January Social Media Round-Up

Facebook made a monumental change to its News Feed

The social media giant retooled its News Feed to focus more on ‘meaningful interactions’. Many users have seen their Feeds filling with promotional content, videos and news articles while their updates from friends and their conversations become fewer and farther between. Facebook’s “Closer Together” initiative will give users less advertising and journalistic content at the top of their Feeds and push up posts that have meaningful conversations on them. This change may mean an increase in wedding announcements and baby photos, but will mean businesses and publishers will need to pay more to get their content seen.

WhatsApp introduced a (small) business app

The global messaging app rolled out ‘WhatsApp Business’ in select markets including the UK and US. The new feature is primarily aimed at small businesses and allows them to conduct customer service with the app’s 1.3 billion users. Companies who choose to use the platform will have access to quick replies (suggestions for how to respond to customer requests) as well as statistics regarding how many people they communicate with and how many of their messages are read.

Facebook trialled a local news feature

Users in six cities across the US are now able to access a feature called ‘Today In’ which provides local news and updates. While the section is not curated, the team involved makes sure that relevant local publishers are included in the updated function. Facebook has yet to comment on whether there would be new local advertising opportunities available. The group responsible for the update, the Facebook Journalism Project, was launched last January to improve relationships with news organisations and journalists.

Instagram added Text-Only Stories

Edging further into Snapchat’s market, Facebook’s Instagram continued to develop Stories. Its new function called ‘Type’, allows users to write text over a blank screen. There are also several options for fonts and effects such as ‘glowing text’. Similar to Snapchat users, people will now receive notifications when someone screenshots their Story. These updates are not yet available everywhere, but it’s likely that Instagram will keep developing Stories as the year goes on.

Twitter announced it uses AI for photos

Twitter introduced an Artificial Intelligence auto-cropper to optimise image use on the platform. Social media managers and Twitter users have previously had to crop images manually to make sure that the picture that shows up on the feed shows the most relevant part of the full picture, but the AI tool will be able to intuitively align the pictures using a concept named “cropping using saliency”. The end result will hopefully be more efficient because users don’t need to open up each image to understand what is going on in it.

Snaps moved beyond Snapchat

Snapchat announced that Public Stories will now be shareable outside of the platform. It will be possible to share Public Stories (Official Stories, Our Stories and Search Stories) through links and these will play natively on Twitter. On Facebook, they will look like YouTube videos and links will direct back to the Snapchat website, meaning videos can now be seen on the web as well. For those concerned with privacy, not all content will be shareable – you still can’t post anyone’s Stories publicly.

Community viewing tested on Facebook

In another move to emphasise interactivity and community, Facebook introduced ‘Watch Party’ which will enable members of a group to see a video together. The group administrators or moderators will choose the videos for the team to watch with an emphasis on Live videos, as the company said they drive SIX times more interactions than other videos.

The launch of Vine 2 was announced

After Vine was shut down a year ago, a remake of the video looping platform will be introduced this year. One of the original platform’s founders has built the new app separately from Twitter, which acquired the original Vine app (and then killed it). Vine 2 will be free to use and users can promote and monetise their uploads. The original Vine app let users upload six-second-long looping video clips onto the platform. When the app was cancelled in 2017, users could upload posts to Twitter or save to their camera using ‘Vine Camera’ but users still missed the previous format.

Facebook cancelled its messenger assistant

Facebook announced that it was cancelling its human/artificial digital assistant, which never left beta mode, meaning only a few thousand have ever tried it. M was Facebook’s answer to Siri and Google Assistant and uses a mix of artificial intelligence and human training to answer users’ questions. This doesn’t spell the end for all Facebook’s M technology as companies can still use the key-word driven suggestions and chatbots. Facebook also said in a statement that the insights gained from the trial will be used for other AI projects.

Instagram partnered with GIPHY

Instagram users are now able to add animated GIF stories to Stories. The new update means that in addition to the normal stickers, GIF stickers can now be added to videos and photos in Instagram Stories. Through the new partnership GIPHY is providing a library for hundreds of thousands of GIFs for Instagram users to resize, rotate and pin down on a video.

Facebook announced it will rank news sources based on trust

Facebook announced that it will survey users on how much they trust publishers and rank their content according to aggregated results. After it became evident that the social network had been used to manipulate opinions surrounding the 2016 US Presidential election, many have been waiting for a similar move to address the Fake News epidemic.

Written by Harriet Chamberlain, Head of Digital

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