Social Web Recap 05.02.18
A weekly annotated short summary of significant social web platform developments from the previous week, with links and carping marginalia as needed . . . Posted every Monday morning or thereabouts.
There were 350 million monthly active users of Instagram's private messaging feature Instagram Direct by the end of 2017, significant growth likely driven by the fact that the app allows people to chat through photos and videos without having comments be public.
Following its controversial decision to change the 'News Feed' to show more posts from friends and family, and fewer from publishers and brands, Facebook is now "updating the 'News Feed' to also prioritize local news so that you can see topics that have a direct impact on you and your community and discover what’s happening in your local area." In the same post on the Facebook newsroom, it repeats a comment that it is testing something called Today In , a dedicated section for local community news. I'm not sure what the difference is between the two changes, except perhaps that 'Today In' is micro-targeted based on your geographic identifier. And a bit of context for what this is all doing to its numbers . . . Facebook’s daily active user base in the U.S. and Canada fell in the fourth quarter, dropping from 185 to 184 million.
In another bound to be disputed decision, Rob Leathern of Facebook posted that it “is banning all advertisements for cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin and initial coin offerings.” He goes on to say that Facebook wants to eliminate ads that "promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices.”
In a boon to those who manage company social media accounts, Instagram is finally making scheduling available—with two caveats: For the time being only photos and images can be scheduled (not ads), and there is currently no native scheduling function so you have to use a third-party service such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite (for a fee of course). The announcement was part of a number of changes to Instagram's API that developers (or anyone if you enjoy obtuse 'developer' language) can read about here. But some (Jack Morse at Mashable for one) would have preferred that Instagram's engineers had built "a toggle switch for users to turn off the terrible algorithmic timeline" instead to take us back to the good old days of the chronological timeline.
Don't you like the hint of cynicism in Chis Welch's reporting for The Verge about the latest bait from Instagram to snare advertisers? "Instagram is giving advertisers more leeway and creativity for the spots that run between the Stories you’re actually interested in." In other words, it is dropping Carousel Ads into Stories, meaning advertisers can now add three snips of a photo or video (previously only a capability available in organic stories.)
Instagram is making it easier for you to"turn your most random thoughts into something colorful and expressive" by enabling a text-only mode ('Type'). As it breathlessly puts in a short blog post, you will be able to "write whatever comes to mind — your favorite lyrics, a silly thought or a random idea — and play with different styles to change the look and feel." Couldn't we have taken a vote?
YouTube has started rolling out (in the U.S. for the time being) notices "below videos uploaded by news broadcasters that receive some level of government or public funding. Our goal is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube." The idea is to help us distinguish between 'authoritative' and untrustworthy or fake news.
I know this is off-script for these social web recap posts, but I had to steer you to this article in The Next Web if only, although not entirely, because it references the launch of China's first voice-activated smart home speaker from LingLong delightfully named DingDong. Really, though, Liz Duff makes a solid case that 'voice' will be 2018's defining trend, pointing to the popularity of podcasts, better technologies enabling AI-assisted conversations with devices, and print publishers' embracing voice technology to link more deeply with 'readers'.