Social Media News: The 5 Biggest Stories of the Week

Looking for the latest social media news? This blog has it. This image of a retro-looking microphone against a solid background conveys the message that news is being broadcast
Looking for the latest social media news? This blog has it. This image of a retro-looking microphone against a solid background conveys the message that news is being broadcast

We get it! You're busy scheduling content and engaging with your followers, so it can be difficult to make time to sit down and read about the latest Facebook algorithm update or how brands are leveraging TikTok. But, hey, it's also important to carve out time to learn about new ways to improve your social media strategy. So, put down your phone (we know: it's hard!) and indulge in reading about recent social media updates.

Top Social Media and PR News Stories This Week

If you work in social media marketing, these are the stories you need to read this week!

1. Twitter Crop Gets Cut Out

Twitter has stopped cropping tall images in users’ timelines, a move which will be welcomed by social media managers who no longer need to guess how such pictures will appear to their audiences.

Also this week, Twitter introduced the Tip-Jar feature that has been rumoured for a while, enabling users to make cash payments to their favorite accounts. Finally, if you’re interested in how brands can make use of the new Spaces audio chat feature, Twitter has published this handy guide.

2. Facebook Wants Users to Read Before Sharing

Facebook is testing a new feature that will ask users to read articles before sharing them, echoing a similar move by Twitter last year. The feature is designed to encourage people to get the full facts in a story, beyond the headlines.

Facebook Messenger and Instagram also introduced several new creative tools for users, including the ability to send “visual replies” to messages, such as videos or images, instead of just text.  

3. Clubhouse Now on Android

The fast-growing audio-chat platform, Clubhouse, is finally available for Android (at least in beta form) but the bad news is that it’s still invite-only. The app has been available on iOS for just over a year and has been successful enough to convince Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to introduce competing features, even before it’s fully open to the general public.

4. Pinterest Ad Platform Guide

Pinterest has released a new guide for marketers who want to better understand how advertising works on the platform. With over 450 million monthly active users, and consistent growth, Pinterest is one of the unsung heroes of social media and has a lot to offer brand marketers.

5. Snapchat Gen Z TV Research

Snapchat has released new research from Nielsen which shows how the ephemeral video-sharing platform’s reach compares, and sometimes contributes to that of TV. There are a few interesting data points in the research, but the key takeaway is that Gen Z is less likely to be as tethered to the TV as previous generations were, and platforms like Snapchat provide a supplemental channel for reaching them.  

Catch Up on Social News from Weeks Past

Update from May 5

1. Twitter Acquires Ad-Free Content Startup, Scroll

Twitter has bought Scroll, a still in closed-beta, service that gives subscribers ad-free access to online media content while sharing the subscription revenues amongst publishers in proportion to where readers spend the most of their time. The service’s aim is to give subscribers a better experience and enable publishers to make more money than they would through ads.

Recently Twitter acquired Revue, a service that helps writers to build and monetize newsletters. These moves give us a big clue that Twitter is focusing on how it can support content creators, and specifically writers. 

2. Twitter Rolls Out Spaces to More Users

Also this week, Twitter has rolled out its Spaces audio-chat feature to all users with 600 or more followers. Spaces allows Twitter users to host an audio chat on their profile, inviting up to 10 other users to participate in the discussion, while an unlimited number of followers can listen in.

The company says that it’s looking into additional features, including monetization options, scheduling, and shared hosting. It’s also likely that the service will eventually be made available to all users.

3. Pinterest Search Trends Point to Post-Lockdown Plans

Pinterest has shared some data on its users’ recent search behavior, which gives us an insight into what kind of things are on consumers’ minds as the world begins to move out of lockdown. Searches among Gen Z users alone have increased by almost 100% compare to this time last year.

The data shows that people are especially interested in travel and socializing topics, and are also hunting for inspiration on what to wear now that they’re able to restart their lives. The surge in home improvement projects during lockdown shows no sign of easing, however, as users continue searching for décor ideas on the platform.

4. Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter Post Stellar Q1 Growth

This week saw three of the big social platforms posting their Q1 2021 growth data. Twitter’s daily user numbers have grown to 199 million, compared to 166 million for the same period last year. The company posted revenues of $1.04billion for Q1, a 28% YoY jump.

Meanwhile, Facebook saw an 8% YoY increase in its daily active users, rising to 1.88 billion. Q1 revenue for Facebook was up 48% to $26.17 billion. Pinterest’s monthly active users for Q1 rose 30% to 478 million, with a 78% YoY growth for Q1 delivering $485 million.

If you thought social media growth had plateaued, you were wrong!

5. Study Finds No Evidence Social Damages Teens' Mental Health

A major study from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute has found no evidence of any link between teenager’s use of social media and mental health problems. The research used data sets covering over 400,000 adolescents in the UK and US, to determine whether there was any relationship between the amount of time they spent using the internet and the risk of mental illness.

Update from April 27

1. Twitter Tests Professional Profiles

Businesses and other organizations that want to use Twitter have always had to use the same kind of accounts as private individuals on the platform, with no specific features available to “professional” users.

That looks set to change, now that Twitter is openly testing new “Professional Profiles” that offer features designed for organizational users rather than consumers. The new profiles are currently being tested by a few US businesses, but the trial should soon widen, according to Twitter.

Details are scarce about the new functionality, but this has the potential to be a game-changer for social media marketers. While Twitter is overshadowed by Facebook and Instagram in terms of user numbers, it is still one of the most important social channels for marketing and communications professionals. Any change in the way brands are able to use the platform will have a significant impact.

2. Instagram Adds Anti-Abuse Tools

In an effort to help protect users from abuse in their DMs, Instagram has introduced a new feature that will automatically filter out messages that contain abusive language. Specifically, the feature blocks abusive message requests from strangers, since that’s one of the most common paths used to harass people on Instagram.

As well as blocking requests that contain pre-defined abusive language, users can also add their own choice of words and phrases to the filter, as well as emojis. The platform is also rolling out a feature that will enable users to stop receiving message requests from new accounts set up by people they have already blocked.

Social media managers all too often bear the brunt of online abuse directed at their brands, which can take a toll when they have to deal with it every day. Features like this are vital for brands as well as consumers, to make social a better place for everybody.

3. Facebook Wants Your Timeline Feedback

In Facebook’s ongoing mission to fill your News Feed with the most relevant content based on your personal preferences, the platform is expanding its use of user surveys as a ranking factor. That means users can expect to be asked more often whether a piece of content was worth their time, and their feedback will help determine how prominently similar content is displayed to them in the future.

In a recent announcement, Facebook also said it would be trialing a range of new ranking factors to help improve the quality of users’ News Feeds. These include whether people find content ‘inspirational’, how interested you are in a specific topic (regardless of who posted it), and what content users expressly do not want to see more of.

Anybody who manages a brand’s profile on social will be familiar with the struggle of getting their organic content to cut through the noise. While it’s inevitable that you’ll need to pay to boost content a lot of the time, it’s still possible for good content to do well organically sometimes. Keeping a close eye on the factors Facebook uses to determine how content is displayed to users will help you optimize your posts for the best organic performance.

4. Nerf’s New TikTok Officer

Popular toy brand, Nerf, this week announced the appointment of its new TikTok Officer, responsible for representing the company on the booming video sharing platform. Sophie Jamison, better known on TikTok as Nerfers101, is a well-known Nerf-superfan who accumulated an audience of 1.8million followers on the platform.   

The position is temporary, with Jamison’s tenure billed as a three-month stint, so this is clearly more of a PR tactic than a long-term role, but it certainly highlights the growing influence of TikTok among younger audiences. While many brands may struggle to understand how best to capitalise on the platform’s short-format video offering, the company has recently put a lot of effort into making itself more accessible to businesses, not least by providing education resources for marketers who are curious about how to get involved.

 5. Clubhouse Partners with NFL

Most of us can’t use Clubhouse yet (especially those of us who use Android) but that isn’t stopping the nascent audio-chat app from making waves. This week the company announced a content deal with the NFL that will see the sports league hosting rooms on its app that will provide a range of exclusive content for fans.

Update from April 19

1. Facebook Launches Audio Experiences

In a week that saw Clubhouse secure funding which values the business at $4 billion, Facebook announced its response to the growing audio-chat trend.

The new features include tools for creating audio content, short-form audio clips for Facebook posts, live audio rooms for Groups and Messenger, plus integrated podcast tools.

Facebook says that all of these new features are designed to work together to give users a seamless experience, and will become part of a ‘central listening destination’. There will also be options for creators to monetize the audio content they publish on the platform.

2. Reddit Confirms New Audio Features

Last week we mentioned that Reddit was rumoured to be launching its own audio-chat feature, and this week the company has confirmed its plan for Reddit Talk. In a post on the site, the company announced a waitlist for access to the new feature, which will allow the moderators of Reddit communities to host live audio chats.

One of Reddit’s most successful trends has been AMA (Ask Me Anything) threads, where high profile individuals (or simply people with interesting stories) offer to answer questions from users. This has worked well as a text-based feature, but it’s easy to see how audio AMA sessions could become very popular.

3. New Creative Tools for Brands on TikTok

TikTok this week unveiled its new Business Creative Hub, designed to help brands on the platform come up with creative ideas for their own content.

The hub provides access to trending content, to give you an idea of what’s already working well on the platform, as well as tips and guidance on best practices for creating posts that will perform well.

The Hub is available to all TikTok users who have business accounts on the platform.

4. Instagram Lets Users Turn Off Like Counts

Instagram is testing a new feature that allows users to switch off the Like-counts shown on posts. This is an issue that has been explored by Instagram and other social platforms for a while, whether the relentless pursuit of more likes is harmful to users’ mental wellbeing, as well as damaging the overall experience of the service.

Instagram has previously tried switching off Like counts entirely for some users and, following feedback on those earlier experiments, it’s now giving users in the test group the option to choose for themselves whether they want to see the counts on their posts.

5. Pinterest Helps Creators Control Their Content

Pinterest has introduced a new Content Claiming Portal, which enables content creators to protect their IP on the platform, by claiming ownership of their images and deciding how they want to permit those images to be used across the site.

To begin with, the tool is only available to a handful of creators, but Pinterest says it will roll the feature out to a wider range of users in the future.

Update from April 12

1. Facebook & YouTube Dominate US Social

The latest research into US social media usage from Pew shows that 81% of Americans use Facebook, and 69% use YouTube, making them by far the most popular social platforms. Instagram trailed in third place at 40%. Just 23% use Twitter, and 21% use TikTok.

The study also found that most social platforms have not grown much since 2019, with only Reddit and YouTube showing a significant increase in users since then. Unsurprisingly, adults under 30 are more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat at TikTok than older people.

The report, Social Media Use in 2021, is based on a survey of 1,500 Americans carried out earlier this year.

2. Facebook Tests New Live Audio Feature

As Clubhouse continues to generate buzz across the industry, other social media companies are making their own forays into live-audio-focused platforms in a bid to protect their market share. The latest experiment comes from Facebook in the form of Hotline, a new feature that is designed to facilitate Q&A sessions between creators and fans.

Hotline combines audio, text, and video, and was released into public beta last week in the US. The full story is at TechCrunch.

In other news from Facebook, the company announced that it will now label content in users’ newsfeeds to help people differentiate between independent news sources, statements from public officials, satire, and other information channels.

3. Reddit Also Dabbles with Audio

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform hoping to muscle in on the Clubhouse party. Mashable reports that the massive online community service is trialing a new audio-chat feature of its own, although the story is unconfirmed by Reddit.

According to the report, these voice chats would be run by subreddit moderators (the power-users who admin the site’s many niche-interest communities) and might form part of a package of incentives available to users who pay for a premium experience of the site.

4. Twitter to Focus on Performance Ads

This year will see Twitter offering its advertisers a wider range of products and an improved ad-buying experience, according to a report in Campaign. A major new focus for the platform will be performance ads, which drive users to perform specific actions such as viewing a video or downloading an app onto their device.

This is all in contrast to the kind of advertising users currently experience on Twitter, which is largely designed to increase brand awareness rather than creating action. But in this space, as well, the platform is planning to offer new formats and products for advertisers.

As Twitter strives to grow its revenues, the opportunity for brands on the platform looks set to expand significantly.

That's it! Come back next week for another recap of the biggest social media news and PR stories of the week.