34 platform and tool updates from the social web in the last 90 days
In my day job at Ketchum I run our Engagement Network. It’s a community of digital and social practitioners across the world.
We keep a watching brief for what’s happening on the internet looking for ways to better understand consumer behaviour and help our clients engage with their publics.
Here are the digital, traditional media and social updates that we spotted during the last quarter. There are platform updates, new tools, media innovation, and new reports and regulations.
#1 Twitter to go beyond 140 characters?
Twitter is tinkering with the length of tweets. This is founder and newly confirmed CEO Jack Dorsey’s latest idea to increase active users from the current level of around 300 million. Account names, images and URL links may be excluded from the 140 character count.
#2 Twitter kills share counter button
Twitter has angered the internet by announcing that it intends to switch off the code that feeds social sharing buttons to simplify the interface. It’s an odd move as social proof is an intrinsic part of internet culture. Brands and publishers wanting to keep using the feature will need to build their own using Gnip, Twitter’s data arm.
#3 Twitter DM throttle removed
Twitter has removed the 140 character limitation on direct messages. It’s unusual for a feature change to be so useful. It puts Twitter on a more equal footing with other messaging platforms. It’ll be useful for pitching and customer service applications but avoid spam.
#4 Check your Twitter data
Twitter has pushed out a new dashboard so that users can see how their data is being used by third party apps. The dashboard, available in settings, allows you to review log-in times, devices used, and the activity of apps that you’ve allowed access your account. Delete anything you don’t need.
#5 Facebook tests GIF-style profile photos and new layout
Facebook is testing tweaks to user pages. The social media giant continues to make multiple product changes per week. Users on the latest iOS mobile app in California and UK are seeing video profile images, a one-liner biography, photos, and updates presented as cards.
#6 Blogging is back on Facebook
Facebook has spotted LinkedIn, Medium and Tumblr’s success with long form content and wants a piece of the action. It launched a significant upgrade to the Notes app this quarter. There’s no news yet as to whether Notes will be rolled out beyond people profiles. For now it’s a tool that will appeal to influencers with large Facebook networks.
#7 Virtual reality format hits Facebook
360 videos have launched in the Facebook newsfeed. Follow Discovery, GoPro, Star Wars and VICE if you want to see content from the launch partners. Cameras cost around $800 so it’s a format for major brands and publishers. It’s the first product we’ve seen from the Oculus acquisition integrated into the main Facebook platform.
#8 Facebook M rivals Google and Siri
Google’s search algorithms are getting smarter but they aren’t yet able respond to a verbal query and match location (Hoxton or Shoreditch etc.), context (age, friends, time of day etc.) and topic (coffee, cake etc.). The so-called virtual assistant market is heating up. Facebook is launching a service called M that combines artificial intelligence with human support. The service has rolled out initially in the US as part of the Messenger app.
#9 Facebook photo recognition doesn’t need to see your face
Privacy klaxon. Facebook is working on facial-recognition technology that can identify someone even if their face isn't in the photo. The algorithm looks at various attributes including hair, clothing and body type to determine who is in the photo.
#10 Daily Active Users (DAUs) record
One billion people used Facebook on Monday 24 August. Not in a week, or a month but in a single day. Daily Active Users (DAU) is set to become the new metric for digital services. It’s not over yet. Two-thirds of the world’s 7.3 billion population has yet to get online. Helping them get connected is Facebook’s purpose. Have a look at Internet.org.
#11 Facebook simplifies pixel tracking, links customer audiences
Facebook has simplified the tracking pixels that enable us to follow customer journeys between Facebook and third-party web sites. This new tracking mechanism enables us to report on numerous different actions and build custom audiences for re-targeting. Here’s a great primer.
#12 Brand retail shops on Facebook
Retail is coming to Facebook. This is much more than the buy button launched in June. A new shop page will sit alongside the about tab on a brand’s Facebook page. Digiday has the story on Facebook’s new ecommerce play. Mark 2015 is the year that social commerce became a thing. Buy buttons have started to litter social platforms.
#13 Facebook gives users greater newsfeed control
You can now take greater control over your newsfeed by forcing brands and friends into and out of your feed. Your brand and media suggestions will improved as a result. Select Friends and Pages to see first by tweaking the Following/See First setting on each page via the web, or use News Feed Preferences in the mobile app.
#14 Instagram adds 100 million new users in nine months
Instagram has put on 100 million active users in nine months to hit 400 million. According to the platform half the growth has come from the US, with the balance in Asia and Europe. Brand ads and promoted videos aren’t turning users away.
#15 Instagram engagement study
There are a few surprises in a Hubspot study of Instagram engagement. It analysed 1.5 million images. We know #hastags work but Instagram likes shots posted with no filter, cool colours and de-saturated but bright. Action and faces get more likes. Calls to action work.
#16 Instagram trends challenge Twitter
Instagram’s Explore menu takes a much more Twitter-like approach by surfacing posts based on trending tags and locations. Instagram wants in on real time. Ensure images are geo- and hash-tagged as part of any campaign. The new feature is only available in the US for now, with other markets to follow.
#17 Thinking outside the square
At last. Instagram has announced support for landscape and portrait formats. Instagram you’re spoiling us. Its popularity is such that a third-party app market has developed to slice up images before posting to Instagram.
#18 Instagram adds web services (at last)
Instagram has embraced the desktop. You can now login to an account and search for hashtags, locations, and user accounts from the desktop.
#19 Instagram increases image size by 70%
Instagram is increasing the size of images from 640 x 640 to 1,080 x 1,080. That means better quality photos for third party integrations, big screens and physical prints. The Android app is the first to make the switch with iPhone to follow.
#20 LinkedIn focuses on editorial in Groups
LinkedIn is going through a transition in the way that it manages Groups. It’s moving Groups to its member services team. They’ll be fewer ads or commercial opportunities. The platform has recognised that Groups are places for members to come together for discussions and that ads get in the way. It plays to the strength of public relations on LInkedIn as a means of editorial engagement.
#21 LinkedIn hits publishing milestone
The numbers tell the story: 350 million users, 200 countries; and 1-in-3 of all professionals on the planet. LinkedIn added another milestone this quarter when it announced a million people publishing on the platform. Editor Daniel Roth shared a post explaining the benefit for thought leadership, sales and marketing.
#22 Periscope goes horizontal
Live streaming app Periscope has added a landscape feature, Live stream in landscape for bigger, wider images. This is a shift away from the vertical portrait format previously favoured. It makes sense as it makes better use of the screen on a mobile device.
#23 More media on SnapChat
Snapchat Discover's media shelf just got bigger. The messaging app has added IGN,Tastemade and Mashable to its publisher line-up. Discover partners such as the CNN and Daily Mail are re-purposing and creating original content for Snapchat's 100 million-plus active users.
#24 Pinterest links IFFFT and Polyvore
Pinterest’s first partners for its developer platform are starting to roll out. Polyvore and If This Then That (IFTTT) are first up. IFTTT’s enables Pinterest accounts to be connected to other services such as Dropbox or Instagram for backups while Polyvore has added a Pinterest login and Pinterest board collections.
#25 Imgur takes aim at Pinterest for men
Imgur is Pinterest for blokes or Reddit for photos. Images are voted up and down. The platform has 150 million monthly users most of which are millennial men. The platform has taken its promoted posts out of beta after trial campaigns with brands such as eBay.
#26 Apple creates new media format with Live Photos
Live Photos announced by Apple for the iPhone 6 is likely to be disruptive. Its built into the new iOS and both Facebook and Instagram will support the format in mobile apps last this year. Apple says a live phone is not a GIF and it’s not a video. The new media format extends the moment of capture by a second-and-a-half either side of a photo.
#27 Wikipedia kicks out 380 editors
Wikipedia has banned 380 English so-called ‘black hat’ accounts that were engaging in paid advocacy on behalf of brands. Editing content on Wikipedia when you have a conflict of interest breaches its guidelines. Instead engage with editors via the Talk Pages. Here’s a best practice guide.
#28 Making GIFs and other images
Gifmaker doesn’t stamp a watermark in the corner of the image so is good for quick improvised jobs. Canva is another handy low-cost tool for making quick images for sharing on social media or in decks. Its drag-and-drop feature and professional layouts help to produce stunning graphics.
#29 Turn your content into a GIF
Giphy, the GIF platform has launched a new iPhone app that you’re want to download called Giphycam. GIFs are much leaner than video and automatically run almost anywhere on the web. Use Giphycam to pull together posts, tweets and photos into a GIF.
#30 48 how-to guides to PR tools
PRstack has now published two books consisting of 48 free how-to guides to third-party tools, to help public relations professionals get better at digital public relations. I started the open source community last year to help characterise tools and workflow. Follow this link for free downloads or to buy print copies.
#31 Social scheduling tools
Buffer, Hootsuite (note issues with scheduling native images), Sprout Social and Tweekdeck are variously recommended by the Ketchum Engagement Network as tools for scheduling social media posts. Schedule with care kids, and always turn of sharing software when an issue or crisis bubbles up.
#32 Recipe publisher becomes native ad platform
Allrecipes has had an overhaul. You won’t find any ads on the new site. Instead brands have profile pages and content is embedded in editorial. It’s become a massive native ad platform. This is another example or earned and paid media integration.
Reports and regulation
#33 Much of the ad traffic on the internet is fake
A rash of ad tech writers have been poking at traffic data. Bloomberg published an excellent primer. If data looks too good to be true it probably is. We’ve been here before. It’s an excellent argument for investing in public relations and building trust online through relationships rather than ads.
#34 Influencer disclosure guidance from UK authority
The UK Advertising Standards Authority has issued guidance on how bloggers/vloggers should disclose relationships with brands. This is an emerging area of practice and so has implications worldwide. The UK advertising watchdog says brands are responsible for sponsored content and that it should be clearly labelled as such.