Even as we head into the final days before the holiday break for most, the major social platforms are still releasing new tests and updates, with the arrival of Facebook's new Messenger group video chats, live-streaming direct from tweets and the ability to save posts on Instagram. Of course, not all of these updates are major, not every one will have an impact on your strategy. But then again, impact is relative - what's minor to you and your business could be huge to someone else.
As part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the best coverage of the latest social media news and insights, we feel it's important to cover all of these updates and tests - but sometimes they're not worthy of a their own individual post.
So to keep you up to date on these smaller changes and features, here's a rundown of five upcoming or "in test mode" features that are currently being trialed by some of the major platforms - starting with Facebook, which is trying out an... interesting new option.
1. Facebook Testing Multi-Colored Status Updates
Honestly, I don't really know what to make of this one. Facebook's testing out a new option that enables users to put a background color on their text only updates.
The option has been spotted online by several users, and has been confirmed by Facebook - those who have access to the feature will see the colored text on updates, but in regions where it's not available, you won't see them at all, so they're not going to be taking over your timeline any time soon.
The logic behind why they might do this makes some sense within the context of the reported decline in personal sharing on the platform. This is reportedly why shorter Facebook updates are now also appearing in huge text, it makes them stand out and, ideally, prompts more engagement - Facebook, after all, relies on people sharing personal updates to fuel their ever-learning data banks.
But I can't imagine this will be a popular option.
I mean, maybe I'm wrong, maybe adding a splash of color to the backgrounds of your otherwise bland Facebook updates will boost interest and activity - and it'll be optional either way, you won't have to put a color down for your post.
But I don't know about this one.
There's no word yet as to whether the test will be expanded.
2. Twitter trying out New 'Retweet' icon
Last week, some Twitter users reported seeing a new retweet icon in the wild.
As you can see, the new layout sees the removal of the current reply, retweet and 'send privately' icons and replaces them with a quotation bubble and 'share' button.
But while they do look different, the available functionality remains the same - the speech bubble is the new 'reply', while the new 'share' icon brings up a list of options, including the current 'Retweet' and 'Quote Tweet' options, along with 'Send by Direct Message' and 'Share tweet'. So the same tools are available, they're just formatted differently.
Why would Twitter look to change this?
The process does make it a little easier to share tweets to other platforms, which could help spread the word about specific tweets across other networks, and thus, promote Twitter content. The other reason, as speculated by Mac Rumors, could be that the share icon is more universally recognized, so it may be seen as another way to simplify the product.
The new option is part of a small test at the moment.
3. Instagram Updates Post Layout
Instagram has announced a minor change to the layout of posts which will make sponsored content look a little more natural.
Having trouble working out what's new? Yeah, as noted, it's fairly minor.
As explained by Instagram:
"Starting today, you'll see a new look on the header of Instagram posts. In the new design, all content will move to the left-hand side of the header to streamline the design and make it more noticeable. For ads, the Sponsored label will now appear under the profile name. There will also be a new menu icon on the right side of the header, that when clicked, will activate hide or learn options for ads and a menu of sharing options for organic posts."
For comparison, here's the old and new layouts side-by-side:
The 'Sponsored' tag has been shifted across to the left, beneath the profile name, which is also where the location will now be listed for those who have location-sharing switched on (you can see this in the first image of the example at the top of the post).
When you click on the three dots on the top right on sponsored content, you get a new menu with two options.
The change makes sponsored posts standout less, keeping them more in tune with other content on the platform, though the blue call to action buttons are still prominent.
Notice too how Instagram is making more use of the blank space on screen, with the camera and message options now added to the top bar and the new save posts icon also now included.
It's a small change, but a relevant one, particularly for those looking to use all available options to maximize their content performance.
4. Personalizing Pinterest
Over on the Pinterest Engineering blog, platform engineer Andrew Liu has explained how Pinterest recently "overhauled the new user experience for people outside the U.S., making it more personalized which has increased new user activation and retention by 5-10 percent".
And while it's not a functional update, as such, it's interesting to note how Pinterest is tailoring their platform to local interests and behaviors - for example:
"From previous A/B experiments, we know Pinners are much more likely to save Pins in their language, so for candidate topics, we only show content that's locally relevant."
It's not necessarily revolutionary, but it's good info to have for brands looking to maximize their Pinterest presence - particularly those who operate in multiple nations or who are trying to reach international markets.
5. Facebook Letting Users Block Ads by Topic
And the last pre-Christmas update of note comes from Facebook, with a new option being tested which would enable users to block ads by topic.
Users have always had some control over the ads they see via the Ad Preferences section, but the listings available have been based on individual subjects of interest, not on whole scale topics.
As you can see here, all the listed interests relate to individual topics which I've apparently engaged with on the platform. The new option, as shown above, would enable you to black out entire subjects, with 'alcohol' and 'parenting' currently the only two available (though Facebook says they will consider more).
The impetus behind this is that there are certain subjects which users may find painful to see.
As explained by Mark Rabkin, VP of Core Ads at Facebook (to AdAge):
"For families who experience the loss of a child, for example, to continue to see ads about parenting and new baby stuff, that can be really upsetting."
It's not hard to imagine such a tool could be helpful, but that it could also be extended to gambling or other adult content, things that a user may have engaged with in the past but may feel uncomfortable about now.
Of course, Facebook will need to tread carefully - restricting the reach of ads is obviously disincentive for the affected advertisers - but the tool makes sense and could work to improve the on-platform experience of many people.