Six social media feature updates you need to know about

The technical whizz kids who work for social networks have been very busy of late thinking up new and improved ways for us to use their platforms.  Over the last couple of months Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn have released new features left, right and centre in a bid to make their experience a more valuable one for us lowly users. Many of these features will help your business generate more value from social media engagement, so we’ve done the heavy-lifting and put together a hit list of the features you need to know about:

1. Instagram video

instagram-video

If you are a snap-happy social media user, you’ve probably already heard that Instagram now allow video posts as well as photos.  This is almost certainly in response to the recent launch of Twitter’s new micro-video-blogging app Vine, which is gaining momentum at a rapid pace.  They’ve given us a bit more to work with than Vine though, allowing up to 15 secs of video in a post.  Plus you can apply all of the usual filter-tastic effects to your new moving-picture creation when posting. Since last week you can also upload existing vids from your phone – giving you the opportunity to mine the archives for Instagram gems!

Tip:  The introduction of video has opened up loads more opportunity to engage your audience in creative ways. Don’t be obvious and just post adverts like Carnival Cruises did, inject a bit of fun like these brands!

2. Facebook promotions have just got easier

New Facebook promotion rules

One we’ve already reported on, but very important so worth another mention!  Until recently Facebook guidelines required brand pages to run competitions using a 3rd party app (such as Shortstack) and forbid tactics such as ‘like and share’. But in a massive u-turn Facebook has now wants to ‘make it easier for businesses of all sizes’ (their words!) to run competitions by lifting some of the restrictions.  This means you can now run competitions through your page timeline by asking people to like or comment on the post to enter.  There are still limitations (e.g. you can’t ask people to tag a photo or share the post to enter) so we recommend reading the updated guidelines in full here.

Tip: The ‘like or comment’ entry mechanic makes it much easier to promote your competition (make it a ‘Promoted Post’ to get guaranteed reach), but you will still need a way to manage your entries and select winners.  We recommend using an app like Shortstack, which now includes an ‘import’ feature that grabs user info from the post and stores it in a database for you (free to use).  Apps like Shortstack are also still worth considering for more involved competitions and promotions that involve capturing people’s personal details such as email and address.

3. Facebook ‘Story Bump’ and ‘Last Actor’

Facebook Story Bump

It’s been an update bonanza for Facebook this summer with the social platform also introducing two new ways for posts to be ranked in people’s news feed.

“Story Bumping” means that older posts you haven’t seen before will now be considered alongside all of the new ones that were published since you last visited the site.  In layman’s terms this means that your brand posts may be given a second chance if they were posted to a user’s feed the first time around but didn’t get seen due to being below the fold of the screen (e.g. the user gave up scrolling).

“Last Actor” is Facebook’s new way of deciding which posts are most relevant to a user. It tracks the user’s last 50 interactions and uses these to decide which content they see first. In other words, if one of your fans (or friends) has engaged with your posts recently they are more likely to see your next post.

Tip: These changes mean that Facebook now places even more emphasis on sustained engagement when deciding who sees the your post.  Try using a call-to-action like a poll, quiz question or ‘caption this’ photo as a way to keep the comments and likes flowing.

4. Pinterest ‘Price Pins’

Price pins

Over the last year or so, Pinterest has started to become a go to place for trend-hopping shop-a-holics, so forward-thinking retailers like ASOS to have responded by building a presence on the network. Now Pinterest has made it easier for online retailers to generate sales from this social engagement by introducing ‘product pins‘, which display related price information next to images that have been pinned from a product page. In August they also announced a new ‘price watch‘ feature which notifies people when the things they’ve pinned (or re-pinned) drop in price.

Although it’s predictably the larger online retailers who have been quick to start using this feature, product pins are available for any business to use. There is a bit of coding jiggery-pokery required to enable the feature on your retail site, but well worth the investment.

Tip: Pinterest’s popularity is growing fast and is especially well-used by fashion, style & design communities, so we recommend using product pins if you are an online retailer working in these sectors. It’s also worth investing in some creative product images to accompany your standard shots if you want to get the best results.  The more engaging your images, the more they will get pinned!

Bonus tip: Pinterest has also introduced ‘recipe pins’ useful for food sites & bloggers and ‘movie pins’ which are gold dust for film and TV production companies! Get the full story here.

5. LinkedIn ‘Sponsored Updates’

sponsored updates

Business-focused social network LinkedIn tends to play the ‘watch and see’ game with new features, cherry-picking the bits that work best from larger networks like Twitter and Facebook and introducing them in their own style.  The outcome of this strategy though tends to be a positive one for users, as LinkedIn has come a long way since the early days as a glorified CV database.  ‘Sponsored Updates‘ are the latest feature to emerge from the ‘I’ll have one of those’ LinkedIn approach. Taking inspiration from Facebook’s promoted posts and Twitter’s sponsored tweets this new feature allows businesses to turn their company page updates into paid content that can be seeded into the news feeds of users through the LinkedIn ad targeting platform.

Tip: Sponsored updates are worth considering as part of a b-2-b content marketing strategy, as they allow you seed links to your content directly to business commentators and influencers in your sector.  Remember to keep your company page up-to-date though if you want to convert those link clicks into shares and leads!

6. Twitter self-service ads now available to all

Self-service sponsored tweets

With monetisation becoming ever-more important to Twitter, the micro-blogging service has been trialling ads for a while, but until recently access has been restricted those with big budgets or a media agency to manage things.  Following in the footsteps of Facebook, Twitter has now extended its ad platform so that sponsored tweets, profiles and hashtags are now available via a ‘self-service’ tool.  The new self-service ads are currently restricted to US users only, but we’re predicting it will only be a matter of months before they open this service up to include other territories.

Tip: Sponsored tweets and profiles can prove very effective at reaching a significant audience quickly and boosting Follower growth because they are not presented as ads, more suggested content so tend to be engaged with more (sign up here).  But paid campaigns should support rather than replace putting in the legwork when it comes to connecting with people and engaging in conversations on Twitter.

 

Have we missed some important features worth mentioning?  Add them in comments!

Need to know more about how these new features can be used to promote your business? Get in touch and we’d be happy to offer some more advice.

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