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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.

Twitter is testing the waters of launching a premium subscription service which would give exclusive features to paying members. 

The concept of a premium Twitter service has been rumored for weeks, until CEO Jack Dorsey told investors the gossip was true. Reportedly, the idea has become popular within the company following a recent decrease in ad revenue. 

In a letter to shareholders, the company stated:

“We are also in the early stages of exploring additional potential revenue product opportunities to compliment our advertising business. These may include subscriptions and other approaches, and although our exploration is very early and we do not expect any revenue attributable to these opportunities in 2020, you may see tests or hear us talk more about them as our work progresses.”

A report from CNN says the premium service could come as soon as later this year.

As for what the premium version of Twitter might look like, the company gave a sneak peek with a survey being sent out to some Twitter users. 

The survey specifically asks users “Which of the following features would you most/least desire?”

The premium features suggested in the email include:

  • Undo Send: A 30 seconds window for you to recall/withdraw a Tweet before anyone can see it.
  • Custom Colors: In addition to “Night Mode,” you could change the fonts and theme color of Twitter on your phone and computer. Background color, links, mentions, hashtags, and icons would appear in whatever color you choose.
  • Video Publishing: You could publish videos up to 5x longer than current default, which a much higher maximum resolution (8192×8192).
  • Badges: You get a badge(s) on your profile that links to businesses you own or work for (Example: A journalist can have a badge showing the magazines they write for.)
  • Auto responses: Able to write and set a menu of auto responses to use in replies.
  • Social listening: You can see conversation around your account on Twitter, including total volume, the people and businesses who are talking most often, and what they are saying.
  • Brand Surveys: You could be able to survey people about the ads you run to better understand if your ad was memorable and if people are likely to buy the products or services featured.

Another survey sent out explored the idea of removing some ads for a fee.

Of course, the features proposed in these surveys may never come to fruition and any paid version of Twitter could look radically different than what has been suggested. As the surveys note: 

“This is not necessarily reflective of what features Twitter will have in the future.”

Pinterest is making some big changes to its ranking algorithm to ensure users see a variety of content in their home feed. 

Pinterest uses a ranking model which highlights content based on a click-through prediction model. What this means, is that the platform surfaces content it believes a user is most likely to click on, based on their past activity.

Although this model works to ensure users are only seeing content that is relevant and interesting to them, it can create a negative feedback loop which can limit the types of content shown. 

For example, if a user goes a while without clicking on videos, the algorithm will stop showing videos. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person doesn’t like videos. There are a number of reasons they may have avoided videos for a period, including irrelevant content and not being in a place where it is convenient to watch videos. 

To account for this issue, Pinterest created what a new system which it is calling “controllable distribution.”

What is Controllable Distribution?

In the announcement, Pinterest clarifies that controllable distribution isn’t an entire overhaul of its ranking algorithm. Technically, it isn’t part of the core ranking system at all. 

Instead, controllable distribution is a ranking system applied after the core home feed algorithm to diversify feed content. 

This will ensure that specific content ratios are present in users’ feeds which may have become monotonous.

The system does this by comparing the types of content in your unadjusted feed with a specified ratio and adding new types of content for users which may otherwise be lacking. 

Most importantly, the company says this system can be implemented smoothly while still respecting users’ preferences. 

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

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.”

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.

In recent weeks, LinkedIn has been updating its algorithm it uses to rank content with new signals like “dwell time” or how long users spend with each piece of content. 

Even more, the company has also revealed its secret ranking recipe by using a blog post to dig deep into exactly how it ranks content. 

How LinkedIn Ranks Content

Similar to other major algorithms like those used by Facebook, YouTube, and Google, LinkedIn tries to tailor users’ feeds to their specific interests and niches. To do this, LinkedIn follows a specific process.

When a user logs on, there tend to be tens of thousands of potential posts the social network could choose to show you. To filter these down, the algorithm first applies a lightweight ranking algorithm referred to as a “first-pass candidate generation layer”. This helps choose specifically which posts you might see based on a number of factors including connections and keywords. 

From here, the algorithm now has to determine what order these posts will be shown in. 

As the company describes, “If Alice’s connection Bob recently shared an interesting article, what determines where Bob’s post will appear in Alice’s feed?”

For this, LinkedIn looks at what it calls “viral actions” which include:

  • Reacts
  • Shares
  • Comments

Based on individual users’ actions, the algorithm weighs these interactions with content to determine which content is most likely to create user engagement.

How Dwell Time Fits Into This

While LinkedIn’s algorithm has largely been successful at curating a feed with content most likely to generate user actions, the company says it has noticed some downsides to this approach. 

Specifically, actions like clicks and shares are relatively rare when compared to the total number of people seeing each piece of content. In the grand scheme, focusing on some binary metrics like clicks may miss out on other more passive forms of engagement which may reflect quality content. 

In other words, LinkedIn’s old system could see simple measures like whether someone clicked a post, but it wasn’t factoring in more complex metrics like how long a person was spending with a piece of content after taking action. 

This creates problems when content simply doesn’t live up to its promise or users could potentially share misleading posts to drive clicks.

When this happens, people might click on a post and almost immediately return to their feed.

With the old system, these posts would get rewarded for the number of clicks made, despite the content being unsatisfying. 

Because of these issues, LinkedIn says accounting for dwell time provides numerous advantages for its algorithm:

LinkedIn Dwell Time Benefits

How This Affects You

Overall, this update should have very little negative impact on those already creating informative and engaging content on the professional social network. If anything, you may benefit as the new algorithm punishes those sharing clickbait.

However, it is unclear if LinkedIn’s latest system also accounts for the overall length of content. This could potentially create issues where shorter updates might be downplayed over more in-depth content simply because people spend less time with each individual post. This may be something to keep in mind as the impact of this update takes effect.

LinkedIn is in the process of launching a new way to create and host live virtual events as group meetings and conferences move online in the wake of COVID-19. 

The new events tool combines two of LinkedIn’s existing features (LinkedIn Events and LinkedIn Live) to prioritize the virtual conference needs of today’s professionals. 

By bringing these tools together, you can now easily alert users to upcoming live streaming content and build an audience for your future streams. This creates better engagement and encourages your followers to set aside time. 

LinkedIn Events

LinkedIn says it has seen huge gains in both the number of people streaming and engagement on those streams, with live video receiving up to 23 times more comments per post and 6 times more reactions per post compared to native video. 

Why Create a Virtual Event?

In the announcement, LinkedIn highlights several ways Virtual Events can help businesses:

  • Host your event safely, in a trusted environment: Using LinkedIn Live, you can choose to live stream to your Page followers or Event attendees, so you can meet audiences where they are. Admins can leverage easy-to-use 3rd-party broadcasting partners, including Restream, Wirecast, Streamyard and Socialive, with more being added in the coming months. 
  • Attract the right professional audiences: We’ve made it easy for you to share your event to your Page followers and send direct invitations to your first-degree profile connections. 
  • Drive buzz and engagement for your event: You can build buzz for your event or live broadcast by posting an update to your Page or Event feed and by recommending key posts for attendees to check out. 
  • Get more mileage out of your events: Once your virtual event is over, you can keep the conversation going with the Video tab — a dedicated hub for a Page’s organic video content that can be accessed by all members of your community. As virtual events become the norm, the Video tab helps you extend the shelf life of your digital video content.

How To Create Your Own Virtual Event on LinkedIn

To be eligible for hosting Virtual Events, your Page must also meet the criteria for accessing LinkedIn Live – which means your page must have at least 1,000 followers. 

The company has also suggested that it will only approve brands for LinkedIn Live who regularly engage with their community by responding to comments and facilitating a dialogue. 

Once you have been approved, the process is simple:

  • Select “Create a LinkedIn Event”
  • Select the option which says the event will be “online-only.”
  • Once you are ready to stream, open an accepted third-party streaming tool and select the event as the stream destination, instead of your organization’s Page.

The currently accepted third-party stream tools include Streamyard, Restream, Wirecast, and Socialive. The company has indicated it will soon be adding support for Wowza in the near future.

Once your stream begins, all event attendees will be notified through in-app or onsite notification. If enabled, attendees may also be notified through push notifications or browser alerts.

Pinterest expanded its online shopping capabilities this week to make it easier to find and buy products across the platform. The updates to three core parts of its commerce marketing services make its tools more accessible and provide real-time tracking of what’s in stock with which retailers.

Shop What’s In Stock

Users can now shop in-stock fashion or home decor products in multiple ways across the platform.

The most notable change is a new “Shop” tab which will appear on search and on boards to help filter in-stock products from retailers. The tab will also help filter based on price and brands available from retailers.

When it appears on boards, the Shop tab will highlight products from or inspired by the Pins saved within users’ home decor or fashion boards.

Visual Search

Pinterest is integrating its visual search functionality with shoppable Pins to make it easier to find products directly from your feed.

Style Guides

Home decor style guides are now findable using Pinterest’s search tools. These are curated collections based around specific styles such as “mid-century” or “farmhouse” and appear at the top of search results for queries like “living room ideas.”