Twitter users rejoiced this month as the platform known for brevity threw its users a few more characters, allowing them to attach rich media—such as a photos, video, or GIFs—or a poll or Quote Tweet without it counting against the 140-character limit.
Meanwhile, Facebook put out custom Reactions to celebrate iconic sci-fi series Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Users had the opportunity to respond to their friends’ posts using a laughing Kirk, a surprised Spock, an angry Klingon, and more.
There were big things across the board on social media platforms this month. That’s why we’ve done the hard work of rounding up all the updates—big and small—from all the major networks so you don’t miss a thing.
Table of contents
Monetize live content
On September 1, Twitter introduced new ways to monetize live content. Twitter described the change, which appears to part of the platform’s Amplify program, as a “new way for brands to join and add to the Twitter conversation using live video broadcasts and highlights from Periscope.” Andy Roddick appears to be the first user of the feature through a partnership with Chase and Grey Goose to create a series of broadcasts around the US Open.
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) September 11, 2016
Live streaming alerts
On September 12, Twitter announced that users can now turn on notifications when someone they follow shares live video on the platform. When users receive the alert, they can join the broadcast with a single tap, according to TechCrunch. The feature applies to both new streams from Periscope as well as Twitter live streaming partners such as the NFL.
Don't miss a live moment! Turn on notifications to join in when someone you follow shares live video on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/dddk81GuCH
— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2016
Live streaming video app for Apple TV, Fire TV, and Xbox One
On September 14, Adweek reported that Twitter is adding a live streaming video app to Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft’s Xbox One. The app will allow anyone using one of those devices to watch Twitter-streamed content (including broadcasts from Twitter streaming partners, such as the NFL) without using a paywall or logging into Twitter.
Anthony Noto, Twitter CFO, said in a statement: “These devices will bring Twitter’s live streaming video experience to live on the TV screen. Twitter has always been a great complement to TV, and now fans can enjoy even more premium video with live Tweets—and the best content on Twitter—right from their TVs.”
New customer support features
On September 15, Twitter announced new customer support features for businesses, giving brands the ability to tell users whether they provide help on Twitter, indicate what their hours of availability are, and ensure users know they have the option to reach out via Direct Message. The feature—which lets businesses indicate they provide support—provides that information when users search for a business, @mention a business in a Tweet, or find a business in Direct Messages. The new features are available to businesses.
Character count update
On September 19, Twitter announced a long-awaited update: photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count towards users’ 140 characters.
Say more about what's happening! Rolling out now: photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count toward your 140 characters. pic.twitter.com/I9pUC0NdZC
— Twitter (@twitter) September 19, 2016
This new functionality is also available for Tweets sent via the Hootsuite dashboard.
Look at all the characters we can fit in this tweet and STILL add a GIF! Available now for all Hootsuite users, give it a try for yourself 🙋 pic.twitter.com/ffETUn15Qx
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) September 19, 2016
Native ads available for mobile app install campaigns
On September 22, Twitter announced that advertisers running mobile app install campaigns can now opt to use native ads on the Twitter Audience Platform. Twitter’s blog explained: “Native ads use your existing assets so you don’t have to worry about making a unique set of creatives for each publisher.
Simply check the ‘native’ box when launching a new mobile app install campaign on the Twitter Audience Platform and your ad content will be automatically reassembled to match each app’s unique design and layout.” This option is available to all advertisers driving mobile app installs globally.
— Twitter Advertising (@TwitterAds) September 22, 2016
Mid-September, rumors swirled online about a possible Twitter bid. According to TechCrunch, the platform is being eyed up by the likes of Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon. So far, no word on any deals being made.
BREAKING: Twitter shares surge more than 15% as CNBC reports that Twitter has received expressions of interest, is moving closer to sale.
— CNBC (@CNBC) September 23, 2016
Website conversion objective
On September 28, Twitter introduced a new campaign objective beta focused on website conversions. Twitter explained in a blog post that the new objective—which is called Website Conversions—is “designed to help advertisers drive cost-efficient conversions at scale.” The platform also announced that it is renaming the existing Website Clicks or Conversion objective to Website Visits in order to “better reflect the actions that this objective drives.” Twitter’s new Website Conversions campaign objective is available in beta to advertisers in the U.S.
— Twitter Advertising (@TwitterAds) September 28, 2016
Moments open to everyone
On September 28, Twitter opened up Moments, its storytelling feature, to everyone. With Moments, Twitter users can curate Tweets—including photos, videos, and GIFs—to tell a larger story. Moments, which were initially introduced in October 2015, were originally created by Twitter’s own curation team and select publishing partners such as BuzzFeed and the New York Times. In addition to announcing that anyone can now create a moment, Twitter published a how-to guide in the form of (what else?) a Moment.
For everyone who wants to make a Moment – starting today you can! Creators everywhere can now tell stories with Tweets. pic.twitter.com/ZJtNBoTPWf
— Twitter (@twitter) September 28, 2016
Instant Video for Facebook Messenger
On September 1, Facebook launched Instant Video for Facebook Messenger. The announcement blog post explained: “Instant Video is a reflection of the ubiquity of video—we simply expect to have that ability in real-time, all the time. With Instant Video, you can bring your conversations to life in the most authentic way—seamlessly and instantly.”
Users can access the feature by viewing an open Messenger conversation (at the same time as the person they’re chatting with) and tapping the video icon in the top right corner to start sharing real-time video. The video will “float over” the text conversation, which can be continued during the call. Audio is off by default.
Custom Reactions for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary
On September 7, Facebook celebrated Star Trek’s 50th anniversary with custom Reactions, a greeting, and themed profile frame. Lindsey Shepard, consumer marketing lead of Facebook Messenger, wrote in a blog post: “In order to make this understood by all Star Trek fans, we chose the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols from the original Star Trek series, as well as the Next Generation. We also wanted to honor the original design and spirit of Reactions, so we needed visual cues that were easy to identify at a glance, like Geordi’s visor. This led us to our final cast: Kirk, Spock, Geordi and a Klingon.”
The Reactions were available for a limited time to Facebook users in the U.S. and Canada.
New tools for global marketing
On September 8, Facebook announced a new feature in the Lookalike Audiences tool to reach customers in new countries who are similar to existing ones. Additionally, advertisers with the Website Conversion or mobile App Install objectives can access extended location targeting capabilities by selecting a worldwide region or trade zone. The Facebook blog explained: “Facebook will then deliver adverts to selected regions and then optimize deliver to the countries with the greatest return.”
On September 12, Facebook introduced Messenger Platform v1.2.
According to the Messenger blog, v1.2 includes:
- Payments: allows businesses to sell products and services directly to customers in Messenger.
- Bot sharing: makes it easier for people to share the bots they’ve discovered as well as sharing individual messages by clicking share icons attached to message bubbles.
- Welcome screens: to give people more context on how to begin interactions with businesses and service on Messenger. Businesses can customize the introductory text included on their welcome screens.
- Messenger as a destination for News Feed ads: businesses can drive people to chat with their bots on Messenger.
- Enhanced mobile websites in Messenger: users can view business’ mobile websites within Messenger.
- Location and icon sharing for quick replies
Attachment reuse for multimedia sends
UI elements: “because while some interactions are better in a conversational format (like quick responses or intent capture), and some things are better suited for a permanent thread (like receipts, shipping notifications, and flight updates) some experiences are truly better with a full-fledged UI.”
Video calling reaches 300 million users
On September 12, Facebook’s head of Messenger, David Marcus, announced at TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference that Messenger’s audio and video calling reached 300 million users.
On September 13, Facebook introduced Blueprint certification, a new offering for the company’s e-learning platform. The announcement blog post explained: “Blueprint Certification is Facebook’s global credentialing programme for digital advertising professionals. As the most advanced-level programme, Blueprint Certification demonstrates expertise across the Facebook family of products and services, including advertising on Instagram and Messenger.”
Facebook offers two different types of Blueprint Certification:
- Facebook Certified Planning Professional
- Facebook Certified Buying Professional
Blueprint Certification is available worldwide, though exams are currently only available in English with other languages rolling out “as they become available.”
Dynamic ads for retail
On September 20, Facebook introduced dynamic ads for retail, which, among other things, allow advertisers to showcase products that are available in the shop that’s closest to the person seeing the ad. The ads are linked to local product catalogues, so if something is out of stock, the campaign will adjust automatically so that people in that region no longer see the ad.
Dynamic ads provide actionable information for consumers such as:
- Local availability: indicates if a product is available at a store nearby
- Product summaries: provide information without making consumers leave the app
- Different actions: ability to contact the nearest shop, buy online, or save the product for future reference
- Similar products: ability to ‘browse the aisles’ from their phone by seeing similar products available at the nearest shop
New and expanded measurement partnerships
On September 21, Facebook introduced several new products and integrations intended to help advertisers understand which campaigns are performing best, which are selling the most, and how advertising is driving brand growth.
The new measurement partners integrations are:
- The ability for consumer package goods advertisers to understand the impact of Facebook and Instagram on offline purchases—from Nielsen Catalina Solutions
- A new Lift API to make lift measurement—the difference in likelihood of buying a product between two groups, one who has seen an ad and one who hasn’t—accessible to more partners and advertisers—from Oracle Data Cloud
- A marketing mix modelling integration to make it easier for marketers to add Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network campaign information into their marketing mix modelling—from Nielsen, Neustar MarketShare, Analytics Partners, and Marketing Evolution
- The ability to employ multi-touch attribution, which “fairly distributes credit among multiple impressions and clicks in a person’s journey” rather than simply using las-click attribution—from Visual IQ and and Neustar MarketShare
- The ability to utilize view-through measurement provides “impression-level attribution for installs from app ads,” because many users now view an ad (without clicking) and then later install an app, an integration aimed at better attributing the impact of video ads—from adjust, Adways Inc., AppsFlyer, Apsalar, CyberZ, Kochava, and Localytics
These measurement integrations are available through Facebook’s partners. Interested advertisers must contact an account representative for more detail.
On September 22, Facebook introduced group chat polls and AI payment suggestions, reported TechCrunch.
The polls feature gives users the ability to write a question and several possible answers, then send it to a group chat as a poll.
The new ‘chat assist’ feature for payments scans messages for indicators that someone should be sent money, such as “IOU.” When it finds an indicator, the feature triggers a payment button that appears below the message.
The features are available to iOS and Android users in the U.S.
Profile expression kit open to developers
On September 22, Facebook opened up its Profile Expression Kit to developers. When developers set up the kit, people can share photos and videos created in third-party apps directly to their Facebook profiles.
Ad set budget rebalancing
On September 23, Facebook launched an ad set budget rebalancing system which “enables advertisers to select an option to automatically re-allocate ad set budgets based on spend.” The Facebook for Developers blog explained: “This ad set rebalancing system makes this budgeting workflow more efficient by adjusting and reallocating spend automatically for each ad set without exceeding the set spend cap at the campaign level. As a result, you will effectively spend more of your budget on higher delivery ad sets.”
Video metric miscalculation
David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships, explained in a blog post: “The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t—it reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of ‘views’ of a video (that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds). And so the miscalculation overstated this metric.”
The apologetic post went on to discuss how the metric had been fixed immediately upon discovery.
News Canvas features
On September 26, Facebook announced new features for Canvas including:
- New brand-oriented marketing objectives, such as Brand Awareness and Video Views
- 360 video
- Ability to link buttons and images to another Canvas instead of a website in order to create a multi-page experience
- Templates coming soon
Facebook at Work launching next month
On September 27, TechCrunch reported that Facebook at Work—Facebook’s enterprise communication and collaboration network—launches next month. According to TechCrunch, Facebook plans to launch the platform with a per seat pricing model.
New features in Analytics for Apps
On September 28, Facebook introduced an Analytics for Apps beta that adds support for web measurement and cross-platform metrics. As well, Facebook pixel customers will now automatically get insights in Analytics for Apps without having to change their existing pixel implementation. Facebook also launched event source groups, which allows businesses to pull together data from multiple sources.
Additionally, they also launched two other features to help businesses better understand and engage their audiences:
- User properties which allow businesses to integrate online and offline information about their customers
- Sharing insights now includes a way for brands to predict whether their content is about to go viral
The Facebook for Developers blog explained: “With Analytics for Apps, you can now get a complete picture of customer behavior across your native mobile apps, desktop web, and mobile web presences—all in one seamless analytics experience.”
Facebook ‘Messenger Day’
On September 30, TechCrunch reported that Facebook has begun testing a Snapchat Stories-like format for Facebook Messenger in Poland. The new feature, called “Messenger Day,” lets users add filters to the photos and video they share. Messenger Day also offers users suggestions of what to share. Like Snapchat, the posts disappear in 24 hours.
Facebook told TechCrunch: “We know that people come to Messenger to share everyday moments with friends and family. In Poland we are running a small test of new ways for people to share those updates visually.” In the past, Facebook has used smaller markets to highlight new features—as it did with initial tests of Reactions in Ireland and Spain—before rolling them out more widely. If Messenger Day proves popular in Poland, it’s possible that it could come to a device near you in the future.
Starting today, you can pinch to zoom on photos and videos in feed, on profiles and on Explore. Dive into an adorable puppy’s smile or into every detail of your friend’s new shirt. Over the past six months, you’ve seen many exciting changes come to Instagram, from a new icon to longer videos and even a new way to share everyday moments with Instagram Stories. And as things change, we’re still focused on improving the core parts of Instagram. Zoom is available today for Instagram on iOS. Zoom will be available on Android in the coming weeks.
On September 12, Instagram introduced a keyword-based comment moderation tool. The new tool gives users the ability to set a list of words they consider offensive or inappropriate which will then be hidden from their posts. Users have the option to choose to use a default list provided by Instagram or to create their own list of terms.
Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram, explained in a blog post: “We know tools aren’t the only solution to this complex problem, but together, we can work towards keeping Instagram a safe place for self-expression.”
A Note from Kevin Systrom (@kevin): When Mike and I first created Instagram, we wanted it to be a welcoming community where people could share their lives. Images have the ability to inspire and bring out the best in us, whether they are funny, sad or beautiful. Over the past five years, I’ve watched in wonder as this community has grown to 500 million, with stories from every corner of the world. With this growth, we want to work diligently to maintain what has kept Instagram positive and safe, especially in the comments on your photos and videos. The beauty of the Instagram community is the diversity of its members. All different types of people — from diverse backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and more — call Instagram home, but sometimes the comments on their posts can be unkind. To empower each individual, we need to promote a culture where everyone feels safe to be themselves without criticism or harassment. It’s not only my personal wish to do this, I believe it’s also our responsibility as a company. So, today, we’re taking the next step to ensure Instagram remains a positive place to express yourself. The first feature we’re introducing is a keyword moderation tool that anyone can use. Now, when you tap the gear icon on your profile, you’ll find a new Comments tool. This feature lets you list words you consider offensive or inappropriate. Comments with these words will be hidden from your posts. You can choose your own list of words or use default words we’ve provided. This is in addition to the tools we’ve already developed such as swiping to delete comments, reporting inappropriate comments and blocking accounts. We know tools aren’t the only solution for this complex problem, but together we can work toward keeping Instagram a safe place for self-expression. My commitment to you is that we will keep building features that safeguard the community and maintain what makes Instagram a positive and creative place for everyone. To learn more about comments on Instagram, check out help.instagram.com. Kevin Systrom CEO & Co-founder, Instagram
Updates to the enhanced call to action button
In mid-September, Instagram announced four new updates to their enhanced call to action button:
- Highlighting the call to action button when people show interest on or around an ad, indicated by resting on the ad for four seconds or tapping on the profile name
- Adding a call to action button to the comments section of an ad
- Detecting and automatically adding additional information—such as price, destination URL, or app store rating—to the call to action button
- Taking users to the destination URL when they unmute a video, giving users the ability to browse and take action on a landing page while the video continues to play at the top of the screen
The new solutions roll out next month.
On September 22, Instagram announced that it reached the milestone of 500,000 advertisers. In a blog post, Instagram said that the amount of advertisers on the platform doubled in only six months and that the top five countries seeing advertiser adoption are the U.S., Brazil, the U.K., Australia, and Canada. Instagram also stated that in the two months since the launch of Instagram Business Tools, 1.5 million businesses have converted to business profiles.
Save as draft
On September 20, Instagram rolled out a much-anticipated drafts feature. Users can now edit a photo—adding effects, filters, a caption, and location—then save the post as a draft to come back to later.
- Tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen to take or upload a photo or video
- Edit the post by adding effects, filters, a caption, and a location
- Return to the filtering and editing step
- Tap the back arrow in the top left-hand corner
- Select Save Draft at the bottom of the screen
- To view drafts, tap the camera button and then tap Library
- Posts will appear at the bottom of the screen below Drafts
If users haven’t edited the post, tagged people, or added a caption or location, they won’t be able to save the post as a draft.
Instagram Stories updates
In September, Instagram introduced a couple of small updates to Instagram Stories. Users can now:
- Add color to their text by swiping the colors above the keyboard to see more or tapping and holding a circle to select a custom color
- Mute someone’s story by tapping and holding their profile photo in the bar at the top of their feed; once a story is muted, it will move to the end of the bar and won’t automatically play when the user is watching stories
Promote Pins quicker
On September 15, Pinterest made it faster and easier for advertisers to launch campaigns. According to the announcement blog post: “Using the new Promote button you’ll see when you create a Pin or view it on your profile, you can set up a Promoted Pin in as little as nine seconds.” The feature is available for U.S. businesses.
3D touch support
On September 13, the YouTube mobile app for iOS updated to include 3D Touch support. Now logged-in users can force press on the YouTube icon to reveal quick actions.
On September 13, YouTube introduced a beta version of YouTube Community, a new product intended to strengthen relationships between Creators and their viewers. Community is a brand new tab on some Creators’ YouTube channels that will enable them to add text updates, live videos, images, animated GIFs, and more. Viewers will see Community tab updates in the Subscriptions feed on their phones and can opt into getting notifications. YouTube says the feature is an “easier, lightweight” way for Creators to engage with fans “more often in between uploads, in real time.”
Creators for Change
On September 22, YouTube introduced YouTube Creators for Change, a new program dedicated to social change work. The platform’s blog explained: “YouTube Creators for Change is a new initiative dedicated to amplifying the voices of role models who are tackling difficult social issues with their channels… Over the next year, program ambassadors will drive greater awareness of social issues and foster productive dialogue around these topics through the videos they create.”
On September 22, YouTube announced that it was growing it’s Trusted Flagger program into a new initiative called YouTube Heroes. The Trusted Flagger program was first introduced back in 2012 when YouTube realized that some of its users reported community guidelines violations at a much higher rate of accuracy. The program gave them more tools to make this easier for them.
YouTube Heroes is an extension of that—a program “designed to recognize and support the global community of people who consistently help make YouTube a better experience for everyone.”
Heroes do things like add captions and subtitles to videos, report community guidelines violations, and share knowledge with others in help forums. Users who are designated Heroes will have access to a dedicated YouTube Heroes community site where they can earn points, unlock rewards, and learn from one another.
On September 27, YouTube announced YouTube Go, “a new YouTube app built from scratch to bring YouTube to the next generation of viewers.”
Some notable YouTube Go features:
- Trending and popular videos in a user’s area featured on the home screen
- Preview videos before saving or watching
- Choose resolution when saving or streaming
- Share videos with friends nearby
New publishing experience
On September 8, LinkedIn rolled out a new desktop publishing experience, which includes:
- A full-width interface that’s sleek and intuitive
- Easier to add move, and resize multimedia with in-line images, videos, slides, podcasts, and more
- More text and font options
- A simplified reading view that eliminates distractions
- Updated tagging and distribution system to help surface articles, including the ability to add hashtags to an article before publishing
As we noted earlier, when Twitter made their big update on September 19—making it so that photos, videos, GIFs, and Quote Tweets no longer count towards a user’s 140 characters—Hootsuite updated alongside them. All Tweets sent from the Hootsuite dashboard, whether they include rich media or not, will allow the use of all 140 characters.
Look at all the characters we can fit in this tweet and STILL add a GIF! Available now for all Hootsuite users, give it a try for yourself 🙋 pic.twitter.com/ffETUn15Qx
— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) September 19, 2016
Sticker search bar
On September 13, Snapchat launched new sticker search functionality. To use it, Snapchatters simply need to create a Snap and tap the sticker button, then type their query in the bar above the sticker options. Fun fact: searching for “Justin Bieber” returns a sticker reading “sorry.” You’re welcome.
If you search for "Justin Bieber" on snapchat it shows the sorry sticker hahah pic.twitter.com/mVUD9srFkH
— I MET HIM | pcd (@Bi3berAttack) September 13, 2016
Online Geofilter creation tool
At the beginning of September, Snapchat rolled out an online Geofilter creation tool within their on-demand Geofilter site. Now users wanting to make a custom Geofilter can choose to customize a template rather than create their own filter from scratch using software such as Photoshop. Templates fall under three categories—birthdays, celebrations, and weddings—and give users the option to customize text, font, and colors.
In September, Adweek reported that Snapchat would be adding more targeting for advertisers. A new feature called Snap Audience Match will let brands anonymously sync the data within their email lists and files of mobile device IDs with Snapchat’s user pool. Additionally, Snapchat will let brands target viewers based on what content categories they follow.
On September 8, Tumblr announced that they’re going to start adding affiliate codes to links on Tumblr that don’t already have one. The affiliate codes will tell merchants that a customer came from Tumblr “and if there’s a sale, Tumblr may get a commission for the referral.”
VIP program coming soon
On September 27, Periscope announced a Periscope VIP Program “to recognize some of the top broadcasters who’ve been essential in helping shape our community.” VIP Program members will:
- Have access to benefits that will help them grow their audiences
- Be given opportunities to collaborate with other broadcasters
- Be able to identify themselves as a VIP broadcaster
- Have access to tools
Periscope is already accepting applications and has plans to roll out the program in the coming weeks.
On September 29, Periscope introduced curated channels, a new way to discover live video on Periscope.tv. Periscope will highlight interesting topics, ideas, and events through new curated broadcast channels, including hashtag-driven channels, featured channels, and breaking news events.
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