December The Month Of Change For Many Social Media Networks
We’re fast approaching the end of the year, yet it feels like there’s been a massive rush by the different social networks to introduce new features and changes before we arrive at 2013. Because so much has happened this month, here’s a recap of the major updates.
One of the major changes that Facebook has introduced, after testing a different version a few months ago, is the introduction of “Nearby” for its app. Basically Facebook way of taking on Foursquare, it allows users to discover new places that their friends like.
Anyone who has updated the app since Monday will find the new addition in the menu. Accessing it will show you the different places your friends have check-in to, recommended and liked. If there are many options, you can choose a category and filter the results, much like Foursquare.
Facebook says that this is an early release so it will be improving the service as it gets more feedback. It also says that it plans to add place info from third party services to it in the near future.
On top of that, a move that may garner more controversy is the introduction of video ads in your news feed. Expected to be revealed in the first half of 2013, the site is expected to place 15 second videos into the news feed which will appear in both desktop and mobile.
What could be controversial about this move is that is that the visual part of the video ads will start playing automatically, the company is still deciding whether the audio will be on or not when the video starts playing.
This could generate significant revenue for Facebook, especially through mobile, but the autoplay function will not sit well with some users, especially if it includes sound. This could be more unsettling for mobile users as they would be more likely to use the app in public places and a video ad blaring from its speakers won’t be received well.
Since Twitter introduced Promoted Tweets back in April 2010, it has been a great way for marketers and advertisers to reach a relevant audience with their content. Now it’s launched “negative keyword targeting” to help improve search results. This will let advertisers buy a term, but avoid having the ad show up in contextually irrelevant situations, so if you want to restrict your Promoted Tweets from showing up when users search for certain keywords.
For instance, if your business deals with tomatoes, you can now make sure it doesn’t show up near conversations about Rotten Tomatoes by using “Rotten” as a negative keyword.
This will help advertisers home in on the exact target audience they’re hoping to reach. Marketers can now select from three different matching options when entering keywords: Exact match, phrase match, and basic keyword match. The company also introduced a “bulk importing tool” that will let you highlight which terms you want to match and which you don’t.
Another new feature is allowing users to download their entire archive of tweets, a feature that has been much-sought after.
A Twitter representative said that the company is currently testing the feature “with a very small percentage of users.” Those users began tweeting about the appearance of a new settings feature that allows users to “Request your archive.” A note under the new button informs users that “you can request a file containing your information, starting with your first tweet. A link will be emailed to you when the file is ready for download.”
Creating what seems like a simple download option becomes much more difficult when scaled for 140 million users who combined create 340 million new tweets on a daily basis. Do the math and this adds up to a three-year archive containing more than 100 billion tweets!
So, what value is it to you other than reminiscing? For one, it provides the user with a controllable copy of their content, allowing you data sovereignty. It also reduces the risk of losing content and if your content happens to be redistributed in some other place, you have a tangible copy to hand.
The final update has been its much publicised photo filter feature, allowing users to edit photos and apply one-touch, retro-style filters from within the app.
The company has teamed-up with Aviary and has been working on the filters for some time in the hopes that users will bypass other photo-sharing services like Instagram. Sharing photos has been an important part of the Twitter experience and it’s certainly in its favour that Instagram has pulled the plug on showing images directly within Twitter.
However, the newly incorporated eight filters are pretty dull and uninspiring, and feel largely redundant. They don’t strike an impression of being anywhere near enough the mark to compete with the spectacular popularity of Instagram. That said, the contact sheet selection style is a nice usability improvement over Instagram, which forces you to test each filter on your image one at a time.
If you want a perfect example of why you should ensure that all changes should be communicated, look no further than yesterday’s controversy. The company updated users about a change in terms, providing a link to both a long and condensed version.
The condensed version was straightforward, but those who delved into the terms saw a section under “rights” which implied that Instagram was going to sell your photos to generate revenue. Instagram quickly published a new blog post which stated that it had no intention of selling people’s photos, and promised to amend parts that concerned people. The two sections that drew so much criticism was these:
2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
For one, it’s important to note that all terms of service are written this way: They use direct language yet are vague enough to cover all eventualities. It’s the line “help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions,” that’s key, suggesting that Instagram will go down the route of sponsored stories similar to Facebook.
It could also be a case that Facebook and Instagram have yet to decide what form these ads will take, otherwise you would have expected both parties to lead with that when they were announcing the new changes.
Instagram messed up because it failed to communicate these changes to the general public in a way that people understood, and it looked like it brushed this section under the carpet with its summary. It’s hard to say exactly how much damage is done, but chances are that the number of people who deactivated their accounts was minimal. Also worth noting is that many other sites like Facebook and Twitter use similar language in their terms of service, but if this situation causes users to take a greater interest in the terms and conditions of services, then it might be a good thing.
Shortly after it introduced Communities, Google+ also updated its app to something a lot more colourful and responsive. The changes are mostly cosmetic, you’ll notice that when you first open the app, the bottom options are more colourful, the side menu has changed somewhat and the introduction of new stories and scrolling down is a lot smoother.
The app also brings Google+ growing focus on photography to the forefront by allowing users to upload photos in full resolution. Previously, Google would alter photos to fit a specific resolution and save space. Users get full-size backups of their photos with up to 5GB of space, while iOS users can now swipe through photo albums, allowing you to tap once to view photos, as well as a pan-zoom-scale effect to pictures in the stream. Considering that mobile is a huge part of Google+’s appeal, the updates improve upon what was already an impressive app.
Also, to ensure that as many people can enjoy Hangouts, they have been tweaked so that you only need 150KB of bandwidth to take part.
As soon as Instagram pulled out of Twitter cards, it gave Pinterest the perfect opportunity to slide in and replace it. Less than a week after Instagram and Twitter parted ways, Pinterest announced that a preview of its content would be displayed through Twitter cards. This will give Pinterest further exposure and the extra numbers will come in handy for growing the site even further, especially since its main competitor has removed itself from the equation.
Following the same train of thought as Facebook, YouTube released a new app called Capture, allowing users to record, edit and upload videos through the one app. Considering that the majority of videos uploaded onto the site come from mobile devices, it’s a surprise that YouTube didn’t create this app earlier.
One of the nicer touches relating to the app is that you cannot record a video unless the phone is in landscape mode. That means that all videos recorded through it are using the correct scale, meaning higher quality videos. Such an app will help grow the already impressive number of videos uploaded onto the site and including editing features will come in handy for those who want to brighten up their submissions.
At the moment, the app is only available for iOS, but an Android version is expected to be released soon.