Stories may have originated on Snapchat, but these days they are a staple feature of just about every social network out there. Now, they are officially coming somewhere few would have expected – LinkedIn.

The company has played with the idea of introducing the feature for months, with Stories appearing in elusive tests across the platform. Beginning today, though, the feature is officially rolling out to everyone within the US and Canada.

The feature is largely what you would expect, allowing users to take a photo or video, add decorations or text, and upload it to the site. After 24 hours, the post will vanish to never be seen again (unless you reupload it.)

The company is aware that users might not expect or even want Stories like you might find on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, LinkedIn’s senior director of product says early tests showed users were interested in Stories for different reasons or uses.

“Members in the past have found sharing on LinkedIn to be intimidating,” Li told Engadget. “We’re hoping it’ll spark more conversations from people who just don’t really share content on LinkedIn.”

Indeed, the company still intends for Stories to largely be professional. To help keep things focused on this, LinkedIn Stories will also feature a question of the day to steer conversation.

“You’re not meant to share the same things that you would on other networks,” Li says. “That doesn’t mean you can’t share a picture of your dog … but the goal is to keep it keep the conversations in the same vein that you would have right in your workplace.”

Li also says Stories are part of a broader initiative to help connect coworkers who might feel isolated while working from home or remotely.

Other New LinkedIn Features

In addition to the official launch of LinkedIn Stories, the professional social network has introduced a number of new partnerships which bring integration for Zoom, BlueJeans, and Microsoft Teams to the network. 

This means you can start a video call using your preferred tool directly from LinkedIn’s chat tools, without having to open a separate app.

To help make LinkedIn’s chat more useful for users, the site is also launching the ability to recall, delete, and even edit messages, use emojis in chat, and flag harassing or inappropriate messages.

These tools are expected to roll out to users sometime in October.

*UPDATE* – The roller coaster continues. Late Saturday, President Trump told reporters he approved of a deal which would see TikTok’s US operations taken over by Oracle and Walmart.

“I have given the deal my blessing,” said Trump as he left Washington for a North Carolina rally. “I approve the deal in concept.”

Following the news, the US Department of Commerce said it is delaying the upcoming removal of TikTok from American app stores in “light of recent developments.”

Now, the department says TikTok will remain available on US iOS and Android stores until September 27th, unless a deal is finalized and approved.

*Original Article*
It is official. TikTok will be formally banned from Android and iOS within the United States starting Sunday, September 20, 2020.

This means that people within the US will be unable to download the app from trusted app stores.

Those who have the app already downloaded can continue to use the app, however, they will be unable to download any updates released in the future.

Following this, an effective ban of the platform will go into effect starting November 12, at which time the app will be completely unreachable in the US.

The announcement from the US Department of Commerce also stated that any workarounds to access TikTok will also be banned.

The announcement came as somewhat of a shock, as TikTok had made visible efforts to sell its US operations which would satisfy the conditions issued by the Department of Commerce.

As the department said in the announcement of the effective ban:

“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted.”

According to President Trump, who signed the ban into effect via Executive Order on August 6, 2020, TikTok and WeChat – owned by the same company – pose a threat to national security.

The Department of Commerce elaborated on this:

“Today’s announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality…

Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories…

This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

TikTok spokesperson responded to the news in a statement which called the move “unprecedented”:

“In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security.”

It should be noted that the United States is not the only country to express concerns about TikTok or even to ban it from their country. India banned the app starting in July of this year, while others including Japan have openly considered banning the service.

Google is making several tweaks to its shopping-related search results to make it easier to find the products you want locally and choose the pickup method you are most comfortable with. 

As the country gradually returns to our normal in-store shopping habits, many are making adjustments to ensure the safest trips to the store. 

For example, Google says that searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” have increased tenfold over the past few months and remain heightened. 

Making this more difficult, many businesses remain closed after mandatory shutdowns have passed, while others are struggling with inventory due to shipping disruptions around the world. 

With all this in mind, Google has announced three significant updates to shopping search results which make it easier for shoppers to know who’s open, what’s in stock, and how they can most safely make a purchase. 

Filter By What’s Available Locally

When looking for a specific type of product, searchers can now limit their search results to only products available nearby. 

This can be done in two different ways. 

  • Users can tap on the “Nearby” filter when looking at results within the Shopping tab.
  • Users can add “near me” to product searches to automatically find products available nearby.

“Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery?

Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally.”

Compare Local Hours, Locations, and Inventory

Making a trip to the store only to discover they are out of what you are looking for or the store is closed was already frustrating before the COVID-19, epidemic. 

To help solve this issue, Google is making it easier to compare the stock of local shops and see which businesses are open now. 

These details will be shown when searching “[product] near me” in a carousel of images and pricing details.

Find Convenient and Safe Pickup

Since the onset of the pandemic, Google has been prioritizing retailers who offer safe pickup options including contactless delivery or curbside pickup. 

Now, the company is introducing new ways to find safe purchase options with new labels in shopping searches. 

Along with these details, the listings will include a direct link to Maps directions so you can quickly and easily find the stores nearby. 

At the same time, Google emphasizes that calling to speak with someone is the most accurate way to check the inventory of products in real-time.

LinkedIn is expanding its features to help business owners and employees feel more connected even though they may be working from home. 

In the announcement, LinkedIn says people everywhere – especially in the professional world – are feeling less connected to each other during the ongoing pandemic. 

The company cites a recent survey from Glint which finds:

  • 31% of employees are feeling less connected to business leadership.
  • 37% of employees are feeling less connected to teammates.
  • 40% of employees feel less connected to their friends. 

Combined, these statistics show a startling need for better tools to virtually connect employees, leadership, and even friends during these socially distanced times.

As LinkedIn says:

“With a growing number of organizations announcing that their employees are required to work remotely until 2021, it’s more important than ever for organizations to take action and ensure their teams will thrive in a virtual work environment.”

To assist with this, the social network is adding three new features for LinkedIn pages to better facilitate connections between businesses, their employees, and their communities. 

Here are some quick details about the three latest LinkedIn features:

Find Out More About Your Followers

Companies have been oddly unable to see all of their LinkedIn page followers. Instead, the social network has only given businesses an aggregate total of their followers and some broad demographics about these users.

Now, business pages will have access to all publicly available information about their followers. You can even sort and filter these users by their location, industry, and current company.

“This provides the transparency needed to better understand audiences, so organizations can more easily share the right content and build their LinkedIn community around the conversations that matter most.”

Connect With Team Members In The “My Company” Tab

A new “My Company” tab is being launched to facilitate discussion and connection for employees working remotely. 

The “My Company” tab includes a range of content and features, including:

  • Highlighting employee milestones (promotions, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Trending content from coworkers
  • Recommendations to connect with coworkers you may not know yet

LinkedIn also says more features will be coming in the future. 

However, not everyone will have access to this tab. To be eligible, business pages must have more than 201 employees.

Track Upcoming Events

Virtual events have become a major part of staying informed and connected during Covid. Unfortunately, keeping track of all these events across countless platforms isn’t always easy. 

Now, LinkedIn is adding an “Events” tab which will automatically collect your page’s past, present, and upcoming events on LinkedIn. This can include everything from a small online panel, webinar, or full-scale virtual conference. 

The tab is included in the left-hand navigation menu on LinkedIn, so you can always find the latest events you and your company are participating in. 

All these features are available worldwide for all eligible pages.

As part of an ongoing legal battle with the United States government, TikTok has revealed its total number of active users for the first time ever. 

The hugely popular social app has been dominating the top charts of app stores for months, though it was never clear exactly how many people were using the app regularly. 

In a new court filing as part of the company’s lawsuit against the US government, however, TikTok shared data about its daily active and monthly users.

Active US Users

TikTok receives as many as 100 million active users in the United States every month, with 50 million users returning to the site every day. 

According to the company’s filing, that number represents an 800% increase since January of 2018.

Here are some major milestones in TikTok’s growth over the past few years:

  • 11 million monthly US users in 2018
  • 27 million monthly US users in 2019
  • 91 million monthly US users in June 2020

Since June, the app says it has increased to finally reach 100 million active monthly users from the US.

Active Global Users

In addition to revealing the company’s active US users, TikTok disclosed its total number of downloads and active users around the world. 

In total, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. 

As of July 2020, the company is seeing 700 million active users around the world each month. 

These highlights help show the overall growth of the app around the world:

  • 54 million monthly active users in January 2018
  • 271 million monthly active users in December 2018
  • 507 million monthly active users in December 2019

While these numbers are certainly impressive compared to most social networks, TikTok still lags far behind Facebook’s 2.7 billion global active users each month. 

Why TikTok Is Revealing This Now

While TikTok has steadily become one of the biggest online platforms around – especially when it comes to younger internet users – the app is in danger of being banned from the United States next month. 

The Trump Administration has filed an executive order which would ban TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance,  from operating in the United States. This came following concerns the Chinese-owned app was being used to collect personal data on Americans. 

TikTok has denied these claims and is fighting the executive order in court saying the company has been denied due process. 

If the company loses in court, it is also possible TikTok’s US operations could be sold to an American company like Microsoft.

It’s a question we all have dealt with at least once or twice, and one that rarely has a satisfying answer: “Why did my Google rankings suddenly drop?”

Sometimes, a simple audit will reveal a technical hiccup or issue that is downgrading your rankings. Just as often, though, it appears everything is working as it should but you are suddenly further down the page or not even on the first page anymore. 

In this situation, Google’s John Mueller says there are four major reasons for sites to lose rankings. 

John Mueller Explains Why Sites Lose Rankings

In a recent Google Webmaster Central chat, Mueller was asked why a publisher who had ranked well for “seven or eight years” had suddenly lost rankings for three different sites. Notably, the person asking the question couldn’t find any signs of problems in their inbound or outbound links, and all the sites used the same keywords (they sell similar products by different brands). 

Of course, Mueller couldn’t get too specific with his answer because he didn’t have actual data or analytics on the sites. Still, he did his best to address four general reasons sites may suddenly rank worse.

1) Rankings Are Temporary

Once a site is ranking at the top for its ideal keywords, many site owners feel like they have accomplished their mission and will continue to rank there. Unfortunately, John Mueller says that rankings are malleable and change constantly.

Mueller explained:

“In general, just because the site was appearing well in search results for a number of years does not mean that it will continue to appear well in search results in the future.

These kinds of changes are essentially to be expected on the web, it’s a very common dynamic environment”

2) The Internet Is Always Changing

The reason why rankings are so prone to fluctuations is that the internet itself is always changing. New sites are being created every day, links might die, competitors might improve their own SEO, and people’s interests change.

Each and every one of these can have a big impact on the search results people see at any given time. 

As Mueller put it:

“On the one hand, things on the web change with your competitors, with other sites…”

3) Google Changes Its Algorithms

To keep up with the constantly changing internet, Google itself has to regularly overhaul how its search engine interprets and ranks websites. 

To give you one idea how this plays out, a few years ago search results were absolutely dominated by “listicles” (short top 5 or top 10 lists). Over time, people got tired of the shallow information these types of lists provided and how easily they could be abused as clickbait. Google recognized this and tweaked its algorithm to better prioritize in-depth information hyper-focusing on a single topic or issue. Now, though a listicle can still rank on Google, it is considerably harder than it used to be.

As Mueller simply explained:

“On the other hand, things on our side change with our algorithms in search.”

4) People Change

This is one that has been touched upon throughout the list Mueller gave, but it really gets to the heart of what Google does. What people expect out of the internet is constantly changing, and it is Google’s job to keep up with these shifts. 

In some cases, this can mean that people outright change how they search. For example, simple keywords like “restaurants near me” or “fix Samsung TV” were the main tool people used to find information for years and years. As voice search has become widespread and people have gotten more accustomed to using search engines all the time, queries have expanded to frequently include full sentences or phrases like “What is the best Chinese restaurant in midtown?”

At the same time, what people expect out of the same queries is also shifting with technological innovation and content trends. 

Mueller describes the situation by saying:

“And finally on the user side as well, the expectations change over time. So, just because something performed well in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to perform well in search in the future.”

Always Be Monitoring and Improving

The big theme behind all of these reasons sites lose rankings is that they are standing still while the world moves past them. To maintain your high rankings, your site has to be constantly in motion – moving with the trends and providing the content users want and expect from sites at any given time. 

This is why successful sites are also constantly monitoring their analytics to identify upcoming shifts and respond to any drops in rankings as soon as they happen.

If you want to see the full response, watch the video below (it starts with Mueller’s response but you can choose to watch the entire Webmaster Central office-hours discussion if you wish).

Instagram has begun showing postings for users you don’t follow when you’re all caught up on posts from those you do follow. The decision is not without controversy, however. 

Starting this week, users are seeing a new “Suggested Posts” section filled with content similar to those they already follow. The section doesn’t appear until you’ve scrolled past everything shared from people you follow and you have seen the “You’re All Caught Up” screen. 

Though brands, marketers, and publishers may be excited about Instagram introducing organic related content into users’ feeds for the first time ever, the user base has largely been critical of the decision. 

What Are Instagram Suggested Posts

Once users have scrolled to the “You’re Caught Up Screen” they are now seeing an option to “View Older Posts”. If selected or the user continues to scroll, they will be shown an infinite feed of suggested posts. 

Aside from the banner showing that you are viewing older posts, there is no indication that the content is being automatically selected based on your past browsing behavior. 

One complaint many have had is that Instagram already has a dedicated “Explore” section for finding posts and accounts you might be interested in. However, the actual content in these sections differs. 

The Difference Between Instagram Suggested Posts and Explore

Though they share some similarities, Suggested Posts are distinct from the Explore section in some key ways. 

Primarily, Instagram intends for Suggested Posts to be a curated collection of content based on your interests and activity. On the other hand, the Explore section is intended to be an extension of the search function on the platform, allowing you to explore broad topics and interests. 

As Instagram explains in a help center article, the content highlighted in the Suggested Posts section is largely defined by your own behavior:

“These suggestions are based on posts from accounts like the ones you follow and posts similar to the ones you like or save.”

You can also flag posts if they are particularly not of interest to help better refine the content shown to you in the future. To do this, just tap the three-dot icon at the top of the post and select the “Not interested” option.

Another distinction is that Suggested Posts will exclusively feature photos and videos, with no IGTV or Reels content allowed. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the explore section will also include promoted posts and other types of ads. 

Why The Decision is Controversial

Complaints about the decision have largely been focused on three issues:

  1. Users are not accustomed to seeing content they didn’t sign up for in their primary feed.
  2. Creating an infinite scrolling feed could encourage users to spend excessive amounts of time on the platform.
  3. The infinite feed makes Instagram too similar to TikTok.

The first complaint is to be expected. Any time a social network has introduced organic content from outside your friends list or follows, users have revolted – whether we are looking at Facebook’s feed or going all the way back to MySpace. 

To get an idea how users feel about the decision, just look at some tweets from users over the past few days:

Still, it is possible the feature may gain acceptance as users get accustomed to it. Only time will tell. 

As for the second complaint, director of product for Instagram, Robby Stein, attempted to address the issue upfront:

“Our goal is to make it clear when you’re all caught up so you can decide how you want to best use your time.

We see people continuing to seek out more posts they’re interested in after catching up with their feeds, so we wanted to learn from that and make it easier to go a little deeper for those who choose to do so.”

Lastly, concerns about Instagram looking a little too much like TikTok may prove to be shrewd positioning on the part of the platform. TikTok is currently facing a ban from operating in the United States unless the owning company ByteDance sells operations in the country. 

As the 45-day deadline grows closer, little progress seems to be happening which raises the distinct possibility that users may soon be looking for an alternative. 

With this and a few other recent moves, it is clear Instagram is hoping to be that replacement. 

As COVID-19 continues to be a major concern for people across the country, Facebook is introducing a new way for businesses and creators to monetize online events on the platform. 

Critically, the company says it will not collect any fees for paid events held on the platform to help businesses and individuals struggling during the pandemic. 

“Pages can host events on Facebook Live to reach broad audiences, and we’re testing paid events with Messenger Rooms for more personal and interactive gatherings.

In testing, we’ve seen businesses use Facebook to host expert talks, trivia events, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, intimate meet-and-greets, fitness classes, and more.”

While Facebook is far from the first to offer a way to deliver paid events that are entirely streamed to attendees, their service is unique is the all-in-one nature. Facebook can handle not just the streaming, but payment, advertising, and organic word-of-mouth. 

To put it another way, a person can see the ad for your performance in their feed, make a payment, and view your event without ever leaving Facebook. The company is also one of the only services which does not take a cut of ticket sales. However, purchases made on Apple devices or through the iOS Store are still subject to Apple’s 30% fee. 

Prohibited Content

As with all content shared on Facebook, live events must stay within the Community Standards, Partner Monetization Policies, and Content Monetization Policies.

While these guidelines include the obvious things you might expect, such as banning hate speech, inciting violence, or “sexualized content”, the social network’s content policies prohibit some areas you may not expect. 

For example, promoting health products including medical masks and hand sanitizer is currently banned on Facebook. 

Other restricted categories include:

  • Debated social issues
  • Conflict or tragedy
  • Objectionable activity
  • Sexual or suggestive activity
  • Strong language
  • Explicit content
  • Misinformation
  • Misleading medical information
  • Politics and government

In addition to restricting these types of content, monetized events cannot include these some specific media:

  • Static videos
  • Static image polls
  • Slideshows of images
  • Looping videos
  • Text montages
  • Embedded ads

In the announcement, Facebook says the paid events will be available to brands and individuals for at least one year. After that, they may introduce new fees or even remove the service.

Google is experimenting with a new way to help people find you in search results. Limited to India for now, the search engine is rolling out new ‘people cards’ which let individuals highlight details about themselves including your website, social profiles, and other relevant sites in one spot. 

Anyone who has ever tried to make a name for themselves knows search engines struggle when it comes to finding individual people – especially if they aren’t a household name like Taylor Swift. 

Now, Google is trying to tackle this problem with a virtual business card:

“Today, we are solving these challenges with a new feature called people cards. It’s like a virtual visiting card, where you can highlight your existing website or social profiles you want people to visit, plus other information about yourself that you want others to know.”

The cards were created with entrepreneurs, performers, influencers, and freelancers in mind and allow for a small amount of customization including a short blurb and contact links. 

Google People Card Gif

When viewed, the cards initially display a person’s name, profession, and location. When tapped or clicked, it expands into a full card complete with links. 

When multiple people with the same name appear in a search result, the individuals will appear alongside each other, allowing you to select the person you are looking for.  

How Creating a People Card Works

While they are not available in the U.S. or U.K. yet, some have found workarounds using VPN services to create a People Card for themself. If you decide to do this, you should know the cards will still only appear to searchers within India until the cards are expanded internationally. 

If you still wish to create a card and can make the VPN process work (results have been mixed according to Twitter users), the process is relatively simple. 

  1. Make sure you’re signed into the Google account you want linked to your People Card. 
  2. Search for your name or query “add me to Search.”
  3. After clicking “add me to Search” on the prompt, you’ll be taken to a page where you can provide a range of details including:
    • The image from your Google account
    • A personal description
    • A website link
    • Links to social profiles
    • Your phone number
    • Your email address

While you can pick and choose which details you want to provide, Google says “the more information you provide, the easier it is for people to find you.”

The only exception is your phone number, which is required for authenticating your card. Users can choose to keep this information hidden from their card, however. 

How Google Will Vet The Cards

Accompanying the rollout of these cards (and potentially explaining the limited size of the test), Google says it is launching a number of strict quality control measures to ensure the cards are reliable:

“Our goal with Search is to always make sure people can find helpful and reliable information, so we have a variety of protections and controls in place to maintain the quality of information on people cards.”

For now, there is no mention of when People Cards could be arriving in America. Based on the excitement from many, though, it feels safe to say you can expect to see something similar stateside sooner rather than later.