Every year, our favorite social media platforms surprise us as they constantly evolve to keep up with cutting-edge trends and technology. 2016 proved to be no different with new features consistently being launched to retain both brands and consumers engaged. Out of all these updates, eight of them have resonated with us and transformed social media in a variety of different aspects. As we look forward to what 2017 holds for the digital world, we’d like to take a step back and share which new social media features made the top impressions this year.
Many felt Instagram Stories was a plagiarized version of Snapchat, but Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, did not hesitate to give credit to their competitor. The new feature, launched in August, took a form that really differentiated itself and intrigued us. Two months in, it had accumulated 100 million daily active users. Instagram Stories made it easier for consumers to engage with businesses on a casual level while boosting influencer marketing. We all know too well how easy it is to lose a viewer’s attention and asking them to take the extra step of adding your Snapchat handle could go unanswered. Instagram Stories gave brands the opportunity to seamlessly showcase their content on a larger public scale, as Instagram users outnumber that of Snapchat five to one. Their audience also differ with 41% of Snapchat users being 18-34 years old compared to the same age range of Instagram users who declined to 27% this spring. Instagram Stories’ recent updates further proves how unique the feature is. With Instagram live, populating mentions, see more links for verified accounts, and stickers-does more really need to be said?
Twitter’s 140 Character Limit Change
The ability to write short yet thought provoking copy is a gift some have and some don’t. Twitter is a must use social media platform for marketers and even the most talented copy writers have stared at Twitter, mid composition, frustrated by necessary photos, videos, or GIFs depleting the majority of characters. I think we’ve all contemplated going down the “ur” instead “you’re” road, but Twitter heard our complaints loud and clear. By September, not only would media no longer cost any characters, but quote tweets, retweets, and polls also became off limits. We’d like to think Twitter’s existing users played the only role in this change but reality reveals Twitter is under pressure to increase new users after its stock fell more than 50% compared to last year. Should we expect complete annihilation of the character limit in 2017? We don’t think so. This restriction is what makes Twitter so special. What we should expect to see are usernames and links no longer counting against characters. Twitter, however, did go back on their promise of usernames no longer counting in the September update, so it will unsurprising if they do it again.
Conversion Tracking for LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager Tool
This new feature was an update catered to advertisers. Analytics is key in social media advertising and the more data available, the better chance of success one has to effectively target their audience. Conversion tracking was launched for LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager tool and provided sponsors specific details on users who clicked on their paid ads. Prior to this, URL tagging and custom reporting in Google Analytics were the preferred methods of measuring conversions from LinkedIn traffic. ROI became easier to monitor as these capabilities also showed which users converted to customers.
Facebook’s Combat Against Clickbait
62% of U.S. adults use social media as their news source and the majority of them specifically rely on Facebook. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if there wasn’t a large amount of false and misleading information circulating. While engagement of fake news posts on Facebook dropped significantly in late 2015, its reach soared this year. They countered by updating their anti-clickbait algorithm. Social Media Marketers have to be cautious of tantalizing headlines and omitting important information when publishing content for the purpose of snagging a high click-through rate. From the user side, the social media behemoth has persistently given them more filtering options to flag such content.
Facebook has been in a whirlwind of controversy ever since Gizmodo revealed the social media giant withheld news stories in its Trending Topics section, as well as inserted particular ones, despite these publications not organically trending. Accusations continue to fly that fake news on Facebook influenced this year’s election results to which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed disagreement. The correlation is undeniable, however, when 20% of social media users admit to changing their political affiliation due to to social media. These findings and technological solutions are setting a precedent for numerous social media platforms that most certainly will be explored further in 2017.
Google has aspired to become a traditional social media platform since its 2011 launch of Google+ and they are attempting to fill that void with YouTube Community. In an attempt to preserve and gain video creators, the YouTube Community beta page provided an exclusive handful of adopters the tools to run their own slice of a social network. Creators will be able to share text posts, images, GIFs and other content. Much like the engagement features available on a YouTube video, viewers can respond with a thumbs up, thumbs down, or comment. Push notification are also available and subscription feeds are accessed on mobile devices. Not only are YouTube users waiting patiently for this feature to officially roll out, but brands are also ready to pounce on the opportunity to engage with fans beyond the video comment section. 74% of all online traffic in 2017 is predicted to be video and this sneak peak of YouTube Community expands the thought process of video integrated into social media.
A majority of media sharing apps provide users with the feature to zoom in, but Instagram was not one of them until its update in fall. No more hiding behind filters as Instagrammers could now pinch and zoom on posted content. What makes this a transformative feature of 2016 is how brands are using this simple component to increase engagement. An additional outlet for creativity is always good for business and can be lucrative if used correctly.
Facebook Live was launched globally in February 2016 and has become an interesting tool for brands to utilize. Facebook has reported 500 million people watch a video on Facebook every day so implementing a live feature was a step in the right direction. Digital video is a dominant form of reaching consumers daily and we can’t stress enough how important it is to include it in your marketing strategy. Utilizing social outlets to connect with audiences humanizes a brand and keeps them in consumers’ minds long after contact. Our favorite Facebook Live streams have been Grazia UK, an italian women’s publication, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Grazia gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at a week’s worth of footage and held a political panel curated by their Facebook audiences. Dunkin’ Donuts made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside as they took us behind their counter and into the kitchen for Valentine’s Day.
Snapchat’s Augmented Reality
Despite Instagram Stories, we’re not uninstalling Snapchat anytime soon. If 80s pop culture has taught us anything, it's that virtual reality is the way of the future and virtual reality in digital marketing is now. Snapchat has always promoted an aspect of augmented reality but this year, more than ever, it’s harmoniously and consistently placed it in the hands of its 150 million daily users. It has been on the forefront of making social AR mainstream and puts other tech giants to shame with its geo-filters, location data, image recognition, and interface. Users love how fun it is and brands love to get in on the action. Sponsored lens are the ultimate in brand awareness and one of the many social media features perfect for launching a campaign.
Check out our Virtual Reality series to learn more on this topic.
by Amanda Rivera
Social Media Assistant