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Twitter Introduces User-specific QR Codes

Twitter Introduces QR Codes

Twitter has now introduced QR codes for its iOS and Android apps, and as yet, nobody is entirely sure why. Very much in the same vein of Snapchat, the new feature allows users to directly follow users by scanning QR codes linked to their profiles.

The new feature is a very simple concept, especially when you consider that it is one that Snapchat have been making use of for quite a long time now. It was announced yesterday in a tweet by Brittany Forks, a designer at Twitter.

The new feature seems to be confirmation that Twitter are more than content to join in on the latest social media craze of ‘doing what Snapchat do’. You don’t have to look far to see that many social networks have been adopting this model, most notably with Instagram adding their finite Stories feature. Not that we are knocking stories - on the contrary, we believe they can be a great tool for building your strategy and expanding your content. Check out our Instagram Stories how-to guide here.

Twitter’s QR codes have been slightly less well received than similar expansions on Snapchat’s models. The reason for this seems fairly simple. They are, for all intents and purposes, rather hidden away. On iOS they can be found by navigating to your profile, tapping the gear icon and then “QR code”. On Android the path is slightly different - navigate to either the “...” menu on your profile.

Obviously the encouragement is for users to share their QR code elsewhere and limit the amount of investment it takes by others to follow them. The issue is that in order to make use of them this user has to return to the same place in order to bring up the QR code scanner. So it could potentially be easier to just search for the user and follow them manually.

QR codes are widely used as a tool to follow users on Snapchat. They are also available on Messenger but not at all popular - which is likely to be the case for Twitter too, simply because users have been fine without them so far.

Live Video is Coming to Instagram

live-vide

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has confirmed that live video will be coming to the social network. Although there is no indication yet as to when these features will arrive, reports have suggested that live broadcasts will appear within users’ Stories carousels.

At the beginning of the year many were citing 2016 as a new era of live video - although we had technically already had live video streaming for a great deal of years. The widespread availability of Smartphone technology has made it easier and and more accessible for users to take advantage of new social networking features.

It was really only a matter of time before Instagram got involved - especially when you consider the significant developments to its capabilities throughout the second half of the year. These have included curated video channels, the addition of Stories and more recently the testing of enhanced e-commerce capabilitiesSystrom confirmed the development of lives streaming implementation in an interview with the Financial Times.

Live is really exciting for us. I think it can enhance what we’re doing. If I’m trying to strengthen relationships with someone I love, them streaming video to me live would be an amazing way to be closer to them.

There’s is currently little indication whether or not, or even how, live streaming on Instagram will tie in with Facebook. Photos posted on Instagram are often shared directly through to Facebook, but not the other way around. In this way, traditionally it has been something of an add-on, support network. However, if one thing is for sure Instagram is getting serious and way more substantial a player in the world of social networking. Only time will tell.

While we still don’t know when Insta-Live (not a confirmed name, but totally what it should be called) will arrive, the feature was reportedly leaked by a Russian user who discovered it while testing a beta version of the app.

Vine App May Have a Future After All

Twitter in sales talks Vine

Vine, the micro-video sharing app, may well survive oblivion after all. Announcements were made last month that Twitter would be discontinuing the mobile app. Now it seems that multiple companies have approached the social network vying to purchase Vine, including a number from Asia.

While details of the bidders remains a closely guarded secret, information provided by TechCrunch suggest that among those rumored was a Japanese messaging and gaming company LINE. Further research uncovered that Twitter is likely to have narrowed their pool of potential purchasers from 10 down to 5,

Rumours suggest that a proportion of the offers are below the $10 million mark, meaning that Twitter is unlikely to generate significant revenue from its sale unless the right buyer is found.  To put that into perspective, The New York Times recently reported that the running costs of Vine in terms of infrastructure and employees was over $10 million a month and had considered selling it off to cut costs.

Upon announcement of Twitter’s intention to do away with the app, an FAQ page appears giving more detail about what exactly would happen to the network. It stated that it intended on eventually shutting down the app but retaining an archive of all current Vines playable, while giving users the option to download their content.

Now it appears Twitter have gone quiet regarding the future of Vine - an unsurprising move with it being in current talks about its sale. Ideally, we would imagine the ideal purchaser would be someone who intends on retaining, to a certain extent, an integration between in and the social network as Vines remain a highly-regarded style of content that commands a large amount of engagement by users.

Much speculation has been made regarding the future of the network since the announcement of its discontinuation. Only time will tell as to what destiny has in store for the app.

Another Facebook Live Fallacy

Facebook Live News

Facebook Live has yet again become subject of controversy as a pre-recorded video was shown under the guise of being live, through the network’s live video platform.

The reputedly pre-recorded not-live “live” video in question was that of a sky-high maintenance job; somebody changing a lightbulb on a 609 metre high tower. This “live-video” (but not live) was simultaneously hosted by the Facebook pages Interestinate and USA Viral.

It didn’t take long for users to spot that the video, marketed as both live and four hours long, was neither of those two things. It was in fact a looped 18 minute video that was first posted on YouTube back in September 2015.

Facebook Live has been subject of a number of controversies in recent months, including live broadcasts of killings in France and the battle for Mosul by Channel 4 News. However, the main thing that critics are taking issue with is the fact that Facebook has technically promoted and brought millions of views to something by marketing it as something that it isn’t. This is the exact type of misinformation that the social networking giant have been trying to rid itself of in recent years.

In many ways, fingers can’t be pointed at the perpetrators - these are simply publishers making use of the tools available to them to the best of their ability. It is Facebook who, in their infinite wisdom, have given preferential treatment to those creating “original” content, while failing to ensure that such content is truly what it says it is.

Facebook’s intentions are admirable - they want to increase the accessibility and frequency of high-quality, worthy content for their users. But something has to be done to ensure publishers are abusing these tools. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Instagram Tests New Instant Shopping Feature

Instagram Tests Shopping Feature

Instagram have started to test new features which could allow users to instantly purchase their favourite products direct from the social network. Ready to roll out on US iOS devices in the next week, the test will involve adding a ‘Shop Now’ call to action button on product posts by a selection of American retailers.

The photo sharing network are displaying their intentions to meet the demands of e-commerce business users by experimenting with new ways to connect shoppers with their favourite brands. If successful, it could completely change how and where advertisers invest their social media marketing budget.

In recent years Instagram has rapidly become the go-to social network for marketing by fashion and beauty brands. It’s emphasis on content-driven influencer marketing makes it the ideal platform for leveraging the purchasing-power of users. In regards to the new feature, a post on Instagram’s Business Blog describes how the test will work and the reasons behind it:

             Most mobile shopping experiences today take people from the shop window right to check out-without giving consumers the opportunity to consider a product… in an internal survey, we learned that the vast majority of purchases take a day or longer, with only 21% of purchases made within a day. Knowing that Instagrammers are open to discovery on the platform, and that people take time to better understand the products that they’re interested in, this test gives our community valuable steps along their shopping journey before they make a purchase.

The test phase will only be available to US based users and will include a selection of twenty different retailers, including Kate Spade, Warby Parker and JackThreads. Instagram isn’t the only network honing in on e-commerce in recent weeks; their big sister Facebook recently unveiled Marketplace. They have also announced tests to pages such as allowing restaurant delivery and other purchases direct from the app/site, while YouTube and Pinterest have been eager to entice retailers into investing their Christmas product advertising budget on their network.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain: Instagram are serious about becoming a key competitor in the collision of social networking and ecommerce. Check out the video below to see how the new feature will work for retailer Kate Spade.


Source: Kate Spade from Instagram for Business on Vimeo.

The Next Macbooks Could Include E-Ink Keyboards

Macbook e-ink keyboard rumours

As technology has advanced one staple has held firm - the Qwerty keyboard. Now it seems that the next generation of Apple’s Macbooks could feature e-ink keyboards as a dynamic evolution of the traditional.

According to a rumour brought to light by The Wall Street Journal, Apple Inc. are reportedly teaming up with a Foxconn-backed Australian start-up start called Sonder Design for their latest keyboard design. Sonder market their benchmark product, the world’s first e-ink keyboard, with the tagline “infinite possibilities at your fingertips”.

E-ink is the same technology used in Kindle and other e-reader devices to create a paper effect. It may sound like another flight-of-fancy for Apple by but Sonder have already made the technology. On their website they list the “infinite possibilities”:

“Customise your keyboard from QWERTY to DVORAK, from English to Chinese and beyond. Type emoticons to text, or create your very own keys to perform whatever command you wish... Create macros to eliminate long, complex sequences of commands to the touch of a single keystroke along with its own custom icon.”

Okay, so the idea of macros and keyboard shortcuts is by no means new, but does that mean the change would be purely aesthetic? Unlikely - the range of different characters (languages and Emojis) that we now engage with is insurmountable in comparison to the pre-Raphaelite age of computing in the early nineties.

E-ink keyboard buttons would have multiple benefits for Apple. In theory they would totally streamline the production process, ridding the need for separate production lines for different alphabets. Not only would the premise potentially be appealing to multi-lingual users who regularly engage with different alphabets, but if the rumours are true then it could also assist in the use of hotkeys for those who use media software. It could also potentially streamline the experience for the average user by making it easier to input Emoji or ASCII art before switching back to a conventional Qwerty layout.

Apple has yet to comment on the rumours. A page on Sonder’s website gives very little away but mentions “partnering with experienced manufacturers, Sonder will redefine laptop keyboard design and user experience.”

Instagram Introduces Mental Health Support Tools

Instagram Introduces Suicide Prevention Tools

Social media has really helped open up opportunities for identification of depression and mental illness, and offers significant potential for prevention. Now Instagram have joined parent company Facebook on their task to do their part in helping individuals who might be struggling.

Instagram have introduced a new tool that helps identify and offer support for potential issues of negative mental health. It allows users to anonymously report posts by their friends that they consider to be a concern. These reports result in an automatic notification offering a list of resources for support to the user in question, alongside the words “someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

The new tool is almost identical to the suicide prevention tools rolled out to UK Facebook users back in February 2016. Flagged posts are reviewed by Instagram’s team who will send the auto-message if they agree that the users could be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Resources include contact details for a helpline, tips and support, and an option to contact a trusted friend.  Marni Tomljanovic, a spokeswoman for the network, said this:

“We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review these reports. They prioritise the most serious reports and respond quickly. If someone on Instagram sees a direct threat of suicide or self-injury, we encourage them to contact local emergency services immediately.”

Often warning signs displayed by at-risk individuals on social networking are some of the first that friends will be able to spot. On Instagram the markers can be so specific that a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont recently developed an AI program which can identify clinical depression in users’ posts at an accuracy rate of 70 percent.

Google is Creating a Mobile-only Search Index

Google Mobile Search Index

Ask any Webmaster or SEO specialist what have been the most significant advancements in search over the past few years and they are highly likely to count mobile at the top of their list. Now it appears Google is willing to take its focus on optimising services for mobile users to the next level with a search index devoted entirely to mobile results - and make it their primary search index.

According to information published by Search Engine Land, Google is going to create a new mobile search index “within months”. This will help to give mobile users access to more relevant and higher-quality content. It is currently unclear how exactly the new mobile index will work; whether it will only contain results considered “mobile-friendly”, and, as a primary index, whether it will really not be used for desktop queries.

The new index is undoubtedly the culmination of Google’s attempts to push webmasters to prioritise the creation of mobile-friendly sites; already they favour those who do so in their current SERPs, a result of so-called #Mobilegeddon back in April 2015. A mobile-only index would empower the search engine to expand on the quality of their current algorithm, with which it is all-too common for alternate mobile sites of desktop sites to not live up to the expectations created in SERPs.

In relation to how it will affect ranking Barry Schwartz of RustyBrick had this to say:

“The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.”

While a desktop index will continue to be maintained, it will eventually take back seat to the mobile index, becoming less regularly updated. In a statement to the Guardian Google commented “[we] are always experimenting with different approaches to keep search index as relevant and useful as possible, but we don’t have any new developments to announce.”

Is Facebook Marketplace a Feature Too Far?

Facebook Marketplace Feature too Far

Facebook’s newest update introduced the world of classified ads to the social network. Reminiscent of Gumtree and Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace gives users immediate access to a local buy and sell board. But with users already abusing it to sell illegal and illicit items, could it be a feature too far for the network?

When Facebook Marketplace was announced at the beginning of this week, it didn’t take long for controversy to come a-knocking. Within a matter of hours, a number of illicit ads had been posted purporting to sell items such as baby Hedgehogs, drugs and guns. Rather unsurprisingly, these items come under a list of prohibited items within Facebook’s Commerce Policy.

While the social networking giant were quick to tell the BBC that the violations were a result of a “technical issue that prevented [the] system from identifying some posts that violated [their] commerce policies and community standards” and has since been (in the most part) resolved, it’s nevertheless launched the listings feature with a sense of unease.

The sheer volume of prohibited and illicit ads that were highlighted at the feature’s launch far outweighed the amount of spam listings that often turn up on Craigslist and Gumtree.

A feature too far?

You’d have to be living with your eyes closed to fail to realise that Facebook is currently trying to become the internet on the internet. Each of their most recent updates have been intended to limit the amount of time that users are required to spend away from the network - from creating an in-app browser to view external content, to enabling businesses to showcase and sell their products and services direct from their pages, all the way down to trying to control how users communicate via messaging and live video.

It’s fairly evident that, to Facebook, Marketplace is another step towards their ultimate vision. But some users are sceptical, taking issue with the fact that this product relies wholeheartedly on content supplied by users. With Marketplace they have effectively created a feature that does not feel at all defined by the network and actually feels slightly like a departure to an external product altogether.

For users it feels like Facebook is in a transitional phase as social network. A transition from being defined by its features, to being defined by each specific user’s preference of a bucketful of different features, all of which nobody uses and of which you’d have to be an expert to know quite how many actually existed.

One thing is for sure, there is a lot going on at Facebook at the moment - sooner or later, users are going to get annoyed.

Instagram Adds “Save Draft” Feature

Instagram Adds Save Draft Feature

This week Instagram unveiled yet another feature intended to both improve the core components of the social network and enhance accessibility for users. The photo-based social networking app now allows users to save a draft of their photo edits so that they can return to them later…

Very recently Instagram rolled out an update that gives users the ability to pinch to zoom in on photos. This update was announced on the official Instagram account, alongside the statement “as things change, we’re still focused on improving the core parts of Instagram.” It seems as though the new “save draft” feature is one of these cited improvements.

Users now have the ability to save a pre-edited draft of one of their posts that they can return to later. While not the most momentous of updates, “save draft” means that we no longer have the stress of getting to the end of a perfect edit before discovering that we have to either exit the app or rush off before we have had the chance to draft the perfect caption and post. First world problems? Perhaps, but a useful feature nonetheless, and one that looks to make the network more user friendly and limit instances of annoyance.

The social network first began testing the feature back in July, but is only now making it official. Once they have started editing an image and drafting their caption, users can press the return button and will prompted to either discard their post or save a draft. If the latter option is chosen, the saved image can be accessed by tapping the Camera button and then hitting “library”.

Although it is a very simple process, there are full details of how the feature works available on the Instagram Help Centre.

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