May: social media roundup

Facebook gets political with a manifesto comparison tool – Prior to the election, Facebook released a manifesto comparison tool that matches individual news articles with the standpoint taken by each political party on that issue. This is a build on the successful use of a similar tool that was used during the Presidential election in France. The news items came with a location-sensitive prompt, outlining the parties’ stances on housing as well as economic and foreign affairs. Facebook’s explanation is that they “created a space that allows each party to share explanations of their campaigns directly to people through their Facebook page” and that users “can choose to engage with different party pages to learn about the issues that matter to them”.

Instagram vs Snapchat – a new Instagram feature is very familiar. The photo based social network has launched a set of eight ‘Face Filters’ that add live special effects to selfies. These effects reflect the famous filters that Snapchat users have become well-acquainted with. With over 700 million monthly users – and more than 200 million of these using Stories every day – it doesn’t seem impossible that this new update could be the death of Snapchat. Face Filters, which work with photos, videos and Boomerang clips, are activated by opening the camera and tapping a new face icon in the bottom right. This update also includes a ‘Rewind’ mode for videos, letting users create video clips that play backwards. The platform has also introduced new ‘hashtag stickers’, which take viewers to a page of related content by simply clicking on the hashtag.

Facebook’s ambitions for 360-degree video continue to grow – Facebook has partnered with Blend Media, focusing on growing a “creator community” of experts to grow its 360-degree video proposition. Blend Media is a technology platform, working with brands, agencies and publishers to create projects centered around 360-degree video. The focus on a creator community is due to the lack of widespread availability of the equipment – and corresponding skillset – needed to create 360-degree videos. With this symbiotic partnership, Facebook is able to access Blend Media’s premium content library and can use this to drive growth in 360-degree video creation. In turn, Blend Media will work with Facebook’s 360 team, allowing its own creators to “push boundaries”. Blend Media is also working on a platform that will brands create their own 360-degree video campaigns from their content library and then upload seamlessly to Facebook.

Snapchat expands its Sponsored Creative Tools – Snapchat has been working on its ad offerings to make the most of its popular lenses and geofilters. The social network has introduced World Lenses, Audience Lenses and Smart Geofilters, choosing to focus on its creative tools. This is a smart move, given that more than one in three daily Snapchat users uses Lenses every day and snaps including Geofilters are viewed over one billion times a day. The intention appears to be that interactive content keeps users engaged with content and encourages them to repeatedly launch the app – and this set of engaging tools is now being extended to advertisers. World Lenses are an extension on the Sponsored Lens – which lets advertisers turn users’ selfies into adverts – that allow advertisers to create content around the subject’s face, including floating 2D or 3D objects and interactive content. Audience Lenses allow advertisers to purchase regionally-targeted Lenses for the first time, letting them buy a guaranteed number of Lens impressions for a specific audience. Finally, Smart Geofilters will automatically include location details, or other real-time information, in a nationwide or chain Geofilter.

Facebook embodies Twitter with ‘Latest Conversations’ – Facebook took notes from Twitter’s ‘Explore’ tab, and introduced a new feature showing the most recent posts about timely topics. ‘Latest Conversations’ will give users a wider view of the discussions around trending topics, showing public posts from users outside your social circle. This differs from the previous keyword-based search, whereby users would be shown news articles, photos, videos, public posts, pages, groups and apps related to the search term.

LinkedIn adds to its advertising capabilities – LinkedIn’s advertising platform has historically not been as user-friendly and effective as Facebook or Twitter’s. However, the platform has now introduced ‘Matched Audiences’, with three tools to help its members reach new audiences through ads. Matched Audiences is a set of targeting capabilities, giving users the ability to combine LinkedIn’s professional data with their own captured information. Website retargeting is a well-known and loved feature on Facebook: the ability to advertise on your social network to users who have already visited your website. This re-engages users who are already aware of your brand and have taken proactive steps towards interacting with your company. In a pilot programme, LinkedIn found that website retargeting resulted in a 30% increase in click-through rate and a 14% drop in post-click cost-per-conversion. Account targeting lets companies share information about a product or service with any of the 12 million companies on the platform – just by uploading a CSV file. By uploading a list of company names, LinkedIn scours this and matches the list with companies registered on the network. The advertiser can then target key decision-makers at their chosen companies. The pilot programme showed a 32% increase in post-click conversion rates and a 4.7% drop in post-click cost-per-conversion. Contact targeting means that, with a CSV list of contacts or direct connection to a marketing platform, LinkedIn now allows for direct campaigns – users can advertise to people associated with the information provided. The most successful of the three new features, contact targeting showed a 37% increase in click-through rate in the pilot programme.

Twitter added 9 million more users in the last quarter – Twitter saw 6% growth in monthly active users last quarter compared to the same time last year – adding 9 million additional users and reaching 328 million in total. The platform also said that the number of daily users on the platform has been increasing at a faster pace every quarter for the past year, with a 14% year-on-year increase. The social network put this increase partly down to “new and resurrected users following more news and political accounts” – especially across the pond in the US. CEO Jack Dorsey also said that this increase is attributable to the platform’s focus on its core use case – “making sure people go to Twitter and understand what’s happening immediately”. It will be interesting to see whether user growth continues at this pace now Twitter has hit the nail on the head with its marketing.

Rise of the Instagrans – ONS research found that approximately 75% of over 65-year-olds use the internet, with the biggest growth seen in women over the age of 75. Interestingly, the number of over-65s who are active on social networks has grown from 15% to 23%, with social media becoming a part of their everyday lives. Specifically, these users say they use social platforms to connect with like-minded people, for health information and to engage with others experiencing the same issues. Their focus is on expression and engagement as opposed to selfies. Similar research in the US indicates the same pattern; 42% of US adults over the age of 65 now own smartphones, compared to 18% back in 2013.

Skype gets in on the Stories action – Yet another social platform has introduced Stories. Skype has been completely revamped and introduced a number of new features that have previously been seen in Messenger and Snapchat, including a Stories-esque feature called Highlights. Microsoft has said the makeover aims to offer users an equivalent to social networks’ stage to perform and broadcast, giving them “the local coffeehouse or corner pub, where you meet people on a daily basis to deepen your relationships”. Microsoft is aiming to make Skype a better tool for communication among a closer-knit community of family and friends – hence including ephemeral sharing as one of its new features. It is also adding bots and chat add-ins that rival Messenger’s. In chats, Cortana will be able to make suggestions, including quick stock responses. Scoop offers a one-on-one chat with personalised news story suggestions and summaries. The update will also include group chats, where users can co-watch videos from streaming services and YouTube together.

YouTube undergoes a redesign – Early in May, YouTube released its ‘clean’ new look which is designed to highlight users’ favourite videos and creators as well as making the site easier to use. In addition, it has also added the ability to activate a dark theme to reduce glare, and a faster framework that allows for the quicker building of new features.

Twitter enables emoji searching – Twitter followed in Instagram’s footsteps, and added ’emoji search’. Instagram has allowed users to search for emoji hashtags for the past two years, and Twitter has now added the capability for standalone emoji searches. Searches can consist of single, multiple, or extended chains of emojis. Users will now be able to search tweet content as well as usernames that contain emojis. This development has led to the release of, a site that keeps track of the number of uses of every emoji on the platform. Useful? We’ll see!

Instagram lets users upload through its website – Instagram recently updated its website, letting users upload images directly through a browser. This is good news for iPad users, who can now upload content without using the stretched iPhone app on their bigger device. However, the update is only on the mobile version of the site at the moment, so users on desktops will only be able to upload photos from their computer by accessing the mobile site. This update brings Instagram more in line with other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, where the website functionality is no less user-friendly than that of the mobile app. It means that users who don’t necessarily have a smartphone can still get involved and use the network. However, there is still a long way to go to bring the website up-to-date with the app; it lacks Stories, live video and the ability to apply filters to visuals.

Written by Becca Ingram, Digital Strategist (@_beccaingram)

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