July: social media roundup

WhatsApp reaches 1bn daily users, with 250m using Status – WhatsApp is beating Snapchat at its own game. The messaging platform has reached 1 billion daily users and Status, its Stories-esque feature, is seeing 250 million active users every day. Despite the fact it sits in a secondary tab away from message threads, WhatsApp Status has a similar number of users to Instagram Stories. This is far in advance of Snapchat, which only has 166 million daily users on the app, including those who only use private messages. WhatsApp’s users send more than 55 billion messages every day, including 4.5 billion photos and 1 billion videos, and this activity has grown the app’s daily active user base from 250 million in February 2014 when it was bought by Facebook for $19 billion. Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook and WhatsApp are now building teams focusing on monetising messaging apps – and WhatsApp Status could be a natural home for video adverts just like those on Instagram and Snapchat.

Twitter offers more insight into ads – Twitter has announced a new deal that will help advertisers better link their online ads to offline sales. The social network is working with UK retail data provider dunnhumby to link Tesco’s active ClubCard holders to people active on Twitter in the UK – this will allow them to see the effect of advert exposure on actual sales. This move from Twitter will mean it is better able to show the ROI of adverts on its platform. Twitter has a membership of over 16.5 million people (approximately a quarter of the UK’s population!), so this is a significant deal that will give Twitter a great deal of insight into the success of ads. The data will be anonymised so no information will be shared about the exact customers making a purchase, but it will be able to link views of a promoted tweet with actual purchases. The analysis is similar to Facebook’s Conversion Lift – the ad audience is randomised and split into two groups, one which is exposed to the ads and the other which isn’t. This then shows if there is any variance – and, if so, how much – in spending activity among the exposed group. This will help advertisers learn what affects the success of their ad campaigns including factors such as frequency, targeting or ad type.

Facebook Messenger ads go global – Facebook is rolling out adverts in Messenger worldwide following successful tests in Australia and Thailand. This offers businesses the chance to extend their reach more widely amongst Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly users, as well as the chance to include sponsored messages and a conversation management tool into their campaigns alongside existing advertising solutions such as click-to-Messenger ads. These adverts will sit on Messenger’s home screen and will use the same targeting as current Facebook News Feed ads, so won’t utilise any conversation content to target them with advertising.

Also, are Facebook ads coming to Marketplace? – Facebook is investigating adding adverts into Marketplace, basing them on the same format as those shown in the News Feed. Confirming the test, Facebook has said that it intends to “evaluate the response before determining how [they] move forward”. These ads have been confirmed to be the same as News Feed adverts, intended to bring users to a landing page on the publisher’s website where they’ll be able to purchase products or services that are being advertised. Currently, ads can’t be targeted specifically at Marketplace, but News Feed ads will be shown there as an experiment.

LinkedIn introduces photo collages – At last! LinkedIn launched a new feature, letting users post multiple photos in a single post that appear in a collage format. Currently, the feature is available on iOS but it is “coming soon” to Android and desktop users as well. This follows Instagram’s introduction of photo albums back in February. This update is one in a line of smaller tweaks that are designed to improve the platform’s user experience; others include the ability to post pictures in comments, new ‘Profile Views’ data points and native video.

Amazon’s new social network allows for social media shopping – Amazon has launched a new feature, Amazon Spark – aimed at improving product discovery and seemingly inspired by Instagram and shoppable photos. The new feature encourages users to post stories, ideas and images of products they love, and other users can react to these with comments and “smiles” – Amazon’s version of the Like or Favourite button. Not only does Spark let users shop, but it also provides product photos, text, links or polls. Providing a more holistic experience than Instagram, product images are connected with Amazon inventory so that products shown are in stock and easily accessible. After a quiet few months of beta testing, Spark has been launched in the US .

Facebook Messenger’s update focuses on payments – Facebook has taken a step towards monetising its Messenger app, launching version 2.1 of Messenger Platform. This update includes a seamless flow for payments within the application as well as five new call-to-action buttons and desktop support for the extensions software-development kit. With this new iteration, users will be able to make payments with a one-step process in Messenger’s webview. This means users will be able to purchase items directly through Messenger. The new call-to-action buttons that join the ‘Send Message’ button are ‘Shop Now’, ‘Get Support’, ‘Get Updates’, ‘Play Now’ and ‘Get Started’. Facebook’s reasoning for including these is that they are aimed at letting users know exactly what they should expect when they start conversations with businesses on the platform.

Is this the future of influencer marketing? – In the past year, shoppable adverts have grown in popularity, offering major opportunities for businesses to turn their social media followers into customers and enhancing the click-to-buy platform. Shoppable ads have been introduced to many of the major social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. This growth also happens to coincide with the increased use of influencer marketing; research from Bloglovin’ found that 63% of marketers allocated more budget for influencer marketing campaigns this year. Currently, shoppable ads – which have also recently been introduced to Instagram Stories and Snap Ads – are only available to companies, but it is more than likely that these will soon open up to influencers who involve themselves in brand campaigns too. The benefits to this in terms of influencer marketing are clear and plentiful. Influencer partnerships will – for some brands – be easier to evaluate and to determine their success. This would also reduce the number of clicks a customer has to journey through to reach the end point, and would have a positive effect on engagement as influencers offer an emotional connection that, in many cases, is more effective than an advert directly from a brand.

Facebook ads now include Instagram retargeting options – Three new retargeting options for Instagram have recently been introduced when creating a Custom Audience: Video; Lead form; and Instagram business profile. Video allows advertisers to create a list of people who have spent time watching their videos on either Facebook or Instagram. Lead form lets publishers create a list made up of users who have opened or completed a form in their lead ads on both platforms. Finally, Instagram business profile gives advertisers the option to create a list of people who – as the name suggests – have recently interacted with their Instagram business profile.

LinkedIn now tells business who’s visited their site – LinkedIn has introduced a new tool that lets companies see what kind of audience they are attracting with their marketing. Website Demographics allows businesses to break down their website visitors across eight separate categories including job title, industry, company and location. Using the conversation tracking technology that powers its Matched Audiences ad targeting, the social network can connect this data to website visits. This means, for example, that a company trying to bring IT professionals to its website could open Website Demographics and see that the majority of its many visitors come from the healthcare industry – it could then alter its marketing efforts and content to target that audience.

Facebook tests user-generated GIFs – Facebook is adding to the vast arsenal of GIFs already available by allowing users to make their own. The social network has confirmed that it is running a test enabling users to create their own GIF files using Facebook Camera. The platform is hoping to roll the feature out more widely in the next few weeks. These GIFs will be created directly through Facebook without the need to use an external site or programme to convert them. They are limited to a few seconds in length and can be added to posts, posted to users’ profiles or saved to their devices.

Snapchat hands the creative reins to brands – Snapchat’s new self-serve tools will allow all brands on the platform to create bespoke adverts and target them to audiences without needing to engage a third party. The new feature, Snap Publisher, is a browser-based tool included in Snap’s ad manager that potentially removes some of the costs associated with drafting the campaigns by allowing brands to convert their own horizontal video into vertical formats. The new tool will let brands enhance their videos with text and animation, as well as turning websites into Snap Ads and generating multiple versions of the advert. This functionality offers advertisers the ability to create, edit, launch and target creative in a single workflow. All adverts will still be vetted by a human before being served up to users, ensuring they pass through quality control before they are seen.

 Facebook tests adding information to cover images – Facebook is testing adding descriptions to cover images on business pages, giving brands an opportunity to feature key information more prominently. This follows the recent news that testing is also underway for cover videos. The feature is only available on desktop, and descriptions of the company can be up to 100 characters long. This new update also includes call-to-action buttons in a different location that can’t be deleted or hidden. Facebook has confirmed that this description will be automatically filled in from the Description field in the About section. It can then be edited from the Edit Information option on the cover image.

Facebook Live comes to Virtual Reality – Combining two of the tech trends of the year, Facebook has introduced a new functionality. Now users of the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality system will be able to livestream themselves – inside VR – to Facebook friends and followers as avatars. This will be available on the Spaces app, which is still in beta testing. It is clear that Facebook is working hard to make users see VR as an integral part of the platform’s service and not merely an experiment. Users will be able to livestream to their friends and can use a virtual camera to capture and broadcast their experience. The stream will look similar to a regular Facebook Live broadcast, although the user will be able to reach out and grab comments as physical objects, among other functionalities, in Virtual Reality. The Spaces app was initially built so users could virtually meet up with their friends from any location, and this brings this experience into a Live broadcast. Facebook has said that this, in the long term, is a natural fit for augmented reality and that everything seen in Spaces could be an AR experience too: people would be projected into real space instead of a virtual environment.

LinkedIn adds customisable notifications – LinkedIn users will now be able to stay more up to date with what’s happening in their network and keep on top of the things they’re most interested in. The platform has introduced three new notification features: Daily Rundown; Search Appearances; and notification customisation. The Daily Rundown gives users a daily notification with top news and a summary of what their connections have been talking about during the day. Search Appearances offers information on how many people found them in a search, the companies they work at, and once a week will provide guidance on how to optimise their profile for those viewing it. Finally, customised notifications give users the options to mute or unmute, unfollow a connection directly, or turn certain notification types off entirely (e.g. birthday updates, article publications, etc.).

Snapchat adds links, voice filters and backdrops – Snapchat has made a number of changes to its functionality, even breaking one of its main rules. The platform has introduced Paperclip links, Backdrops and Voice Filters globally on both iOS and Android. Paperclip lets users attach a website to a Snap, which viewers can open in the app’s internal browser by swiping upwards. Prior to this update, only ad campaigns and Discover content could include links. However, Snapchat will still keep a close eye on this content: all shared links must abide by the terms of service, community guidelines and privacy policy; Snap Inc. will use its own automated trust and safety tools, as well as information from Google’s Safe Browsing service, to warn about potential phishing scams, malware or other dangerous sites; and to help people to avoid opening objectionable links there will also be a preview shown next to the swipe-up arrow.

Written by Becca Ingram, Digital Strategist (@_beccaingram)

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