Year to date: 50 platform and tool updates from the social web
In my day job at Ketchum I lead the 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 first half of 2016. There are platform updates, new tools, media innovation, and new research and regulations.
If you like this list you may also want to check the Ketchum Almanac containing the top 100 digital and social stories from 2015, and seven trends for 2016.
#1 AmazonTube (Amazon Video Direct)
Amazon has launched a UGC video service for amateur and professional content producers in Austria, Germany, Japan, UK and US. The service launched with Conde Nast Entertainment, HowStuffWorks, The Guardian, Mashable, Mattel, StyleHaul, Business Insider, Machinima and Baby Einstein, amongst others.
#2 Facebook breaks six degrees of separation
The classic model of six degrees of separation has been compressed by the internet. Each person in the world, and there’s 1.6 billion people active on Facebook, is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people. Head to the Facebook blog to find out more, and your own degrees of separation.
#3 Facebook releases 360 photos
Facebook has released 360 degree photos on its timeline. Think product demos and tourism. Brands that go early with this new format will inevitably get attention.
#4 Facebook news: editors not algorithms
Here’s a link to the must-read leaked Facebook memo (via The Guardian) confirming that the social media platform has an editorial team influencing news topics. It blacklists stories, relies heavily on ten major sources, and has strict guidelines on personalities.
#5 Messenger bots for brands
Messenger bots are one of Facebook’s bets from F8. It has published a learning API, challenging the developer community to develop commerce and customer service services, within messenger.
#6 Facebook live video launches
Facebook live video has been enabled for all Facebook accounts. Anyone with an account can stream to a page or group. Video is shown live and available for replay. Use it to extend the audience for live events.
#7 Facebook audience insights
Here’s a primer on using Facebook Audience Insights for public relations planning. The social network is reaching saturation in many Western markets and has become a useful proxy for exploring demographics and human behaviour.
#8 Mixed emotions
We can now respond to Facebook posts with a range of five reactions: angry, haha, love, sad and wow. Brands need to plan for the reputational impact of negative emotions.
#9 Facebook in numbers
Facebook’s growth continues. There’s 1.04 billion people using the platform everyday (1.59 billion per month). It accounts for around 50% of the 3.2 billion internet users globally, according to data from the ITU, and 21.5% of the global population.
#10 Not all Facebook users are equal
Facebook’s 2015 revenue was $17.93 billion. But not all users generate equal ad revenue for the platform. A US user is worth $13.54 per quarter; Europe $4.50; Asia-Pacific $1.59; and rest of the world $1.22. It’s a good indicator of where Facebook invests effort in product development.
#11 Google I/O: bots and messaging
Google’s I/O developer conference was packed with new stuff from the search giant. Google Home is to rival Amazon Echo. Allo is a messaging app with a resident chat bot. Duo is Google’s FaceTime competitor. There were also too many Android announcements to mention.
#12 Social updates in Google search results, trial
Google is experimenting with a new format for search results that could eventually let any brand, celebrity, or organisation have a dedicated Twitter-like feed built into search results around keywords. It's being tested in the US Presidential campaign race, and other places around the web.
#13 Google launches influencer platform
Google has built a new influencer platform on top of Collections called Create. It opened for registrations last week, aimed at content creators that are influential in a market. Watch this space.
#14 Google ditches right hand ad bar
Google is pulling the right hand side ad bar from search results on the desktop. In a move better suited for mobile, ads will be displayed above organic links. Here’s a must read primer from Search Engine Land on the change.
#15 Instagram newsfeed algorithm switched on
We were warned that it was coming in March. Instagram is publishing content using an algorithmic feed. Brands will need to pay to play but it does mean that we’ll finally get decent analytics. Impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity are all coming soon.
#16 Instagram brand pages
#17 Video update for Instagram
Instagram has launched 60 second videos for its platform. Multi-clip video stitching is also coming for the iOS platform. It’s a powerful form of storytelling for brands. Check out Instagram’s video about the new product.
#18 Instagram account switching
In case you missed it, Instagram account switching on the app is live, meaning that you can swap between personal and corporate accounts on the platform. Use the new feature but always check credentials before you post.
#19 Cut and paste plan for LinkedIn
If you work on LinkedIn you’ll want to check out this tactical plan. It includes useful insight on activities including content, community management, Slideshare and sponsored mechanics.
#20 Microsoft moves into enterprise social media
Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 billion. It gives Microsoft a social network, professional graph, content and a sales channel. It may also use the platform to develop its own enterprise social network service.
#22 LinkedIn driving tonnes of traffic
Data from Parsley suggests that referrals from LinkedIn to publishers spiked as much as three-fold in 2015. Business Insider, Forbes and the Financial Times all confirmed the data. The upturn results from LinkedIn Pulse, and sharing in networks following the app redesign.
#23 Game over for Meerkat in livestreaming
Meerkat may have been the first livestreaming app but it failed to get sufficient head start on Facebook’s life streaming, or Twitter’s Periscope. The app has admitted it's game over for livestreaming and is focussing on building a video social network.
#24 Periscope fight back against Facebook Live
Live streaming platform Periscope has announced broadcast search, support for filming from drones, and archiving beyond 24 hours. In the coming weeks you’ll be able to search for broadcasts by title or topic.
#25 Periscope adds data and doodles
Facebook Live has shaken up the streaming video market. YouTube has a live 360 product in the works, and Periscope has improved its analytics and added a doodling tool.
#26 Influencer marketplace for Instagram and Snapchat
There’s a lot of aggregation going in the influence business. We’ve a team interviewing networks and making sense of it all. Meanwhile a new marketplace called Gnack pairs influencers on Instagram and SnapChat with brands. Pricing is based on content and demographic.
#27 SnapChat geo-filters for local and small business
Snapchat has launched on-demand location based filters. They join its portfolio of community and sponsored filters. The minimum size is 5,000 square feet (enough to cover an office building) and minimum time is 30 minutes. Costs start at $5.
#28 Paid lens no more, SnapChat
The lenses store has gone from SnapChat. No longer can you pay $0.99 to become a unicorn or puke rainbows. Instead, the messaging app has added lenses to its ad inventory for brands and will release them free to users.
#29 About time Twitter
Twitter won't use valuable characters in the 140 character limit. Stuff that won't count in the 140: @replies, links, media attachments, and RT. We need edits next, please Twitter.
#30 Twitter at ten
Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday. The platform has yet to find a viable business model but is adored by its 320 million users. Very few brands use it well as a means of two-way engagement. Here’s 10 reasons why you should be using Twitter if you aren’t already.
#31 .@Twitter, er, thanks
Twitter has updated its timeline so that top tweets are displayed by relevance, not time. You can head to settings to wind back the feature. Brands and users that post good content will be rewarded and receive more clicks, likes and retweets. In other news Twitter is also fixing the .@reply.
#32 Paying for Twitter’s top slot
First View is a way for brands to hack the new timeline and place promoted video content in the top ad slot (top of the timeline) for 24 hours. It’s being rolled out in US with other markets to follow.
#33 Twitter tool for analytics, planning and workflow
#34 Stickers are the new Twitter hashtag
Twitter is introducing stickers for images uploaded to your feed, which are also searchable when tapped. Users can add stickers to uploaded images which then become searchable. If successful it will almost certainly become a media product.
#35 WhatsApp on the web
If you’re a WhatsApp user you’ll want to check out the web interface. It’s an elegantly simple interface that enables you to use WhatsApp on your desktop. Another Ketchum Digital Almanac prediction hits home.
#36 Social video: six to nine seconds
YouTube’s new bumper ads are six seconds. Meanwhile Facebook’s user data suggest that nine seconds is the optimum length for video content in a news stream. The answer almost certainly lies in the middle. Short form video content is social.
Hot apps and tools
#37 Gboard integrates search into iPhone keyboard
iPhone users will want to download the #Gphone app if you haven’t already. It integrates search into your iPhone keyboard. Watch the video and wonder how you managed without it.
#38 Hemingway App for bolder and clearer copy
Tool of the week is Hemingway. This app, like the eponymous writer, strips back language to the bare essentials. It will help you add emotion and punch to your copy, and improve its readability.
#39 Stripped down Slack workflow hack
Workflowy is a stripped down version of Slack built around a to-do list. Use it to build, share and collaborate on workflows, tasks, sub tasks and lists. The basic offering is free. Thanks to Scott Gutherie for the spot.
#40 Who pays influencers?
This anonymous crowdsourced project calls out brands paying influencers. It claims that it wants to celebrate best practice by brands, and share opportunities for artists and creators. Disclosure is critical in influencer marketing but insist on payment confidentiality.
#41 New news app: Quartz
Here’s an app that you’re going to want to check out. Quartz is an ongoing conversation about the news. It's a mash-up of messages, photos, GIFs, and links. You can tap to respond when you’re interested or move to a new session after every few minutes.
#42 Tool to spot trending topics in niche networks
Nuzzel identifies trending topics in a niche Facebook or Twitter network. You point the app at a network and set thresholds for number of shares and frequency. It alerts you via email or a push message. Free for now, targeted at publishers. Likely to be funded using a native model.
#43 Painting a virtual perspective
Google has launched a virtual painting app. The concept is simple: put on a headset and paint the room around you. Virtual reality was a trend that we spotted in the Almanac for 2016. It’s hot for immersive environments, product demos, and travel.
#44 People read long form on mobile (but not to the end)
More insight, this time from Pew Research, suggests that people will engage with long-form written content (more than 1,000 words) on a mobile device but that they’ll rarely read to the end of an article.
#45 Do brands love us? Maybe
Social media practice divides neatly into two camps: relationships vs. traffic. It’s the difference between PR and marketing, neatly demonstrated by Curtis Silver who shared his affection for more than 1,000 brands via Twitter. The reactions are a must read.
#46 Three billion people online
Worldwide Internet usage reached three billion at the end of 2016 according to Mary Meeker. Growth has flattened to around 10% year-on-year since 2012 (9% year-on-year in both 2014 and 2015). However, in India growth is accelerating. It’s now the second largest internet market by users behind China, and ahead of the US.
#47 Mobile advertising opportunity
The discontinuity in advertising investment lies in the mobile market. It accounts for 25% of consumption, and 12% of investment. Mary Meeker suggests this is a $22 billion opportunity in the US alone. It’s an opportunity that will inevitably see further pain for print publishers.
#48 Ad blocking vs innovation
Mobile advertising is an opportunity that will create further tension between consumers and media. According to Mary Meeker more than 13% of consumers use ad blockers worldwide, equivalent to 400 million users. Retrofitting traditional advertising solutions on the Internet simply doesn’t work. It’s an area ripe for innovation.
#49 Research: native ads impact reputation of publishers (but not advertisers)
An academic study has found that native advertising may create negative perceptions of media outlets but don't think less of the brand that purchases the native ad.
#50 UK government agency spotlights influencer marketing disclosure
Influencer marketing came under scrutiny again in the UK in April as fresh guidance was issued to agencies by the Competition & Markets Authority. It followed numerous recent breaches by agencies and brands.