1. Social Media For Social Good

It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks in the world – let’s face it, it’s been a turbulent year. Social media has copped its fair share of criticism for its role in this state of flux – from Facebook being questioned about its role in allowing false news about the US election to remain on the platform, to high-profile instances of social media bullying – it hasn’t been great.

In amongst the blaming and finger pointing, we’re happy to see social media platforms addressing real user criticisms and innovating for good. Recently, Twitter announced users will finally be able to mute specific conversations on the site, as well as filter out all tweets with a particular word or phrase from their notifications.

Muting conversations serves two obvious purposes: users who have a tweet go viral will no longer have to deal with thousands of replies from strangers, while users stuck in an interminable conversation between people they don’t know will be able to silently drop out of the discussion.

The features are part of a wider push to address the problem of online harassment on the platform. No doubt Twitter will use this in its effort to entice users who may have been turned off back to the platform. And for brands, more users on the platform is a good thing.

Twitter’s news follows Instagram’s launch of suicide-prevention tools, which allow Instagram users to anonymously report when they see posts from friends that hint at self-harm.

2. Snap Inc. Starts Selling Spectacles – But There’s a Catch!

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OMG! After Snap Inc. (formerly Snapchat) announced the launch of Spectacles in September, they finally went on sale in the US at the very reasonable price of US$130. But instead of finding them at the local electronics shop, Snap Inc. are only selling them through one travelling vending machine: a Snapbot. While it looks like a yellow minion, this bot is making its way through America and popping up in a new location each day. If you’re not sure which color Spectacles to choose, you’ll be able to virtually try on any pair of glasses through the bot. Spectacles come in black, teal and coral. (You can also try them on through the Snapchat app.)

Here’s what we know about them so far:

  1. They’re camera glasses, not Google Glasses. These sunglasses just have a camera inside, they record photos and videos, and they pair to a phone – there’s no display.
  2. The only way to buy them is through Snapbot vending machines. Unless you want to fork out thousands of dollars for them on eBay, the only way you can currently purchase the sunglasses are through the travelling Snapbot vending machines.
  3. They’re sunglasses with a connected camera inside. Spectacles can record 10-second video clips that upload to Snapchat via an iPhone or Android phone paired through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Place them in the included case to recharge.
  4. They shoot circular video that can be viewed in landscape and portrait. The 115-degree wide-angle camera captures video in a circle…so, if you view this video in the Snapchat app, you can look at it in horizontally, or vertically…or, by continuing to spin your phone around in any orientation. The video is reframed as needed, meaning you might want to keep repositioning your phone for certain videos.
  5. They’re selfie-challenged. These are outward-facing camera-glasses, not inward. They’re glasses for snapping others, and capturing action shots. In a selfie world, maybe that seems weird. But when it comes to mounted action cameras like GoPro, it’s pretty standard.


3. Latest Updates to Instagram Stories

Up until now, Instagram Stories and Snapchat have been virtually identical – it’s no secret that Instagram set out to replicate Snapchat’s enormous following, especially among millennials. Just two months after launching, Instagram Stories announced it had 100 million daily active users, which is two-thirds of Snapchat’s daily active user population.

Although the feature experienced its usual share of bugs at launch, it’s continuing to improve its user experience and offering and has just rolled out several new features which make the product much more attractive to marketers and brands.

Users can now add Boomerangs to their stories without leaving Instagram, tag other users in their stories with direct links to their profiles and most importantly, verified accounts can now add links to their stories that viewers can click through.

This is the first time links have been allowed on Instagram beyond user bios, and is particularly relevant to brands, who can use it to promote both content and conduct e-commerce sales.

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4. Instagram Tests Live Video and Shoppable Photos

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Instagram has started to roll out Live video to users in the US. This should come as a surprise to exactly no one given its owned by Facebook, which has enjoyed some great success with Facebook Live videos. The key difference between Instagram Live and Facebook Live is that Instagram Live videos aren’t stored on in the platform, in Stories or otherwise, meaning your followers can only see them while you’re actually broadcasting. This means users are going to treat truly ephemeral video a lot differently from something that’s taking place in the moment but that’s also designed to be made available for rewatching later on.

In another update, Instagram is also rolling out shoppable photos. The platform is testing a new way for users to learn more about products they discover in the app and to purchase those products within the app if they wish to. The entire e-commerce flow from discovery to purchase is contained within Instagram, allowing brands to get ROI and sales from what the content they share. Brands such as Kate Spade are already on board with this new feature, and Instagram says it won’t be taking a cut of the transactions.

5. Snapchat and FourSquare Announce Partnership

Snapchat geofilters are about to get a whole lot more targeted, thanks to a new partnership with Foursquare. The new deals sees Snapchat advertisers gain access to Foursquare’s data points that map some 90 million locations when running geofilter campaigns.

For brands, this means that they are now able to hone in on a special store location, rather than a larger shopping centre, for example. Mike Harkey, Foursquare’s vice president of business development, says the partnership offers advertisers an opportunity to better market to their customers.

“Consider a surf brand. Now that we’re powering Snapchat geofilters, the company could offer branded geofilters at a chain of surf shops or at every beach in the U.S. Or a soda company may now purchase geofilters across all fast food and convenience store locations,” Harkey wrote in a blog post.