows users to share videos within its app – YouTube’s mobile app is stepping its game up. Users can now share videos and chat with friends, all within the app. When sharing a video, the user begins a conversation with the friend or group of friends. The other users can then reply with videos or their own message and can ‘heart’ messages, as well as invite others into the conversation. YouTube has said that it has been “experimenting with a better way to share videos”, avoiding the hassle of copying and pasting a link. A blog post written by one of the app’s product managers says that, “like chats around the water cooler, shouldn’t sharing a video be as easy as saying, “Have you heard this new song?”. While the new functionality isn’t yet available to everybody, it soon will be and it will be interesting to see if this keeps people on the app.

Will advertisers use GIFs in future? – One of the internet’s last non-monetised elements is finally considering testing sponsorship. Giphy, the search engine for GIFs, is testing sponsored GIFs in messages. In short, users searching for GIFs to send may be served a sponsored GIF when they’re searching for something to send within a message. This gives brands opportunities to work existing content into people’s messages and, given the ubiquitous use of GIFs across the internet, will be a fairly simple way of infiltrating a widely-used method of communication. This concept reflects the idea behind sponsored Snapchat filters, and the hypothesis that sponsored content will be easier to connect with if sent by a friend. It also opens brands up to a potentially vast audience: Giphy has said that of the 250 million monthly active users, 200 million of these use its owned and operated integrations every day. This shows an already-engaged audience that could provide a fantastic source of revenue for advertisers. However, since testing has not yet begun, it remains to be seen how this will work in practice and how it will succeed.

Instagram updates threaded comments – Instagram has announced a major upgrade to its comments section that will let people thread different conversations under a single post. This means that when users hit ‘reply’ on a comment, the comment will appear in a ‘nested’ thread, like it does on Facebook, rather than before when all replies lived in one column which can get a little confusing. Chatting back and forth on a post will now become as easy on Instagram as it is on Facebook. The threaded comments come with the 24th iteration of Instagram so users will need to update their app to experience the changes.

Written by Becca Ingram, Digital Strategist (@_beccaingram)

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