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The Quarterly Social Media Cheat Sheet: A Guide to Today’s Platforms

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From minor creative enhancements to platform-changing algorithms, Q1 2016 brought new marketing potential to the social landscape. In 2015, we saw updates to social platforms that dramatically changed social for both users and marketers. In Q1 of 2016, the social platforms ironed out significant updates to Facebook Messenger, Live Video and 360-degree video based on user behavior in the space and industry innovation.

Across Q1’s updates, three trends stood out: Enhanced video experiences, updates derived from common user behavior and opportunities for more personal conversations with consumers.

Higher quality video experiences

Video continues to be a priority, but with the variety of tools and options platforms offer, the possibilities for quality and innovation are evolving.

Live Video: A year ago, Twitter rolled out Periscope. Since then, Facebook has equipped users and brands with the power to report live news by enabling Facebook Live. To make Facebook Live a more viable platform for marketers, Facebook introduced Live API, which allows content creators to broadcast live from higher quality devices, putting live video content on par with other video content on Facebook.

360-Degree Video: YouTube announced a video hybrid that combines the platform’s most innovative technology— 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio. This technology allows YouTube users to explore different live experiences in 360 degrees and hear the depth, distance and audio intensity as they would in real life. Additionally, Facebook made advancements to its 360-degree video product to encourage discovery via a gyroscope animation that alerts users to explore 360-degree content. Marketers can learn more about their 360-degree content via a new Facebook Insights heatmap that indicates where the video is most engaging. In an effort to streamline the creation of 360-degree video Facebook also announced Facebook Surround 360, a complex device that easily produces spherical, 3D footage. This software is currently open sourced, leading us to believe that the volume of 360-degree content on the platform will continue to increase.

Streamlined content discovery: Instagram has increased video length to 60 seconds, allowing marketers to leverage the platform for longer brand stories. Instagram has also updated its ‘Explore’ tab to prioritize the discovery of video rather than static images. This update is expected to increase time spent on the platform as video content requires more time to consume than static content does.

Audience inspired updates

Across the industry, platforms are taking user feedback, platform behavior and consumer interests into consideration to better improve their user experience.

Facebook: After years of users asking Facebook for an alternative to the “like” button, Facebook responded and rolled out Facebook Reactions—love, haha, sad, wow, and angry. Marketers now have a deeper and more real-time understanding of audience sentiment.

Twitter: Based on platform data, Twitter mirrored Facebook’s Newsfeed and made the move to a ranked Timeline. According to Twitter, power users check the platform about 20X a day allowing them to view and engage with content that is most relevant to them. To provide a similar experience for the less active user, the most relevant content will be bumped to the top. Additionally, Twitter was inspired by users adopting platform functionalities such as likes and retweets to poll audiences and created Twitter Polls. Twitter also announced the Conversational Ad unit which allows advertisers to crowdsource user interests while driving brand awareness. Using two branded hashtags, brands can now poll their audiences and prompt them to share their responses with the Twittersphere.

Instagram: As with Twitter, Instagram users miss approximately 70% of all content in the Instagram News Feed. To enhance user experience, the most personalized or relevant content will now be served first in the News Feed using a Facebook-like algorithm, so users have a better chance of viewing the 30% of content that matters most to them. Though the platform has announced this update, the algorithm is only being used in the “Explore” tab and has yet to take effect in the News Feed.

Pinterest: To streamline the DIY process (and increase time spent on the platform), How-To Pins are now available. How-To Pins provide the full instructions and list of materials of a step-by-step project in a thumb-friendly, visually immersive experience without ever leaving the platform.

Streamlined 1:1 Communication

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all made updates to their direct messaging functionalities.

Twitter: On Twitter, users can now deep link to a public post within a direct message to easily bring public conversations to a private space.

Instagram: Similarly on Instagram, users can now easily send a direct message by @ tagging their friends in the comments section of a post.

Facebook: With over 800M people using the product, Facebook has prioritized Messenger in 2016 and has made industry-altering updates. Most notably, Facebook has made the send/receive API available to developers, allowing brands to build automated bots on Facebook Messenger. The automated bots have been successful in streamlining common customer service tasks like automated receipts and shipping reminders. Along with this update, Facebook announced the Wit.ai Bot Engine, which uses artificial intelligence to communicate with consumers. For example, Facebook’s Weather Bot, Poncho delivers tailored weather reports directly to a user’s Facebook Messenger inbox. As time progresses, Poncho learns more about the user and delivers even more personalized updates. In the future, brands can leverage bot technology to immerse their consumers in a customized experience and learn more about the consumer’s interests, lifestyle, and buying behavior. As of now, there are no paid media implications within Facebook Messenger.

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We hope this Social Media Cheat Sheet of the “who’s who” and “what’s what” of social media today will be helpful to marketers in determining and evolving their strategies in the social media landscape:

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Marie Goldstein, Social Marketing Manager at 360i, and Amy Donnelly, Senior Social Marketing Manager at 360i, contributed to this post.