Even as we move into the final stretch of 2016, the major social platforms continue to release updates and features – some of them part of more significant shifts, others just small rumors and tests, which are interesting to note but may not mean too much for you and your business. At least, not yet.
As part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the best coverage of the latest social media news and insights, we feel it’s important to cover all of these updates and tests and their potential implications - but sometimes they’re not worthy of a their own individual post.
So to keep you up to date on these smaller changes and features, here’s a rundown of five smaller updates and notes in social - starting with Facebook, which is working on yet another Snapchat-cloning feature.
1. Facebook Discover?
Business Insider has reported that Facebook’s working on a new feature that will showcase lists of curated content from publishers directly within the News Feed.
The option, reportedly called ‘Collections’, sounds very much like Snapchat’s ‘Discover’, and to a lesser extent Twitter’s ‘Moments’ - a separate element within the app that gives publishers their own, dedicated platform, in which they can display their content as they see fit.
Business Insider says Facebook’s been meeting with media and entertainment companies in recent weeks to pitch Collections, with a key part of Facebook’s push being that Collections content will be inserted directly into News Feeds, as opposed to publishers having to build their own audience or pay for ads to generate clicks.
It’d be an interesting move for Facebook. The Social Network has faced intense criticism in recent weeks amid speculation that the platform influenced the results of the recent US Presidential Election by facilitating the spread of fake or misleading news. And while fake news in itself is a problem, a bigger issue with Facebook (as we’ve covered previously) is the echo chamber effect, where users are shown more of the content they agree with, and less that they don’t, in order to boost engagement.
In this respect, Facebook’s entire business model is built around telling you more of what you want to hear, which can clearly reinforce pre-existing beliefs. That’s great for the user experience and getting people to spend more time on Facebook, but it’s not so good for balanced discussion and debate.
A dedicated publisher section could be part of Facebook’s efforts to fix this. Maybe, if they can get enough publishers to sign up, Facebook can reduce the organic reach of non-participating news outlets while ensuring that more users are also exposed to more impartial news content by showing them a Collections listing free of algorithm filtering.
And another interesting note on this, in a recent post by Frederic Filloux on The Monday Note, Filloux pointed out that news content only represents around 10% of the average content shown to each Facebook user in their News Feed. As such, Facebook could eliminate news content from their platform entirely and suffer no significant impact. Given this, maybe packaging more news into a separate section makes sense – though the potential algorithm side-effects will definitely be something to watch.
2. Facebook Live AI
One of the big concerns with live-streaming is that it’s happening in real-time, and as such, it can’t be censored till it’s too late. This has already caused various concerns. The highest profile case was when Philando Castile’s fiancé live-streamed the immediate aftermath of his shooting by a police officer, but there have been many others; Antonio Perkins was shot and killed while live-streaming on Facebook; a group of teenagers in Milwaukee live-streamed themselves having sex; a French woman broadcast her own suicide.
Because these events are happening live, and the platforms are open to the public, anyone can see them. Granted, Facebook has an age limit for members, but the wider expansion of live-streaming means more people, inevitably, are going to see such material, which puts impetus on the networks themselves to put some form of censorship in place to limit such exposure.
To solve this, Facebook says it’s turning to artificial intelligence.
According to Reuters, Facebook’s working on a tool which will automatically flag offensive material in live-streams. Joaquin Candela, Facebook’s director of applied machine learning, says they’ve developed an algorithm that can detect “nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies.”
Facebook already uses automation to process the tens of millions of user reports it gets every week, so the extended use in this sense is no surprise - but in order for such a system to be effective, it needs to work in real-time, which would be a big step up for the technology, and could have widespread implications in future.
AI tools are also being developed to detect harassment and abuse in real-time, which, if refined, could obviously have significant impacts.
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3. Twitter Looking to Boost Tweet Activity
Over the weekend, several Twitter users noted seeing a new prompt within their home feed asking them if they wanted to tweet something from their camera roll, along with a camera prompt at the far right.
Normally you’d have to click on the tweet composition option to create a tweet, but Twitter looks to be testing out a new way to boost sharing and get more people actively tweeting. Of course, when you do click on the tweet prompt your various camera options (photo, video, Periscope) and camera roll images are also on that same screen, but putting them into the feed directly may be a way to prompt more tweet activity.
It seems a stretch, that it won’t have a huge impact if rolled out more widely, but the data will tell the tale and dictate whether it comes to all users or not.
4. Twitter Gets New Head of Product
Twitter recently acquired mobile app startup Yes Inc. and also appointed Yes CEO Keith Coleman as their new VP of Product. As part of the acquisition, Yes will be shutting down, with all of their staff joining Twitter.
What this means for Twitter isn’t clear, but Twitter’s head of product obviously has a big say over future innovations and changes, and looking at Yes apps, that could suggest we’ll see more tools designed to encourage sharing and offline activity – Yes apps WYD (‘What You Doing?’) and Frenzy encourage users to share what they’re doing with their friends via in-the-moment photos and organize spontaneous meet-ups, respectively.
This could mean we’ll see similar tools integrated into Twitter, with more focus on smaller group interactions via DM and increased organizational tools to prompt action.
It’s hard to draw any significant conclusions at this stage, but it's interesting to consider, regardless.
5. Amazon’s New Supermarket Project
And the last social innovation of note this week is not technically a social media innovation, but it still has wide implications regardless.
Amazon has unveiled their latest project – a supermarket with no cashiers and no check-outs. You just take what you want and walk out.
Pretty amazing, huh?
According to Amazon:
“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart.”
How, exactly, each of those elements comes into play is difficult to determine – my assumption is that there are beacon-type devices built into the packaging and once you leave the proximity of the store, anything you’re carrying is then attributed to your Amazon profile, which you scan in on entry.
It’s a potentially game-changing innovation in itself, for sure, but its wider implications are equally significant.
In a social media sense, one of the big trends of 2017 is likely to be the increased connection between online and offline actions. Social media ROI has long been a point of contention, with the old argument going along the lines of ‘you can’t put a dollar value on a Like’. And while that’s true, such processes are advancing – Facebook, for example, has its ‘Conversion Lift’ metrics which utilize point-of-sale data in combination with Facebook insights to show you direct connection between your Facebook ads and in-store purchases.
Amazon’s smart supermarket could trigger a massive acceleration in such efforts – if your phone can be used as a tracking point to allocate your digital persona to what you’re buying in-store, that’s a massive increase in data capacity and the ways in which online platforms will be able to understand, and target, based on actual purchase activity.
There’s still a way to go with this – the first ‘Amazon Go’ supermarket is set to open early next year in Seattle – but it could herald a new era in digital marketing.
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