In the ever-evolving social media landscape, things are constantly in flux. New updates come, old best practices die out, and it can be difficult to stay on top of all the various ebbs and flows to ensure you remain aware of the key features and system changes that might be of benefit for you or your business.
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 LinkedIn, which has added a new self-serve ad option.
1. Sponsored InMail
LinkedIn has announced that they're adding Sponsored InMail to their suite of self-serve ad products on the platform.
Sponsored InMail has actually been around for some time - you've probably even received one yourself at some point - but not through the self-serve platform. And while the effectiveness of customized e-mail outreach like this will vary, LinkedIn's pitching the option as a good way to generate more opportunities for your brand by utilizing LinkedIn's advanced audience targeting tools to reach the right audience.
Sponsored InMails come with in message CTA buttons and are only delivered when members are active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn also notes that they have strict limits in place in regards to how often LinkedIn members can receive InMail to avoid spamming concerns.
As noted, it won't be for every brand, but if LinkedIn is where you're seeing best results, and you've got a solid e-mail pitch, you can start your own campaign here.
2. Facebook's Latest Snapchat Clone
Facebook's still copying Snapchat in an effort to curb the ephemeral content app's growth.
Following on the heels of Instagram Stories, Messenger Day and new Snapchat-like features in both Facebook proper and WhatsApp, Facebook's also releasing another dedicated Snapchat-cloning app, but this time focused specifically at developing markets.
Called 'Flash', the new app is basically a stripped down version of Snapchat. As first reported by recode, Flash has been specifically built for regions where wi-fi access is limited and connectivity is weak. Flash is less than 25 MB in size - around a third as big as Snapchat's Android app - and it includes a range of visual editing tools and messaging functions designed to run at lower capacity.
The new app has thus far only been made available in Brazil, but will be released in more places soon. The impetus behind Facebook's strategy here is clear - rather than simply trying to compete with Snapchat head on, Facebook's releasing these new, Snapchat-like features and tools in regions where Snapchat adoption is low. In doing so, Facebook isn't seen as the copycat in these areas, but the innovator, which, if Snapchat does eventually get around to promoting their app in the same places, could restrict the app's growth as people will already have the same functionality on Facebook-affiliated apps.
This is why Messenger Day is only available in Poland and Australia, why Facebook's new camera options are being made available in Ireland first, why they're adding Snapchat-type tools to WhatsApp. Facebook's beating Snapchat in these areas before Snapchat even has a chance to compete.
And the logic behind this is sound - while Facebook might not be able to stamp out Snapchat completely, if they can slow their growth, that'll cause the app all sorts of headaches in future. Just look at what it's done for Twitter.
If you're ever wondering why Facebook keeps copying Snapchat, there's your answer.
3. Pinterest Expands Marketing Partners
As Pinterest continues its march towards becoming a key eCommerce hub, the platform has announced an expansion, and re-naming, of their Marketing Developer Partners program.
Now to be known as Pinterest 'Marketing Partners', the new group includes an extra two areas of focus - 'measurement' and 'audiences'.
As per Pinterest:
"Measurement partners help brands evaluate how Pinterest impacts business results by driving metrics like ad verification, resonance, sales lift and customer lifetime value. Audiences partners help brands onboard their own data so they can use features like customer list targeting and actalike audiences."
This aligns with Pinterest's recent expansion of their ad options, including remarketing and custom audience tools.
Pinterest has also added Adglow, AdParlor, Bidalgo and Sprinklr to their Advertising Partners listing, while Socialbakers joins their content marketing group.
The program aims to help more brands generate better results from their Pinterest efforts - and with the addition of new ad types and formats, including video, having access to an additional reference point will no doubt be of benefit.
You can find out more information about Pinterest Marketing Partners here.
4. Facebook Connects Europe
This is less of an update, and more of a point of interest, but Facebook's research team have released a new graphic which charts the ways in which Facebook users are connected across Europe.
As per Facebook:
"Looking at aggregated, anonymized data, we found that in the European continent alone, there exist approximately 5 billion cross-country Facebook friendships."
Facebook also found that year-on-year, the proportion of new international friendships is growing, with noted spikes every August, when Europeans are more likely to be traveling on vacation.
This kind of data underlines Mark Zuckerberg's mission to connect the world, one which, many would say, is a truly admirable goal in the current state of things.
5. Facebook Marketplace Suggested Queries
And the last recent addition of note is Facebook's new suggested queries in Marketplace posts.
In an effort to boost more on platform commerce, and in alignment with the recent release of the new, dedicated Marketplace tab, Facebook's giving people template responses they can use for Marketplace posts, which could help streamline the process and help people understand what they need to know/ask.
Facebook's looking to maximize the attention of the more than 450 million users who come to the platform's buy, swap and sell groups each month, a move that could help them boost engagement and overall time spent on platform.
Suggested replies may seem like a small addition, but it does seem that automated response tools are an area Facebook believes there could be significant benefit - they've also recently added a "chat assist" tool in Messenger which uses machine learning to read what you're writing in order to search for keywords that would suggest you should send another user money.
Along the same lines, Google's recently released Allo app includes a feature that analyzes the context of what you're typing and offers a set of one-tap responses which you can use to save time.
Given the increasing number of people who are conducting such interactions via mobile, simplifying the connection process makes sense.