The social media landscape is constantly changing. What's considered best practice one minute is passé the next - resting on what you know could see you miss out on crucial updates that change the way things work. Anyone in social media marketing knows this. There's nothing worse than having someone ask what 'that latest Facebook update means' and having no idea what it's in reference to. As a leader, you want - you need - to keep up with the trends and changes. And sometimes, that can be hard to do.
To make things a bit easier, here's a collection of some of the key social media updates and trends from the past month that you need to be aware of, as well as some use cases as to why these changes are relevant to social media marketers.
1. Facebook Adds New Messaging Options for Pages
In the first week of August, Facebook announced a series of new messaging options for page admins, aimed at increasing the personalization of Facebook customer experience. The updates include direct messaging via awareness ads and the ability to respond by private message to a page post.
Facebook also introduced new 'Page Responsiveness' badges, which highlight Pages that respond to customer queries quickly, as well as a new 'saved responses' feature, which enables page admins to use saved messages to respond to common customer queries faster.
Why does this matter?
The features will enable Facebook page admins to strengthen their connection with potential customers by facilitating more direct, one-to-one communication. Streamlining that initial connection process can be a big step towards conversion, and having the capacity to respond in a direct, personal way is becoming increasingly important in the modern, connected age.
More and more studies have shown that personalization is becoming a key differentiator for businesses in the modern marketplace. Consumers can search online for information, they can inform themselves in the lead-up to making a purchase - the majority of the sales process is complete before they even get in touch with your brand. Today's socially-empowered consumer has a voice, a platform in social media, a means to be heard - the brands that win are those that are listening.
Customers expect a brand to respond to their social media queries in a timely manner - 72% expect a response on Twitter within 60 minutes - and that expectation is only going to increase as digital natives, those who've grown up with social as part of their interactive DNA, grow into more lucrative demographic brackets. Even the most basic levels of personalization have been shown to increase customer satisfaction by 77%, it pays to be making the effort - these new messaging facilitate just that.
2. Instagram Introduces Portrait and Landscape Photos
Last week, Instagram announced that it would now support photos taken in portrait and landscape format, a major shift away from the traditional square format images of the platform.
Many users had been calling for this change for some time, Instagram's strict, square format had lead to many having to crop parts out of their images to fit into frame - some have even argued that Instagram's strict adherence to the square format has changed the way some photographers now go about their craft, as they always need to keep the platform's framing restrictions in mind. Now, they don't have to, you can create and post content in the format best suited to your image.
Why does this matter?
The key to success on Instagram is image quality. Yes, you can post a picture of an inspirational quote or basic, captured moments, and they might do okay, but the brands that are seeing the greatest success on the platform are those that are using it to tell stories, presenting compelling, attractive images. Take Nike, for example - their posts capture more than just their products in action, they capture aspiration, a sense of escape.
Greetings from mile one. It's here where you and a few of your fastest friends can enjoy a short, breathtaking stay. Relax, dig in your toes, and chase the sunset. Wish you were here. Find your fast at Nike.com/Zoom. #sofast
A photo posted by nike (@nike) on Jul 6, 2015 at 12:56pm PDT
In this sense, attention to detail is crucial, and part of that is the capability to create the images you want, in any format you need. The ability to post in different formats opens up new possibilities for Instagram creators, and will give brands more freedom to create content as they see fit. It may seem small in the scheme of social changes, but anyone who creates Instagram content regularly will know the additional range these changes open up.
3. Snapchat Switches to 'Tap to View'
This one was from early July, but it's a key update that not everyone is aware of - both in terms of the update itself and its impact on the Snapchat user experience. Everyone by now knows how Snapchat works - you can send images or video (or compilations of the two) upon which you can set an expiry time for how long that content can be viewed, between 1 and 10 seconds. The images take up the whole screen of the recipient's mobile device which, along with the time limit, makes the Snapchat experience very compelling, a process which has lead to incredibly high levels of engagement with Snapchat content.
Since its inception, viewing Snapchat posts has always required users to tap and hold their finger on screen to see the image/video. If you let go, it's gone, and that's been another element of the Snapchat engagement matrix. The original logic behind this was if you had to have your finger on screen, you couldn't take screenshots, ensuring the content disappears for good after being viewed. But users worked out ways around this and video content posted was getting longer - Snapchat decided that enough was enough and has now removed the need for users to keep a finger on screen to view snaps. Now, you just tap once and it'll play through.
Why does this matter?
The move to tap-to-view is a big one for Snapchat, the first major user experience change for the platform. The need to hold a finger on screen has always been part of the Snapchat experience - how will users respond when they no longer to do this? Will it mean more engagement, or less? The idea behind the change looks, at least in part, aimed at newer users, to make the platform more friendly to those unfamiliar with it, as opposed to experienced Snapchatters, but there is a risk that it could lower the hold Snapchat has on user attention.
That said, the new opportunities afforded for marketers because of this change are significant. Snapchat's grip on the Millennial audience is a major draw, with more than 60% of US smartphone users aged between 13 and 34 active on the platform, watching 3 billion videos every day. 3 billion. Snapchat's had great response to their video ad campaigns so far, and the change to tap-to-view increases the user-friendliness of such content, enabling users to view material free of distractions. If you're looking to reach the Millennial market, Snapchat is a platform you need to consider - it offers something no other platform can, 'intimacy at scale'.
The change to tap-to-view opens it up to a wider market, underlining, once again, as why the power of Snapchat must be taken seriously.
4. Blab.im Changes the Game on Live-Streaming
Live-streaming is the latest hypebeast of the social media marketing world. Everyone's talking about streaming, everyone's sending out links to the latest Periscope and Meerkat, sharing everything from their drive home to their bathroom habits (yes, this happened). But as noted in a Social Media Today post recently, the actual amount of people creating content on Periscope is not that high - only around 2.83% of users are actively broadcasting, with the rest just watching on.
Part of the problem with streaming is that it's intimidating. Some people have a level of showmanship by nature, and have taken to streaming like ducks to water, as it enables them to effectively have their own TV show. But others - many others evidently - are not as comfortable putting themselves out there and being the centre of attention. The latest player in the live-streaming market, Blab.im, changes that.
(image via Millennial CEO)
Blab enables live-streaming cross-participation. On every Blab, there are four screens available for four users. You can use them all or you can use just one, it's up to the host. Where Blab changes the game is it enables live, group conversations that engage the audience in a whole new way. Now, you can either watch on passively or, if you have something to say, you can jump in and join. This process is far less intimidating than starting up a live-stream and staring down the camera solo. And it's taking off as a result.
Why does this matter?
Make no mistake, Blab is important. Right now, you can go over to Blab and view a live conversation on a specific topic you're interested in amongst people who you know, like and trust. And you can join them, no matter where they are in the world. While Google Hangouts has facilitated similar capability for some time, no other platform has done it with such immediacy and community as Blab. What's more, Blab's team are always listening - I've been in several Blab's where members of the Blab team have been active in the comments or have joined the chat, they're enthusiastic and keen to improve the platform by listening to their community. That's extremely powerful, and is something that's already gaining them scores of advocates.
As an example of their efforts to respond to their community, when you finish an 'on the record' Blab (one that you're recording) you're immediately able to access both the MP4 video and MP3 audio of your session, which are e-mailed to the creator of the Blab session, along with an embed code. Blab recordings are available 'until the end of time', alleviating one of the major issues users had with Meerkat, in particular, on launch. This capacity already has many podcasters, in particular, jumping across to get involved.
For brands, Blab presents a major opportunity. You could set up a Blab with your CEO to take questions, sure, but thinking more creatively, you could set up an informative Blab with cameras set up to show different elements of your production process happening in real-time, as you speak. You could do a Blab with you on one screen, your computer screen on another, with which you could walk people through changes/updates easily. You can even set up links on one panel, making it easy for viewers to click through and buy your products. Potentially more than Periscope and Meerkat, Blab presents a major opportunity for brands, one which all businesses should be considering (we at SMT are definitely looking into it).
5. Tweets Now Appearing in Google Desktop and Mobile Searches
And the last recent, major change all social media marketers need to be aware of is the addition of real-time tweets into Google search - now on both mobile and desktop.
The Twitter-Google deal was announced back in February, and we've seen progressive updates since then, but the move to include tweets in desktop search results is, arguably, the biggest move to date on this front.
Having tweets appear on the desktop adds a whole new element - the desktop results page is bigger than mobile, so there's more space for tweet info, and the majority of searches are still conducted on desktop PCs. The move to include tweets in all searches is only the first step, so it may not have revolutionized SEO or online marketing as yet. But it will have a significant impact over time.
Why does this matter?
Right now, the tweets showing up in search results are not adding much, in terms of context - you search for McDonald's and you'll be shown a carousel block of the latest tweets from the official McDonald's Twitter handle, nothing major there. But as noted, this is only the first stage - what if Google found that what would really add context to searches was to see the most popular, real-time tweets related to your search terms. Then, if your business was seeing negative attention via Twitter, those tweets might actually be shown to Google users searching for information about your brand.
Imagine if, when searching for a hotel in your region, someone was shown this within their Google results:
Do not stay at the Mount Olympus Resort in the Dells.. #BedBugCentral- Christina Hanson (@christinaaa39) August 11, 2015
That will lose you business.
While we don't know for sure how Google is going to use Twitter's data to benefit search results, we do know that Google is always looking to add context - in that sense, what would add the most context would be to include relevant Twitter mentions, not just tweets from the associated brand handles. This is why it's important that all social media marketers ensure they remain aware of how Google is indexing tweets, and that they make their clients aware of the potential implications of tweets showing up in search results. It underlines the need for businesses to monitor the associated Twitter conversations around their brand - now more than ever.
These are just some of the many changes in social that are evolving every day - and that's just over the last few weeks. It's crucially important that brands remain aware of these updates and stay on top of the latest trends - there's opportunity in every one, and they may just change the way you do business, both online and off.