June: social media roundup

Instagram makes sponsored content more transparent – Instagram is rolling out a tag on posts and Stories, to make sponsored content more clear and transparent. The new tags read ‘Paid partnership with…’ just below the poster’s handle, removing the need for the #ad or #sponsored tags. This isn’t a surprise given the platform’s owners, Facebook, now use a ‘Paid’ tag whenever a post is published as a result of a commercial partnership or agreement. Another benefit of this new tag is that, when used, both the poster and business partner will be able to access Insights for that post; the partner won’t have to rely on the poster relaying details on how well the post has performed as they will be able to access reach and engagement metrics through their Facebook Page Insights. Instagram has said that this new tagging tool will be rolled out more widely, hand-in-hand with “an official policy and enforcement guidelines”, in the next few months.

However…Instagram influencers are in breach of regulations – A study from influencer agency Mediakix has found that only 7% of Instagram sponsored content is posted in line with guidelines and regulations outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US. According to their research, 32 of the top 50 celebrities posted sponsored content in May but 93% of these posts failed to meet the rules that require ambassadors to make it obvious when posts have a “material connection” to a company (relevant whether or not money has been paid). Only 9 of the 152 posts shared were signposted correctly, indicating that brands are failing in their responsibility to fully brief their chosen partners on the disclosure requirements when posting. Ads are required to include #ad high up in the post, not hidden or cut off in a caption. Brand tags are not sufficient, nor is the use of #sp or #partner instead of #sponsored. In April, the FTC sent 90 letters of warning to influencers and brand partners that outline the position. In the UK, the Committee of Advertising Practice has issued new guidelines for brands working with influencers following widespread confusion, although some experts have said there still isn’t enough clarity or sufficient incentive to ensure a level playing field with regard to sponsored activity.

Facebook pushes towards sharing mostly video content – With the aim in mind of the majority of shared content being video, Facebook has introduced a new feature. The ‘play button’ icon offers users a stream of video content in a new tab which has been confirmed by Facebook to be undergoing initial testing in India. The new icon shows users videos from pages they follow as well as videos that are liked or shared by their friends. Users will also be able to search for more videos by selecting categories including entertainment, comedy, lifestyle, animals, sports and news. This new tab is one more step towards Mark Zuckerberg’s aim for 90% video by next year, as well as the prediction that by 2019 80% of all the internet’s traffic will be video content.

Twitter live streams five BBC general election specials – Twitter partnered with the BBC to offer live streaming of five election specials in the run up to last month’s General Election. This is the first time the BBC has worked with Twitter in this way and shows the broadcaster’s efforts to engage more with its audiences and give the public more opportunities to have their questions answered by the politicians in charge. Alongside the live stream, Twitter showed a real-time curated timeline of tweets that will allow followers to see immediate commentary on the shows from BBC political pundits.

Facebook gets political with a manifesto comparison tool – Twitter isn’t the only social network that stuck its oar into politics last month. Facebook released a manifesto comparison tool to match 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 was 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”.

Snapchat shows friends and trending content by location – Snapchat launched a(nother) new feature! The social network now lets users see where their friends are, with the new Snap Map. The map lets users share their current location, which appears to all friends and updates when the app is opened. To access it, pinch on the Snapchat camera home screen to see where friends are, as well as ‘heat’ colours that show where lots of Snaps are being uploaded and Story content in popular areas (e.g. ‘Adele: The Finale’ at Wembley Stadium).

Facebook adds value to advertising campaigns – Facebook introduced two new tools to give publishers more value in their campaigns. These new tools – value optimisation and Lookalike Audiences – are designed to help business owners grow their company through Facebook ads. Value optimisation allows advertisers to optimise their campaigns based on purchase value data that is passed through the Facebook pixel. This means marketers can focus campaigns on anticipated purchase value: using purchase values sent from the pixel and estimating how much a user might spend over a seven-day period. This then adjusts the ad’s bid so that adverts are shown to those people most likely to spend money on your business, at a low cost. Lookalike Audiences let advertisers include a value column in the list of customers – they can then use this to reach new people that ‘look’ like their highest-spending customers. The lists are no longer limited based on spend or LTV, but can now include this additional weighted signal so that the platform can target users who are most likely to spend money after seeing an ad.

Twitter chatbots get interactive – Another new Twitter feature has been launched: a wider range of call-to-action buttons inside Direct Message conversations with chatbots. These new buttons encourage users to tweet about the bot, visit their website, follow the company’s Twitter account or start a chat with another account run by the same business, amongst others. The update also adds to the arsenal of features already available for within DMs, including welcome messages, quick replies, custom profiles and location sharing. These new buttons can be configured for a number of purposes that take place outside Direct Message conversations, such as writing a tweet, following a particular account, or opening a website from within Twitter’s app. The call-to-action text (or emoji) on the button is fully customisable, and up to three buttons can be used at once.

Facebook adds to its automated features – Facebook is pushing towards more automation, taking on chatbots yet again and bolstering Messenger’s artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant. Discover, the new hub inside Messenger, is designed to offer users new and interesting chatbots to message with. This new feature is going live for US users, giving them the opportunity to interact with businesses and brands in more useful ways. People can browse by category, see featured bots, and check out bots they have recently interacted with. In other news ‘M’, Messenger’s AI personal assistant, has been given more tasks. Following its launch to all US users in April this year, Facebook has revealed three more suggestions that have started rolling out to users. Firstly, M will suggest that users can save content – including URLs, videos, Facebook posts, events and pages – to read, watch or share later; when content is saved, it is then grouped by conversation. Secondly, M will prompt users to wish contacts happy birthday if they are already in a one-on-one conversation with them. Finally, the assistant will suggest a voice or video call if somebody expresses an intention to make a call (e.g. “want to call me?” or “call us”). These new suggestions join the ability to send stickers, pay or request money, share location, make plans, start a poll and get a ride with Lyft or Uber. All suggestions are powered by machine learning and are entirely automated and users have the option to ignore or dismiss unhelpful suggestions, or to mute M altogether in their settings.

Facebook will let brands test ad creatives before they go live – Facebook is testing some new tools to help creatives experiment with their ad campaigns and understand how real users would respond to them. The first tool (not yet publicly available) will provide a snapshot of video results, giving advertisers the insights they need to optimise their creative based on real metrics. The second tool is already available and allows advertisers to deliver their mocked up ads in real time – directly from the Creative Hub. This tool allows creative teams to deliver final ad assets for Facebook and Instagram to their media agencies – and by just using one tool. This means no more zip files and emails between businesses and their agencies, which saves a lot of time. Once the creative has been signed off, managers can publish their ad very easily.

WhatsApp – a major news source? – In parts of the world, WhatsApp is becoming one of the prevailing ways that people discover and discuss news, according to a new study by the Digital News Report, which was sponsored by Google and the BBC. In Malaysia, more than 50% of those surveyed said they used WhatsApp to access news once a week, whilst in the US and UK it is low (at present) at 3% and 5% respectively. According to the report, the platform is now the second most popular social service for news in nine of the 36 locations, and the third most popular platform in a further five countries.

Snapchat attempts to lure advertisers with new features – To take on Facebook’s dominance of social media advertising, Snapchat has announced a Publisher tool for building vertical video creatives, a self-serve Ad Manager and a Snapchat Certified Partners program to connect advertisers to trained third-party ad tech tool providers. Together, these will make it easier for advertisers to handle their own campaigns start to finish, or have their hands held through the process. Snap needs to attract more spend from advertisers after it disappointed Wall Street in its first earnings report last month where it revealed $149.6 million in revenue compared to the $158 million expectations.

Skype gets in on the Stories action – Yet another social platform has introduced Stories. Skype has been completely revamped and has 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”.

Rise of the Instagrans – ONS research has 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.

Twitter redesign makes the user experience more minimalist – Twitter has launched a redesign of the desktop, mobile and app versions of the network. The new look is more minimalist, more intuitive and less cluttered, and is designed to further place the focus on breaking news and trending topics. One of the new features is that users can see in real-time when a tweet is liked or retweeted, with the numbers automatically updating from their timelines as opposed to upon refresh; this gives a more instant impression of when a tweet is significant.

Instagram rolls out an ‘archive’ feature – Instagram now allows users to put any pictures that they no longer want public into an ‘archive’ which only they can access. Users will now be able to archive any photo by tapping the three dots on the top right of a post, and selecting ‘archive’. After being archived, these posts then move into a special section of the app located at the top right corner of each user’s profile. Why would users want to archive a photo? This new feature is ideal to hide posts that don’t get the level of engagement they were expected to get, but that the user wants to hold on to for their records. The feature is similar to Snapchat’s Memories section, which is designed to hold photos and videos captured for posterity. If users decide they want to make their picture public again, they can opt to unarchive a photo easily.

Written by Becca Ingram, Digital Strategist (@_beccaingram)

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