The holiday season may still feel like it is far in the distance, but most studies show consumers start their holiday shopping in November – if not earlier. That means now is the time to start preparing your holiday marketing efforts.

To help, Facebook is releasing a wave of new tools aimed at assisting businesses with their holiday marketing. 

Customizable Story Templates

Facebook is releasing a number of customizable templates for ads in Facebook Stories, Instagram, and Messenger. 

The templates are simple, visually pleasing ways to showcase products and brands throughout the shopping season, with customizable backgrounds, music, and CTAs. 

These templates will be available this week.

Improvements to Instagram Direct and Messenger

Closer to the Holiday season, Facebook says it will be bringing a number of new features to Instagram Direct to improve communication between businesses and customers.

As the company says in the announcement:

“From fulfilling orders to keeping up with customer requests, we know staying on top of customer communications is important, so we also created new messaging tools like labels, search and folders to help businesses stay organized.”

Within the coming weeks, Facebook will also be launching an ‘instant replies’ which lets businesses create custom automatic responses for when they are not immediately available. 

These “away” messages can be useful for days when your business is closed or when no one will be available to respond to messages for a prolonged period of time. 

Along with these improvements, Facebook is also introducing a new ‘saved replies’ feature which will allow you to respond to common questions with pre-written responses.

Instagram is testing a new way to notify customers about the release of new products when launch day arrives with stylish stickers and push notifications. 

While the test is currently limited to a small number of brands selected as part of Instagram’s closed checkout beta, it would deliver a promising way to boost the profile of your product launches and improve early sales. 

As the company says in their announcement:

“We wanted to make it easier for people to discover and follow upcoming product launches from brands and creators they love.”

The feature works by letting users opt-in to receive reminders about upcoming products when they see early promotional materials. 

Come launch day, they can then be notified of the product release and even make the purchase without leaving the Instagram app. 

To accompany the new feature, Instagram also launched a new sticker which can be used in Stories to promote your latest products. 

Since the new feature is just in testing, it is hard to predict when or even if it will eventually reach all brands and advertisers. Still, it provides an insight into how Instagram is aiming to help brands keep their products in the front of customers’ minds.

Pinterest is changing things up in a major way for brands, with an all-new design for business profiles and an entirely new ad format.

New Business Profile Design

Pinterest’s new design for business profiles puts the focus directly on dynamic content and a central view of product pins. 

Specifically, brand profiles will now include:

A dedicated Shop tab for showing users your products directly within your profile

The ability to customize profile covers with either videos or images

A streamlines navigation system making it easier to access messaging features

‘Shop the Look’ Ads

Since the launch of ‘Shop the Look’ pins, retailers have been flocking to the organic posts to showcase a wide array of their products in a single image. 

Now, Pinterest is allowing these brands to turn these organic pins into shoppable ads which can promote up to 25 products at a time. 

When these ads first appear, users will see a showcase previewing up to four items, which can be expanded to show the rest. 

‘Shop the Look’ ads are expected to roll out to US advertisers in the next few months.

For the first time, Facebook is giving you a way to schedule Instagram posts ahead of time without the use of a third-party tool or app. 

The new functionality, available to all business accounts through Facebook’s Creator Studio, allows you to plan your Instagram pictur updates and IGTV videos up to six months in advance. 

The new feature also opens scheduled posts to the full abilities of Instagram. With most third-party tools, users are frequently limited to just one image per post and few offer support for IGTV videos. 

How To Gain Access To Scheduled Instagram Posts

You still have to meet a few requirements to be able to start scheduling your Instagram updates. Specifically, you need to:

  • Have a Facebook Business account
  • Have an Instagram business or creator account
  • Have linked your Instagram account to your Facebook page

Once all that is in order, you can start scheduling your posts through the Facebook Creator Studio by clicking the Instagram logo at the top of this page. 

It should be fairly obvious, but the new feature does not allow for the scheduling of Instagram Stories ahead of time. This makes sense, as those posts are specifically intended to capture a moment in time. If you begin scheduling those posts days or weeks ahead of time, it would lose the authenticity that makes Stories so engaging.

YouTube has ramped up its efforts to remove harmful content over the last quarter, as a new report shows the company removing over 100,000 individual videos. 

That is nearly 5 times the number of videos removed in the first quarter of the year, reflecting a big shift in activity following a new hate speech policy introduced in June. 

Additionally, the company says it has removed over 17,000 channels and 500 million comments in Q2. 

Notably, YouTube says a large amount of the harmful content is flagged using machine learning technology to remove the content before it is ever seen by actual users. According to the company’s data, more than 87% of the videos removed in Q2 were first flagged by YouTube’s automatic systems. 

The report also mentions that an update to YouTube’s spam detection tools has driven a 50% increase in the number of channels removed for violating the platform’s spam guidelines. 

YouTube says the report is only the first in a four-part series which will cover the company’s guiding principles:

  • Remove content that violates policies
  • Raise up authoritative voices
  • Reward eligible creators
  • Reduce the spread of borderline content

As such, you can expect to see more details about how YouTube is working to curate the best platform possible in the near future.

If your brand has a LinkedIn page, you are undoubtedly trying to amass followers to grow your company’s profile and expand your reach. 

Now, you can learn from the best. LinkedIn revealed the top 10 most followed pages across the platform this week, along with some added insight into why these pages have been so popular. 

The Top 10

  1. TED Conferences (12.5M followers): Few pages so completely sum up LinkedIn’s audience like TED Conferences, where business leaders share insight, motivation, and inspiration to other professionals. Specifically, the page consistently shares a mix of videos, articles, and images all aimed at business professionals. 
  2. Google (12.1M followers): While Google’s name recognition can’t be ignored, the brand keeps users engaged with its page through steady new content centered on themes of corporate social responsibility, innovation, and by prioritizing the real people behind the scenes at the company. 
  3. Amazon (8.6M followers): This shopping giant places a heavy emphasis on its employees, including frequent videos and articles highlighting the stories of their workers. In this vein, the company also shares inside looks at its company events, and even offers professional advice like job interview tips.
  4. LinkedIn (8.2M followers): Unsurprisingly, the platform’s own page is high in the rankings. Still, the page strives to keep users interacting with their company page through regular content aimed at a wide audience of business professionals, employers, and job-hunters.
  5. Microsoft (7.8M followers): Microsoft doesn’t just use its page to publish branded content about its latest events and products. It also helps share outside content from other business leaders, and promote content created by its employees.
  6. IBM (6.4M followers): IBM takes an appropriately tech-focused angle, but with a distinctly personal edge. The company promotes diversity and inclusion by promoting employees in the news, as well as highlighting its latest innovations in AI, cloud computing, and blockchain.
  7. Unilever (6.2M followers): Curious how this relatively low-profile consumer goods company has gotten this high on the list? Just scroll through their page. You’ll find tons of high-quality, concise content including short videos with clear messages that can be understood even without audio. 
  8. Nestlé (6.0M followers): While Nestlé does create and share content aimed at a wide-swath of business professionals, the main locus of its LinkedIn page is driven by recruiting and hiring workers interested in pioneering the “future of food.”
  9. Accenture (4.4M followers): This multinational marketing firm has grown a massive audience through a steady feed of high-quality content including short videos and business-centric podcasts.
  10. Facebook (4.4M followers): Similar to Nestlé’s page, Facebook uses its presence on LinkedIn to drive recruitment with content focused on career development and professional opportunity. 

What You Can Learn

While these pages cover a wide range of industries and content strategies, there are a few clear commonalities across the most followed pages on LinkedIn:

  • All of these pages create and share original video content.
  • They also use a significant amount of their content to highlight socially responsible initiatives and company values. 
  • Many of these pages put the spotlight on their own employees and their unique stories or talents. 

If you’ve been trying to grow your follower count on LinkedIn, you can definitely take a few pointers from these leaders on the platform.

In a post to the company’s business-focused blog, Twitter revealed this week that Tweets including videos generate 10-times the engagement compared to posts without video.  

Most importantly, the pot highlights the fact that you don’t need a Hollywood-sized budget or cutting-edge cameras and microphone to attract this level of engagement. You just need an average smartphone. 

“Your phone is a fully capable multimedia studio in your pocket, giving you everything you need to create compelling content on the go.”

To help get you started, the company also provided a few ideas to spark your creative side. 

GIF It Up

Using existing GIFs you’ve found around the internet can be a tempting way to connect with your audience and show your pop-culture savviness. Instead, however, Twitter recommends creating your own, original GIFs.

Creating GIFs is also easier to do than most people realize. There are countless apps available for Android devices to help you create GIFs, but iOS users have it even easier. The iPhone’s Photos app includes a built-in GIF mode which can convert any video into a GIF. 

If you need more motivation to start using GIFs more often, Twitter also says tweets with GIFs generate up to 55% more engagement than those without. 

Record Your Screen

Another feature included in most phones is the ability to record your own screen and turn it into content. 

This is especially useful for more technical how-to’s or guides, though you can also find ways to show off your online shopping process, highlight your products, or easily turn a photo slideshow into a video. 

Use Stop Motion

via GIPHY

On the note of image-based slideshows, another type of video content you can easily create with your phone is a short stop motion video. 

If you aren’t familiar with the term, stop motion is the very foundation for all animation. The process simply includes taking a series of photos and playing them quickly enough to show action or movement. 

On your phone, the process is typically as easy as taking a photo, moving your position or the object you are photographing slightly, and taking another photo. Then, repeat. .

You can use these ideas to get started making stop motion videos to share:

  • Move the camera around the object
  • Keep the camera on a tripod and move the object instead
  • Add details to the object like drawings or text
  • Take the object apart to show how the parts fit together

For more tips on creating videos, check out Twitter’s best practices for videos.

Twitter is launching a new video ad option which allows advertisers to create and run short video ads (under 15 seconds) and only be charged if the ad is viewed for at least six seconds. 

The company describes the new ad unit as a “flexible option for advertisers who care about the completed view metric, but are ready to lean into the mobile-first paradigm and develop short-form assets optimized for in-feed viewing.”

What You Should Know

The new ads are similar to YouTube’s short bumper ads which typically run before pieces of content or as an ad-break during videos. As such, the ad is believed to be highly effective for driving high view rates.

For example, Alice Oliveira, the CSB Brazil marketing director for Dell, says “this six-second video ad solution, paired with compelling creative, increased our view rate by over 22%.”

Oliveira and Dell were one of the select few given early access to the ad bid option. 

Last Notes

  • The new video ad option began rolling out on Monday and is expected to be live by the end of the week. 
  • It is available for Promoted Video, In-Stream Video Sponsorships, and In-Stream Video Ads that are 15-seconds long or less.
  • Instagram considers a video to be viewable if at least 50% of its pixels are on-screen.

Snapchat is launching a new advertising tool, called Instant Create, which promises to do all the heavy lifting of creating a Snapchat-optimized ad for you.

With the tool, you can create ads that can be published across the platform in just three steps:

  • Select an objective, such as web visits, app installs, or app visits
  • Enter your business website
  • Target your audience

From there all you have to do is review and publish your ad!

At the same time, Spachat has introduced an “Advanced Create” option which is intended to help generate multiple ad sets at a time. 

What Do The Ads Look Like?

As most of the process is automated, you may have some concerns about how your ad can be unique for your brand. 

With Instant Create, you can choose to upload your own images for your ad and work with the platform’s most popular ad template. Or, you can simply input your company’s website URL and the tool can pull photos directly from your website to fill your ad with. 

While the tool makes it easier than ever for brands with limited means to explore the idea of Snapchat advertising, brands with more experience advertising on social media will likely prefer the less restricted traditional ad creation tools.

Facebook is changing how videos and photos appear on mobile devices, with new aspect ratios for visual posts and less accompanying text in the mobile news feed. 

This means you’ll have to make some changes when optimizing for Facebook’s mobile news feed if you want everything to appear properly in your posts.

What’s Changing

In the past, images on Facebook were optimized for a taller 2:3 aspect ratio to a more square 4:5 aspect ratio. 

Anything taller than that will be cropped out in preview images within the news feed, only actually viewable to those who tap to see the full image. 

At the same time, the platform is reducing the lines of text accompanying these posts – going from 7 lines of text to just 3 lines. 

Anything longer than that will be hidden behind a prompt to show additional text. 

Both of these changes will be put into effect starting on August 19th, giving you a few weeks to make adjustments to your upcoming posts. 

According to a spokesperson from the company, the tweaks are “designed to simplify our formats and improve the consistency of our mobile experience.”

In turn, the company says the new post format will increase the impact of mobile ads and make it easier to use the same content across both Facebook and Instagram.