It was only a matter of time. Following TikTok’s meteoric rise to popularity, Instagram is taking the social network on head-on with its own short videos called Instagram Reels. 

While the Facebook-owned platform has supported video content for years, Reels shares several key features that made TikTok a hit, including the ability to include licensed or original music.

Specifically Instagram Reels features:

  • Users can create and share 15-second videos.
  • Can include audio including songs from a catalog of licensed music.
  • Users can upload their own audio or grab audio from other videos to use in their own videos. 
  • Instagram will also be creating a dedicated section in the Explore tab of the app, where users can find “Featured Reels”.

How To Create Reels

Creating a Reel is similar to taking a photo or creating any video on Instagram. Just open the in-app camera and slide the menu at the bottom to “Reels”.

Once selected, you’ll find a number of tools including a few specific to Reels:

  • Audio: Find a song in the Instagram music library or record your own audio.
  • AR Effects: Include visual effects from Instagram’s gallery.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before starting your latest video.
  • Speed: Speed up the audio or video you’ve selected.

Once you’ve gotten your song selected and set up any effects you want to use, just press and hold the capture button. 

You can also combine a series of short clips into a single Reel.

Once you’ve finished recording and editing, you’ll be taken to a sharing screen. By default, Reels will be added to a dedicated tab on your profile. You can also choose to share the clip to your Feed ensuring all your friends will see it. 

Why This Matters

Over the past couple years, TikTok has gone from an up-and-coming platform for kids to be goofy on to a bonafide part of online culture. 

Still, many are hesitant to add another social network to their life by signing up for TikTok. With Instagram Reels, they can get in on some of the fun without creating a new account for another platform.

There is also the issue of TikTok’s recent place in world news. The Chinese-owned social network has been accused of gathering immense amounts of user data and sharing it with the Chinese government. 

Over the weekend, these accusations escalated when President Trump threatened to ban the platform from the U.S. unless parent company ByteDance sells TikTok’s US operation to Microsoft. In an unprecedented move, the President also demanded the U.S. government receive a cut for approving any such sale.

It is unclear how banning the platform would work and the Chinese government has strongly condemned the threats from President Trump. 

With all this in mind, though, there is plenty of reason to keep an eye on Instagram Reels as a potential successor.

What is the California Consumer Privacy Act?

The CCPA or California Consumer Privacy Act is a law recently enacted in California which extends privacy protections for residents.

While the act is big news for those living within California, many of us outside the state had not heard about the law until it recently went into effect. 

Specifically, the law requires businesses to disclose what personal information they collect and how that information will be used in relatively clear language. The CCPA also requires businesses to provide easily accessible ways to opt-out of having their information collected. 

Lastly, the law provides for Californian citizens to ask for the data which a company has collected on that person, what it has been used for, and have that information deleted upon request. 

Does The Law Apply To You?

The bad news about the law is that it does not only apply to businesses based in California. It can be applied to any businesses collecting or selling data of Californians. 

The good news is that the CCPA provides for exceptions for smaller businesses who do not primarily collect or sell data. To be affected by the law, your business must:

  • Earn more than $25 million per year.
  • Collect data on more than 50,000 persons.
  • Make more than half of its revenue from the sale of personal data.

What is unclear is how this will apply to the number of social networks based in California who sell targeted both inside and outside California. 

How Facebook and Instagram are Responding

Facebook (which owns Instagram and operates a large portion of Instagram’s advertising) has announced a new feature which automatically limits the data used to target ads – especially those targeted to Californians.

The Limited Data Use flag acts as a pixel to control how Californians’ personal information is collected and used. This means businesses can easily implement the flag for campaigns targeted in the state. 

To allow time for businesses to implement the flag, the company is automatically limiting data for a limited time on all events in California by default.

LinkedIn has seen a swell of new content creation, consumption, and engagement this year, as many work to make the most of the recent months of lockdowns and reduced business – according to the company’s Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing.

In an interview with Social Samosa, Srividya Gopani noted that while the platform was already seeing growth this year, it has received a massive surge since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“We are seeing a 55% year-over-year increase in conversations among connections globally, since March 2019. Members are increasingly reacting, commenting, resharing and replying to comments as they look to reconnect with their network and share advice and tips that can help them navigate this novel working environment together.”

Srividya Gopani/Social Samosa

This has also been tied to a 60% year-over-year increase in content creation for the LinkedIn during the same time. 

Specifically, Gopani said users are working together to provide advice, spread word about jobs and internships, and connecting with other professionals to assist each other during this time. 

Similarly, the company has seen an increase in the amount of time people have spent with LinkedIn’s online learning courses. 

In March alone, Gopani says users watched more than 4 million hours of courses.

“As the world’s largest professional network, we are recognizing that we are uniquely positioned to encourage members to build the right expertise, gain relevant skills and knowledge, and make the right connections at this time.”

Srividya Gopani/Social Samosa

Google is launching a new way to promote your brand with smart campaigns in Google Maps called Promoted Pins – and they are free for advertisers through September. 

Until the end of September 2020, advertisers running smart campaigns who also have a GMB listing will not be charged for any clicks, calls, or sales generated from these pins. 

Promoted pins help showcase specific or unique services your business offers, like curbside service, delivery, or pickup. 

“Every month, over 1 billion people use Google Maps to see what’s around them, search for businesses, and find directions. Promoted pins on Google Maps help your business stand out during these moments by displaying a prominent, square-shaped Google Maps pin.”

The company says the decision to make the ad unit free came from wanting to help small businesses get back on their feet after the nation-wide lockdowns. 

Promoted pins have already started rolling out to smart campaign advertisers and should be fully available within the next few weeks.

Google My Business has long let businesses mark their profiles with the special services or offerings your business provides in the real world. But, what about your online services?

When it comes to GMB attributes, online services have been the glaring omission for many businesses.

That is finally changing, as Google is introducing four new attributes you can add to your GMB listing – all of which highlight online services you provide. 

The four new attributes appearing for use in GMB profiles include:
Online care

  • Online appointment
  • Online estimates
  • Online classes

Anyone can add these attributes to their listing. Once added, the tag may appear in search results when relevant. 

For example, here is how the “Online Care” attribute appeared in a search result:

These attributes join the long list of existing tags businesses can add to their listings, including “WiFi available,” “outdoor seating,” “cash only,” and many more. 

With many consumers still preferring online or contactless shopping options, these tags can be an important tool for signaling that you can help. 

How To Add Attributes To Your Google My Business Listing

The process of adding attributes to your current GMB listing is quick and easy. Simply follow the steps below:

  • Sign into the Google My Business app or website
  • Select the location you would like to manage if you have multiple locations
  • Click “Info” from the menu
  • Find “Add Attributes” then click “Edit”
    • Here you can either scroll through the list and select those which apply to your business, or search for specific attributes
  • Once you have selected all the attributes you wish to add, click “Apply.”

It is important to note that you may not have access to specific attributes depending on which industry you are in. For example, home repair services like carpenters or plumbers are unlikely to find the “Online care” or “Online classes” attributes.

The popular hyper-local community app Nextdoor is introducing new ways for local businesses to connect with their nearby audience. Starting this week, the service is launching “Business Posts” which appear in the Nextdoor neighborhood news feed. 

Additionally, the company is promising a suite of tools and analytics is coming in the near future for businesses running ads or organic posts. 

How Do Business Posts Work?

For the most part, Business Posts are extremely similar to the typical organic posts any user can make on the platform. Once a brand has claimed a local business page, they can create posts which can include pictures with a full description. Just as with a typical post from users, others can then “Thank” or comment on the posts. 

Just looking at the posts, the most obvious difference is that Business Posts include a label which informs users that “this post is from a Local Business.”

Behind the scenes, there are a few other limitations which may frustrate some businesses. 

For now, Business Posts will only reach users within two miles of your listed business address. So far, the brand has remained mum on whether they are considering changes or options for brands that operate with a service area that may not directly correspond with their physical address. 

Interestingly, the platform also says they will consolidate posts from multiple businesses into a single carousel post when five or more Business Posts are queued in the neighborhood feed at once.

Another important detail is that brands only get two Business Posts per month for free. The phrasing of the announcement implies that brands may soon be able to pay to create more frequent posts, but the company has not offered any details about this prospect. 

How To Make The Best Nextdoor Business Post

To help brands make the most of this new feature, Nextdoor also released a number of examples and recommendations in a companion post

Among the tips, Nextdoor says:

  • Posts with at least 5 recommendations have 30% higher engagement
  • Post between 5 – 7 pm receive higher engagement
  • Posts on Thursday and Friday see more engagement than weekend or early-week posts
  • Post at least once every two weeks
  • Posts with photos and business pages with profile photos are more visited and have greater engagement

Analytics is Coming

Currently, Nextdoor offers next to no tools for tracking or analyzing the reach and engagement of business-related posts. That will change later this month, though, as the platform launches its own business owner dashboard with tools for measuring the performance of both Local Deals ads and Business Posts.

These will include details on the number of users who have viewed, clicked, or recommended your posts.

Twitter is introducing a new way to tweet using just your voice – called simply Voice Tweets.

The company announced this week that voice tweets will soon be among the many different ways you can tweet, such as using photos, videos, and regular text. 

“Over the years, photos, videos, gifs, and extra characters have allowed you to add your own flair and personality to your conversations. But sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation.

So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter – your very own voice.”

To start, the feature is limited to a small number of people using the Twitter app on iOS devices, though it will be rolling out to all iOS devices in the coming weeks.

While those with Android devices and those on desktop computers are left out of being able to create voice tweets for now, everyone can still see and listen to voice tweets that appear in their feed.

How To Post a Voice Tweet

If you have been given access to voice tweets, you will notice a small icon resembling an audio wavelength next to the camera icon when composing a tweet. 

If you tap that icon, you will be presented with a screen showing your profile photo and a record button. Just tap that button to get started recording. 

Voice tweets are limited to 140 seconds of audio in each clip, though the company mentioned that you can keep talking and have your audio automatically split into a thread of multiple voice tweets. 

Once shared, your voice tweet will appear in other people’s feeds with a tappable image that will begin playing your audio in a docked window at the bottom of the screen. 

There’s a lot that can be left unsaid or uninterpreted using text, so we hope voice Tweeting will create a more human experience for listeners and storytellers alike.

Whether it’s #storytime about your encounter with wild geese in your neighborhood, a journalist sharing breaking news, or a first-hand account from a protest, we hope voice Tweeting gives you the ability to share your perspectives quickly and easily with your voice.”

Google released a few sneaky updates to their advertising policies which could have a dramatic impact on many advertisers in the near future.

Among the announcements are new regulations which allow the platform to pause ad accounts under investigation and significant revisions to its Misrepresentations policy.

Pausing Ad Accounts

While giving an update about plans to verify advertisers on the platform, Google included a statement suggesting they may pause accounts believed to be breaking rules.

As the statement says:

“We may temporarily pause accounts to conduct investigations if we identify potentially harmful advertiser behavior. Paused accounts cannot run any ads.”

While this is in line with Google’s past policies, the surprising addition is a note that the company will take the same action for ad accounts which do not complete the identity verification process after it rolls out.

Changes To The Misrepresentation Policy

Another big change to Google’s ad policies is an extension to what types of ads are blocked for “misrepresentation.”

Beginning in July, these policies will be amended to include a “Clickbait Ads” policy which intends to prevent ads from using sensationalized imagery or text which is purposely vague to drive engagement.

Specifically, Google says it will block ads including these types of clickbait text or imagery:

  • Claims of secret or scandal revelations
  • Language that implies the click will give context (i.e. “click here to find out” or other similar phrases)
  • Imagery featuring altered body parts, mugshots and disaster photos
  • Before and after imagery of the human body

Additionally, the company will block ads using negative life events to evoke emotion, such as:

  • Ads related to potentially traumatic events like accidents, illnesses, bankruptcy, arrests, and more.
  • Ads using imagery to provoke extreme emotions like fear or shock.

What This Means For You

The result of these announcements is relatively limited to a few specific industries – specifically those which provide support or solutions during major negative life events. Under the new rules, ads for bail bonds, diet pills, funeral services, and even law firms will be very tricky – if not outright impossible – to run.

Additionally, the announcement that Google will pause ad accounts which are not verified or are under investigation ups the stakes for failing play by Google’s rules.

Following the appearance of COVID-19 in America in March, Facebook put in place a number of restrictions which entirely banned the sale of face masks. Now, as most states are reopening and chances of a medical supply shortage are lessening, the company is relaxing some of these rules on non-medical face masks.

Why Non-Medical Face Masks

While medical professions are still seeing a limited supply of face masks, demand for KN95 or other medical-grade masks has fallen. Instead, many are opting for cloth coverings which are considered acceptable by many health experts. 

This has created an increased demand for these non-medical face masks while reducing the overall demand for non-medical masks. 

Medical Masks Vs. Non-Medical Masks

Under these newly relaxed guidelines, advertisers can now start selling non-medical masks. According to facebook, these include masks which are:

  • Non-medical grade
  • Not promoted with medical or health claims
  • Handmade or fabric masks
  • Designed to be reusable
  • Made of refashioned materials

Phased In Restrictions

To prevent a tidal wave of advertisers all trying to sell face masks en mass or an increase in bad actors, Facebook is lifting the ban in phases. For now, advertisers wishing to promote their masks will have to meet a few specific requirements:

  • Advertisers must be in good standing with Facebook ads, having no violations or disabled ads due to policy violations
  • Ad accounts must have an advertising history of at least 4 months. This means those who created an ad account a year ago but have not used it would not be eligible, while those who have been running ads for at least 4 months will be. 
  • Ad accounts cannot be from a country with unusually high rates of ad policy violations for selling masks during the bad, including Cameroon, China, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

What Can Be In The Ads

Additionally, Facebook is still mandating a few restrictions to ensure that advertisers only promote non-medical masks. 

For instance, absolutely no medical or health claims can be made in the ad, including the mention of disease prevention or protection of the respiratory system. 

Any mention of community benefits of wearing masks can not include health mentions or overstate the benefits of masks.

To give an idea what this looks like in practice, Facebook provided an example in their policy guidance:

“‘We’ve pivoted our business to making masks to help keep our community healthy’ would be allowed, but stating ‘We’re stopping the spread of COVID-19 by making masks’ would not be allowed.”

Facebook Policy

Notably, while Facebook is reducing the restrictions on masks, they are still banning ads promoting hand sanitizers, surface wipes, COVID-19 test kits, and other related medical products.

Facebook is testing the idea of adding an entirely new type of service to its already large umbrella – email. Several small-to-medium businesses are seeing a new set of tools on the site which make it possible to send marketing emails to your customers. 

With the tools, businesses could not only compose and send emails directly through Facebook, but track their performance with detailed analytics as well. 

In a statement to AdWeek, Facebook confirmed the test, saying it will be limited to a small number of businesses:

“We’re testing new email marketing tools with a small number of businesses to help them more efficiently notify their customers of changes to their services and operations.

We’re evaluating whether these tools are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it further.”

Of course, if the feature is well received, it is likely to be implemented into the main Facebook system and made available to everyone. 

How To Send Marketing Emails Via Facebook

Facebook Email creator

While I personally haven’t been able to find the tool, those who have been given access are being alerted via a pop-up message near the left sidebar menu. 

Once you have clicked the Marketing Emails tab, you are directed to a prompt to confirm your new Facebook email address:

“Reconnect with your email subscribers using marketing emails. Select your audience, customize your design, and track performance all in one place. Confirm your Page’s email address to get started.”

After your email address has been confirmed, you will then be able to begin adding email contacts to your list. This can be done individually or in bulk using a spreadsheet. 

During this process, you will be asked to confirm that you have received permission to send promotional messages to these contacts.

Facebook email permissions

With this process complete and your contacts uploaded, you can now start composing and sending email messages using the Pages app. 

Facebook email creator

A Free Solution For Businesses Without Email

For businesses that currently do not have a professional email account established, the tool could provide a potentially powerful way to craft and send messages that look more professional than what can be achieved through other free clients like Gmail. 

However, it is unclear whether the tool will allow businesses to receive email responses, raising questions about its usefulness outside of sales promotions or fliers. 

For now, this is a test to keep an eye on as more people get the chance to try it for themselves.