Archive for News

Facebook Tests Twitter-esque News Feature

Facebook Tests New News Feed Feature

Just when we thought Facebook had reached their quota of quarterly feature additions, the social network have begun testing a new addition to news feed reminiscent of Twitter’s controversial new algorithmic timeline. The social networking giant have begun testing “what friends are talking about” in an attempt to encourage users to engage with friends’ content and develop discussions away from brand content.

A new feature has started to show up on a selection of user’s Facebook news feeds. Although not currently fully rolled out (so don’t be surprised if you haven’t caught a glimpse of it just yet) “what friends are talking about” was first spotted on Facebook’s app for Android and highlighted in an article by Mashable, stating that;

Earlier this summer, Facebook said it would prioritize posts from family and friends over content from brands: It’s unclear if this new module is related, though it does seem like a good way to encourage people to interact with one another.”

Much like the algorithm now present on Twitter which prioritises tweets by those a user most engages with, Facebook’s new feature curates a selection of recent posts from friends and places and places them at the top of the news feed. This highlights these discussions and encourages immediate action by users by allowing them a quick glimpse of the rate of engagement that each piece of content has received.

The new feature is likely an attempt to solidify the network’s position as a more intimate and ultimately social platform, an accolade that has started to drift over to Instagram in recent months, with Facebook viewed more as the number-one spot for brands marketing to consumers.

As yet it is unclear to what extent the new feature will be rolled out to users, however it is certainly a worthy attempt at facilitating more discussions between friends and family and empowering these messages over that of brands.

What are your thoughts? Tweet us - @GiraffeSM.

Instagram Adds Zoom Function to Photos

Instagram News Zoom Function

Until now, when Instagram users posted a photo they could do so with expectations of a torrent of likes from parents desperately trying in vain to zoom in. This week that all changed as the photo-sharing network released an update to its iOS app (which is currently also being rolled out on Android), giving users the option to pinch to zoom.

The lack of a usable zoom function has been a common grumble among Instagram users for some time now. Unlike other like other photo sharing networks Instagram have been slow on the uptake, meaning that users have had to screenshot any photos they wanted to zoom in on.

The update was announced in a post on the official Instagram account, citing it as part of a larger group of updates constantly focus on improving the core parts of the social network. The post stated that it would allow users to “dive into an adorable puppy’s smile or into every detail of your friend’s new shirt.”

The zoom function can be utilised to focus in posts across board, from the main feed through to personal profiles and the Explore section. Photos are zoomed in on with a backwards pinch that pulls the content out of its frame and blows it up to totally fill the screen. The pinch function will have the extra positive effect of limiting those moments when you awkwardly accidentally like a photo.

What other functions do you think are missing from Instagram/will come to the network soon? We'd love to hear - drop us a tweet @GiraffeSM.

App Review: How Google Duo Measures Up for Video Calling

Google Duo App

Back at it’s conference in May, Google announced a brand new video calling app. On August 15th it was finally launched. Google Duo is about as vanilla an app as they get, making the process of sending and receiving one-on-one video calls as simple and uncomplicated as possible.

Google Duo was intended to be the simplest cross-device video calling app yet, and in that quest the tech giant have been rather successful. Duo makes use of a sleek, bare bones interface. Once opened, users see their face and a button allowing you to scroll through most recent calls or your phone book.

The most welcoming feature is the lack of any intrusive branding. Unlike Skype or video calls on Facebook Messenger, Duo was created as a standalone app that didn’t rely on a larger service to work, which means that what we have here is something that removes the complications from video calls.

It was announced on the Official Google Blog on Monday. Cited were three specific key points; a simple interface, a fast and reliable service, and a human design. The first two are a given, due to the vanilla nature of the design and features. The third is the most interesting point, and also happens to be the one that will either spell success for the network or lead to it’s demise. This is what they have to say…

“We designed Duo to feel warm and inviting, focused on just you and the person you’re calling. To make calls feel more like an invitation rather than an interruption, we created a feature in Duo called Knock Knock which lets you see live video of your caller before you answer, giving you a sense of what they’re up to and why they want to chat.”

Alongside this nifty little “knock knock” function, Duo is completely free to use (relying, like Whatsapp, on your number), has end-to-end encryption and is available on both Android and iOS.

Our verdict - although Duo lacks enhanced features like messaging people if you’re not free to talk, the beauty is in it’s simplicity. If you’re looking for a completely simple and accessible platform to video-chat with someone, Duo takes the biscuit. 

The AI that can Spot Markers of Depression in Instagram Photos

The AI that can spot markers of depression in Instagram photos

A team of researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont have developed an AI program which can identify clinical depression in Instagram users at an accuracy rate of 70 percent- just by looking at their posts.

The new machine learning program was reportedly applied to monitor and analyse the content on 166 separate Instagram profiles, with a combined 43,950 different images. According to the study, published by Andrew G. Reece and Christopher M. Danforth, the AI program analyses content to detect specific potential indicators of depression.

Alongside an analysis of metadata, the system studies aspects such as colour, and uses facial recognition to imitate personal assessment. By looking at earlier studies, the team were able to deduce that depressed individuals often opted for darker, greyer colour-scales.

Other factors included an examination of posting rates and a look at the sort of engagement generally received. According to previous investigations, depressed individuals often received a low rate of likes next to a higher proportion of comments.

The study says this:

“Using only photographic details, such as colour and brightness, our statistical model was able to predict which study participants suffered from depression, and performed better than the rate at which unassisted general practitioners typically perform during in-person patient assessment.”

[An analysis of earlier studies found general practitioners correctly diagnosed depression at a rate of 42 percent.]

As a comparison study, the group also had a selection of participants (unaware that the study was linked to identifying depression) rate each photograph, in order to better gauge how the average person is able to spots depression markers in Instagram photos. The same machine learning system was also applied to photos only posted before each individual was diagnosed, which performed at a successful diagnosis rate of over 50%.

Although the system is still in its infancy, with one or two shortcomings, it is nevertheless a solid foundation for subsequent models.

#SaveTwitter & How Rumours Get Out Of Hand on Social Media

#SaveTwitter rumour

Twitter has unequivocally debunked rumours that the network was going to shut down in 2017 because of abuse received by one user on the network. While we can all rejoice in the fact that everything is still A-okay, it nevertheless raises questions about how quickly lies can spread online...

#SaveTwitter is the perfect example of how little rumours can escalate immensely quickly on social media. While the prospect that Twitter’s response to allegations of abuse would be to call curtains on their billion dollar idea is a little contrived to say the least, that didn’t stop thousands of users getting involved in the trending discussion. By midday on 11th August there were over 100,000 tweets mentioning the hashtag.

On Thursday Twitter denounced the rumour, stating “there is absolutely no truth to the claims whatsoever”. When the hashtag first began trending it was unclear what had sparked it. Gradually what surfaced as the primary reason was that it was all down to one user who had documented a history of cyber-abuse on the network.

While Twitter have undoubtedly been criticized in the past for their responses to issues of cyber-bullying and abusive behaviour, they have never been one to shy away from a challenge. By all means, they’ve spent the last year battling a struggling user growth.

Right now what’s unclear is whether somebody had it out for Twitter, or for Twitter users. If by some stretch of the imagination it is the latter, we need to give that person their due as #SaveTwitter really needed to rely on the gullibility of users in order to succeed - and succeed it most certainly did. But what they didn’t realise was the sheer passion that would be unearthed by users. The reactions helped show how much twitter users value the network.

What will be the next bizarre Twitter rumour? Tweet us. We’ll help you start it - @GiraffeSM.

Olympic Committee Say No to GIFs on Social Media

Olympic committee say no GIFs or Vines

Last Thursday social media users worldwide were shocked by the news that the International Olympic Committee had banned the creation of Vines and GIFs by news organisations. According to the IOC’s guidelines for news outlets covering the games, such content types are “expressly prohibited.”

If there are two things that were always meant to be together, they are social media and GIFs. Now it seems that those users and professionals wanting to use those fabulous little animated images to express themselves in social media discussions about the 2016 Rio Olympics do so at their own peril.

The IOC’s regulations have been subject to a vast amount of criticism for the fastidiousness of their restrictions, the extent of which some would consider un-achievable. Recently they came under-fire for banning unofficial sponsors from using a (considerably comprehensive) selection of words in their campaigns, including Rio de Janeiro, gold, silver, bronze, medal, summer, games, olympian, and even performance.

The rules were actually published back in May 2015 but only truly came to light when digital editor for USA Today Natalie DiBlasio mentioned it on Thursday. They state this:

“The use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (ie GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.”

The extent to which the IOC will go to/be able to go to stop news outlets and organisations from sharing or hosting GIFs created by external sources, for example non-professional social media users is as yet unclear.

Rule 40 was reportedly created “to preserve the unique nature of the Olympic Games by preventing over-commercialisations”. At the moment it’s unclear if it is actually capable of doing that, just that it will limit how much businesses who aren’t multi-billion dollar corporations will be able to get involved in social media discussions.

What are your thoughts? Tweet us - @GiraffeSM.

The Best Way to get Customers Online? Become a Pokémon.

Pokemon Go Social Media Marketing

In the ever-changing digital landscape, businesses are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to reach and engage with users. Social media marketing focuses on the process of luring users from social media onto their websites, attempting to elicit a real-world response from a digital platform. No app or network has been more successful in this task than Niantic Labs’ Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go, we would imagine, requires very little introduction. We won’t bore you with the ins and outs of CPU/real world integration and the giddy sense of personal achievement that comes from spotting digital potpourri in a duck pond having walked twelve miles, all we will say is the rate at which casual users and gamers have latched on is nothing short of astounding. The hype around the game is so much that Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga has issued a comment urging players to follow official guidelines listed in a specifically crafted government flier ahead of the country’s official release date.

Within seven days of it’s release in the US, Australia and New Zealand, it had already exceeded Twitter’s user base of 65 million in America, with mobile users spending more time playing the game than using Facebook. The app is now quite simply a global phenomenon, and like any other event of that scale social media marketers need to be taking advantage of the hype that comes alongside it.

Harnessing the hype of Pokémon Go

Short of undergoing incredibly expensive (and similarly fictional) pixel-replacement therapy to become a Rhyhorn and waiting for trainers to come and find you, there’s very little that can be done in-app to market yourself. Don’t get us wrong, we would absolutely relish the opportunity to train on behalf of your company, but you’re unlikely to see any return on investment aside from a Pokédex to rival Gary’s and control of your local Gym. (If all this terminology means nothing to you, you obviously didn’t grow up in the nineties)

Issues of nostalgia aside, the best marketing campaigns are always active, topically aware and responsive. Right now, Pokémon Go is possibly the most globally topical thing imaginable. It also has something relatively unique in that it is a global phenomenon with a local footprint. The fact that it is geographically-based, sending users to real world locations for digital rewards, could certainly result in an increase of foot traffic for your business.

Social media should be the bedrock of promotion for small and medium sized businesses. Integrating the Pokécraze could be a way to bridge the gap, converting digital engagement into real-world customers.

Local businesses are getting Pokésavvy with Pokéstop lure parties

A whole host of local businesses are already taking advantage of the craze to market themselves. With the app making use of real world locations, towns and cities have a selection of Pokéstops (plenty more jargon to come). If by some chance your business is one, or very near one, you are in a great position to encourage more foot traffic. By purchasing a selection of lures (there’s the jargon), you can attract more wild Pokémon to your area - something very enticing for trainers. Lures last a total of 30 minutes, and cost only 100 Pokécoins (or 79 pence in real money), so purchasing multiple costs very little and can last a few hours.

Many businesses are taking to their social channels to promote these “Lure Parties” (as they’ve become known), many offering special discounts and deals to trainers. Social media is the perfect place to promote these parties as the hype and dialogue can grow instantaneously. A healthy social following will also be something of a community of advocates for your brand, willing to extend your reach if you engage with them and share your exclusive offers.

Evolving social media dialogues put your brand in the mix

Hashtags are wonderful things, especially where location-based user-generated content is concerned. By making use of Pokémon Go’s popularity you open your social media marketing up to a whole other level of influencers. As you, and the Pokémon trainers you bring in, post content related to the game nearby players will take notice and come and join the party.

If you haven’t already, it might be time to think about Pokémon Go. It opens businesses up to a brand new style of marketing that is active, user-driven and constantly evolving. Poképun intended.

Periscope Editors’ Picks Curated Streams at a Glance

Periscope Editors Picks Stream

Last week Periscope introduced a new human-curated channel named ‘Editors’ Picks’. The stream, which suggests popular past broadcasts, could prove useful for new and casual users who are still finding their feet on the network.

‘Editors’ Picks’ are available to all users under the ‘Broadcasts’ tab on the search page. Originally taking pride of place, the stream has since slipped further down the ‘Suggested’ list, with popular hashtags and featured channels overtaking them. Regardless, new users should make use of the stream as it shows a broad cross-section of the wide variety of types of content across the network - each to a standard worthy of curation.

With this addition Periscope have attempted to help new users to ‘browse for unique moments you may have missed’. Certainly an admirable challenge - and one that was in dire need of tackling, as the network now has a daily active user base exceeding 2 million. At this size, content discovery represents something of a challenge for users.

A high-five from us

The direction Periscope have taken with ‘Editors’ Picks’ gets a double thumbs-up from us at Giraffe; nothing quite beats human curation when it comes to share-worthy content. As the usability of functions on larger networks grows, discoverability and developments in search need to be big business for infant networks who are serious about getting competitive. Especially because content is the lifeblood of social media.

The new stream is likely to have something to do with Periscope’s recent acquisition of Evan Hansen, previously of the content team over at Medium. In May, Hansen made the move to be Editor-in-Chief of Twitter’s Live-streaming brainchild, with part of his focus on helping discover and curate the best streams for Periscope users. ‘Editors’ Picks’, alongside other recent featured channels, are certainly evidence of this in action.

Snapchat Usage Among Adult Users Increases

Adult Snapchat use increases

Snapchat is increasing in popularity among adults over the age of 35. Traditionally a network for teens and younger adults, surprisingly the trend hasn't had a major effect on it’s “cool” factor, and popularity remains high a this level.

According to information made available by CNN Money, the percentage of Snapchat users over the age of 35 has risen from 9% to 14% since 2014. What’s more interesting however, is that the network hasn’t lost any popularity with younger users. In fact, it is proving even more popular than ever with those between the ages of 25 and 34, with users up from 19% two years ago to 38%.

Traditionally when the older generation muscles itself onto a social network younger users become jaded and disengaged. By whatever means, Snapchat have managed to sidestep this issue and are now commanding a very unique cross section of engaged users. However, if the network are serious about realising their app’s potential they need to do way more than reaching out to older users - such as taking a good look at monetizing.

Snapchat’s growing popularity and move to the mainstream

The percentage increases should come as no surprise to users and social media marketers alike. Snapchat has become more mainstream, with more and more high-profile individuals and organisations now having a presence on the app - for example NASA, the White House and CNN.

Moves by the network such as introducing advertising API make clear that they are serious about broadening business’ horizons. With giants such as Facebook to rival, creating a fully-fledged advertising platform should be of crucial importance to them. Alongside development strategies which include both user-base development and monetization, Snapchat need to be serious about taking risks about network features at least where businesses are concerned. This means experimenting with more than just funny filters.

On claims about disengaging younger users, comScore’s VP of Marketing & Insights had this to say:

“Historically, those concerns about losing core users have been overblown… For social media platforms, growth can sometimes be a double-edged sword… They’re expected to grow toward mainstream adoption, but the moment they do, there are questions of whether it will drive out the early adopters.”

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