Social Network Updates from 2015 You Might Have Missed

Another year has come and gone, and major social networks look nothing like they did only 12 months ago. Well, that might be an exaggeration. Your Facebook wall is still your Facebook wall, your Twitter stream still your Twitter stream. But all of these networks have been refined, changed and updated with countless new features—some subtle, some prominent—that could end up helping your business. Are you using them?

Don’t feel guilty if you’re not sure how to answer that question. With so many changes taking place on so many networks, it’s hard to keep up with everything. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of some of the new social media features you might have missed in 2015. We looked at features that we felt didn’t get all that much attention—you won’t find Instagram advertising on this list—but could still have a big impact on your business. Take a look.

New Pinterest features

Pinning full articles

Pinterest is an incredibly powerful tool for retailers, tourism companies and and few other visual-heavy B2C industries, but what about the rest of us? How can a regular brand make use of those image-heavy boards in a way that will attract attention and earn shares? Pinterest went a long way to solving that problem in 2015 with new functionality that allows you to save links for later reading.

Pinterest introduced this functionality as tool for busy users to save content for reading or viewing at a later time—competing with services like Pocket and Instapaper. Whether you’re reading an article on your desktop or on your phone, you can click the Pinterest button and save the link to a board and check back whenever you feel like it.

What many people ignored, however, is the potential benefits this offers brands. All the sudden Pinterest was encouraging its users to save links and articles to their boards. That’s a huge new audience who, in being exposed to more and more articles on Pinterest and in pinning them themselves, will likely accept these types of content as part of the social network. In other words, businesses can now feel more comfortable sharing blog posts and other content to public Pinterest boards. They should also see more success in doing so.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the visual isn’t important. Your links should still be accompanied by beautiful images. But create a board or two for your blog, start sharing content and see if you can resonate with a Pinterest audience that overlaps with your target audience.

Local Search

With so much talk about the global power of social media, a lot of us forget just how powerful it can be on the local level as well. Thankfully, Pinterest remembered on our behalf. This fall, the social network updated its search functionality to include location and language qualifiers. This means that when you search for Pins, the ones you find will be from people who live where you live and who speak your language.

Image via Pinterest

Pinterest said the update served to “help international Pinners find local Pins that are more familiar and relevant to them.” On the flip side of things, this change offers huge potential benefits to businesses. For small businesses who don’t necessarily have a big international clientele or a big e-commerce presence, now people from your country and your city are going to be far more likely to find your Pins. If you include links back to your website, you’re talking about more relevant traffic and a higher likelihood of sales being driven through Pinterest.

New Facebook features

Facebook Notes

In 2014, the LinkedIn Publisher emerged as a powerful new platform for brands and individuals to build thought leadership and earn a new audience. In 2015, more and more brands turned to Medium to do the same. In 2016, you might just see this trend swing over to Facebook, thanks to a completely updated Notes.

Notes was once a place for you to answer weird questionnaires or quizzes from high school friends (not a real game-changer for businesses). Then, in August, Facebook revamped the feature in an attempt to drive engagement. As Wired writer Brian Barrett explains, “The longer people are writing and reading, the more time they’re spending in their News Feed and Facebook, and the less likely they are to be distracted by some other Internet experience.”

So why are Notes a good potential tool for businesses? The new Notes looks a lot like Medium, aesthetically appealing and complete with an interface that’s really easy for writers to use—meaning a very short learning curve to adopt the functionality. Plus, unlike with Medium, you probably already have a Facebook audience that will be exposed to your Notes. An existing audience who expects to see you in their feed means a higher likelihood of engagement and sharing, which is exactly what most of us are after with our content.

Judging by the success of the two previously mentioned publishing tools, expect a lot more brands to hop onto Facebook Notes in 2016.

Facebook Saved Replies

More than half of social media users under 45 use social networks for some form of customer service. If you’re not addressing customer service issues on social media, your reputation is likely taking a hit.

Recognizing the growing number of social media questions and comments businesses need to address each day, last spring Facebook start testing saved replies. Saved replies are essentially canned responses to common customer service questions or issues on your Facebook page.

On social media, time is of the essence and this feature will help businesses respond promptly and correctly to customer questions. Canned responses are nothing new for customer service teams, who often work off of a script or reference people to help desk articles walking them through typical issues. However, by allowing admins to save responses for Facebook pages, Facebook has eliminated the need to copy and paste information, and then address any formatting issues to optimize that content for the social network. Should the need arise, these messages can also be edited for the particular situation a customer is in. Quick and clean: a perfect social media customer service experience.

Image courtesy of Facebook
Image courtesy of Facebook

Not convinced it’s worth your time to use these new features? Well, Facebook is actually incentivizing great customer service. If your brand is able to respond to 90 percent of messages, and to do so in an average response time of five minute, Facebook will place a “Very Responsive to Messages” badge on your page. That is a tough mark to hit, but it represents a great step towards better customer service. This badge will show your customers and followers that they truly matter to you, and that you’ll always be there to respond to their issues. Why wouldn’t you try and achieve that?

Facebook live-streaming video

First came Meerkat, then came Periscope, and finally we’ve arrived at Facebook Live. There is no doubt that 2015 was the year of live-streaming, and while Facebook was last to enter the game, their tool might have the widest appeal.

Facebook Live first launched as a tool available to celebrities and athletes with a large following, with quite positive results—early users said the feature helped them get up close and personal with their audiences, host impromptu Q&A sessions and even show off their skills in real-time. But just last week, after four months of testing, Facebook announced it was beginning to roll out live video streaming to all users.

Zuckerberg Facebook Live.jpg
Image courtesy of Facebook

The implications for businesses are clear. If you have already found value in live-streaming, Facebook Live is probably an improvement on whatever tool you’re using right now. Unlike Periscope, Facebook Live streams don’t disappear after the broadcast, so fans of the Page can catch up on any videos they have missed. Plus you don’t have to work to establish an audience, as with Meerkat.

If you’re not really sure what to make of live-streaming videos, there are many ways to integrate it into your marketing strategy. Live video can be a tool for garnering immediate feedback, getting a real-time look at events, or hosting off the cuff Q&A sessions. Facebook Live’s early testers’ found that live streams worked best for behind-the-scenes look at work culture or a preview of a new product or service. Find ways to make this functionality work for you. You can bet it’s going to continue being a trend through 2016.

New Instagram features

Filter management

We all know how important it is to be timely on social media. We also all know just how time-consuming social media can be. Juggling those two facts represents much of the day-to-day work of a social media manager. Even the smallest time-saving tweaks can make a big difference when you’re rushing to respond to that customer service post, taking part in a Twitter chat, and supporting an Instagram contest.

This year, Instagram released a number of updates to their photo-sharing app. Some of them were widely discussed: the ability to post portrait and landscape images, improvements to direct messaging, new filters and collage options, etc. But one other small, time-saving tweak seemed to fall into obscurity soon after launch: the ability change the order that filters are displayed in the app.

Instagram updates managing filters.jpg

We all have our favorite filters. For businesses sticking to certain Instagram filters helps them to maintain a cohesive and recognizable brand on the social network. While filters are preset to a specific order, this feature update allows you to change that order to prioritize the filters you use the most. This can be a big time-saver for those of us who have Instagram as one of many social networks to manage in a single day. It’s a small thing—a matter of a few seconds—but it will add up big time as you post image after image, day after day.

New Twitter features

Event targeting

One of the real strengths of social media advertising is the targeting capabilities. This isn’t a billboard on a highway, this is very specific messaging sent to a very specific audience of your choosing—hopefully those most likely to respond to your ads and your business.

Twitter has always been great when it comes to targeted ads, especially in terms of network targeting (targeting people by who they know or who they follow). But the social network upped the game in 2015 by introducing event targeting. Twitter is used as a second screen during millions of events, from the music festival in the park to the big tech conference downtown. Twitter’s new event targeting functionality allows brands to reach the users who are interested in and engaging around these events.

Look at your target audience. What do they enjoy? What are their common interests? Most of us will be able to map the answers to those questions to a certain event or holiday. Once you’ve identified the event (Twitter has a helpful calendar full of them), you can go into the Twitter ads platform, see what kind of attention these events earned last year (including the top performing Tweets, for inspiration), and activate your own ad campaign in just a few clicks.

Mindshare UK used event targeting on behalf of automotive and financial brands during major sporting events. Account Director Sergi Calvo found “The results could not have been more encouraging, with an average engagement rate improvement ranging from 73 percent to 110 percent when compared to our traditional targeting settings.” The numbers speak for themselves. What events will you be targeting?

Twitter App Spotlight

Don’t feel too bad about not being aware of the Twitter App Spotlight functionality. This update was announced at Twitter flight in October, but really hasn’t garnered too much attention in the time since. Twitter itself only allocated a few lines on their blog to it:

“Twitter App Spotlight, a new pilot program for your business’s Twitter profile page that adds a call-to-action to enable people to download your app directly from the Google Play or Apple App store.”

Simply put, Twitter is introducing app download buttons right at the top of business profiles. Any visitor to your profile on Twitter mobile will be able to click the button—beautifully integrated and designed, of course—and start downloading. Talk about instant business results.

Unfortunately this is a change that has only rolled out to major media sources and a few select apps so far. Every business with an app should keep their eyes glued to the Twitter blog for when this eventually rolls out to everyone.

Twitter Polls

The point of this article was to highlight Twitter features you might have missed from the last year (which is why we left out Twitter moments). But I still wanted to include Twitter Polls, which most of you will have heard of and possibly partaken in. The reason? Almost none of the businesses in my feed are making use of them.

Discount Twitter Poll

Polls allow you to ask your followers a simple question and let them anonymously choose between two short answers. The polls last for 24 hours and the results remain public. At least three quarters of the polls I’ve been exposed to on Twitter have been jokes; individuals commenting on pop culture or news trends in funny ways. This functionality has so much potential beyond humor, and yet we’re just not seeing it. That very fact, that not many businesses are using Polls, shouldn’t discourage you from using it. It should do the opposite, since your brand will stand out from the pack.

Event Engagement Twitter Poll

This new feature is a valuable way to get inside of your audience’s heads, while creating a more engaging, participatory experience around your business on Twitter. Polls can be used as basic content research, allow you to engage followers around culture, plan events, contests and sales, and much more. It’s time to get creative.

Are there any features we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.