Social media networks evolve fast. They know that in order to stay relevant with users they must be continuously innovating by rolling out new features and implementing new technologies. The first few months of 2017 have been busy ones for the major social networks, who have been hard at work introducing new features and updating existing functionality for an even more engaging user experience.
Here’s a look at five major feature changes we’ve seen go live in the past few months that are worth considering for your digital marketing strategy.
Messenger Day (Facebook)
In March, Facebook rolled out a new feature to all users on Messenger. It’s called Messenger Day and it offers users a way to share photos and videos and decorate them with stickers, frames, and other visual effects. The content shared with Messenger Day is designed to be ephemeral — it disappears after 24 hours. For marketers experienced with Snapchat or Instagram Stories, Messenger Day will feel very familiar and it functions pretty much exactly the same way.
Facebook has indicated that there are plans to incorporate ads between Messenger Day posts in the future. These ads will mark a first attempt at monetization of Facebook’s Messenger and will offer a new channel for marketers to tap.
In February Instagram rolled out the ability for users up to 10 photos or videos in a single post. These photos and videos will appear as something an album, or carousel, which users can swipe through horizontally.
According to Instagram, the feature was designed to alleviate some of the pressure the hyper-curated platform puts on users to snap and filter a single perfect image. The ability to share multiple photos and videos makes it easier for users to represent more holistic experiences and reduces concerns about “over-posting” — both of which are also key benefits of Instagram Stories, which was rolled out in August, 2016. It’s worth noting that the new feature will likely increase the amount of content shared on the platform, which helps keep users more engaged and more likely to check in with the app frequently.
Multi-image posts already existed for Instagram advertisers and this global rollout may help acclimatize users to the swipe functionality, which is relatively new to the platform.
Instagram Stories Ads
As mentioned, Instagram Stories rolled out to the platform’s user base in August, 2016. Since then, Instagram reports that it has racked up 150 million daily users of the feature. Instagram recently launched insights for Stories so that brands can access metrics about their posts, including reach, impressions, replies, and exits.
Now Instagram has also launched full-screen Stories ads. As with most Instagram advertising models, this one started with a curated set of advertisers, but the feature has since been rolled out to all businesses wishing to advertise on the platform.
Stories ads are designed to be full-screen, immersive experiences, usually experienced with volume on (Instagram notes that nearly 70% of users engage with Stories with volume turned on). Though the ads are skippable, the full-screen nature of the ads does offer some advantage over ads that appear in the feed, which users can scroll past easily without noticing.
Instagram has certainly been busy in the first few months of 2017, and we have one final update to cover. In 2016 the platform began testing in-app shopping with a select handful of brands, including Kate Spade, Levi’s, and Warby Parker. These brands were given the ability to make photos shoppable — users can tap the photos to reveal products and then click through on each product to see more information on products. All of this takes place within the app itself, though users still get redirected to a brand site to actually complete a purchase.
As of March, Instagram is rolling out shoppable posts to more businesses, all of them within the apparel, jewelry, and beauty verticals — categories which tend to be successful on the platform. The key takeaway is that shoppable posts are more accessible than ever before and are likely to become a mainstay of the platform.
There’s also speculation about whether the feature will soon be available to influencers. If it that does happen, it will mean increased accountability and measurability for influencer campaigns, the lack of which has been a major brand complaint since the dawn of influencer marketing.
LinkedIn Trending Storylines
With the March, 2017 launch of Trending Storylines, LinkedIn is making a concerted effort to become a content destination. The platform has long been used by recruiters and job searchers to network and find and fill positions, but it’s clear that LinkedIn wants to engage its users on a more meaningful level and offer them a reason to come back to the site regardless of whether they’re on the hunt for a new job or a new employee.
Per a blog post announcing the launch of the feature, LinkedIn has said, ”Storylines are daily curated interest-based feeds about the most important developing stories in your industry.” The goal is to increase discoverability of content from LinkedIn’s large audience of professionals and thought leaders. Storylines will be curated for each user through a combination of algorithms and the human touch of the LinkedIn editorial team. The upshot for brands, particularly B2B brands, is that LinkedIn is poised to become an even more powerful content destination than ever before.
The major social networks are all investing in ways to increase user content on their websites as well as ways to further monetize existing feature sets. These changes are good news for brands and marketers actively using social media as part of their marketing strategies. More content on the platforms means more engaged users who return more frequently and, subsequently, larger audiences for brands to tap into. More advertising opportunities offer brands new ways to reach their target audiences and see returns on those advertising dollars.