Social media has experienced several changes in quick succession. Three of the main players – Facebook, Instagram and Youtube – have made, or are making, significant changes to their operations and user experience. There are new features, redesigns, changes to the operations of the social media platform itself. Not all of those changes are visible, but they all do the same thing – add to the movement to keep social media sites continuously relevant.
Facebook’s revolution is perhaps the most visible, with the advent of Facebook Reactions and Facebook Live. The Reactions have been used to further enhance user engagement with the platform, allowing Facebook’s users to emote more in response to the posts on their feed. It’s Facebook’s way of reconnecting with their audience, helping them have a more realistic and engaging experience online (although a dislike button would be helpful). A more subtle change in Facebook’s demeanour has arisen through changes made to Messenger around holidays – messages that could be gift wrapped and sent with hearts on Valentine’s Day, ones that bloomed flowers for Mother’s Day, and a basketball game accessible by the basketball emoji to celebrate March Madness. Facebook’s newfound zeal for making user experience fun and dynamic seems to hint at the need for the platform to reconnect with its users.
Facebook Live is another noteworthy change, allowing users to live stream their daily routines and then play them back at a later point. Not only is it a new feature to play around with and show off to friends, there’s the distinct possibility that it can be used as a marketing tool.
Unlike Facebook, which has built upon its existing features, Instagram has revolutionised both its design and user experience in general. The redesigned app was recently big news, with a look that was purported to be reflective of a more modern design, for a growing fondness for minimalism. Instagram’s classic camera icon became simpler, with a white square and smaller white circle on a purple-to-yellow gradient background, designed to mimic the sunset pictures which are so often posted to the platform. Instagram’s supplementary apps have also been redesigned – Layout, Boomerang, and Hyperlapse have all been given the same purple-to-yellow gradient treatment, although the changes are less obvious given their previously simplistic designs
The inner workings of the app have also changed, with a sleek black-and-white redesign to make the central focus of user experience align with the central focus of Instagram as a whole – the photos and videos on the app.
On the whole, the makeover doesn’t change a lot about how users engage with the app. However, the algorithm Instagram proposed earlier this year will change the content users see – the redesign may be part of a bigger campaign to help users acclimatise to a new sort of Instagram experience.
The algorithm, Instagram says, is to let users see the posts they want to see, as opposed to just seeing photos and videos that are uploaded chronologically. None of the posts would be removed from the timeline – they would just be reordered.
This, as we’ve seen on other platforms in the past, could prove troublesome for brands on Instagram. It means that users who follow them might never see the posts they create, if the algorithm doesn’t work in their favour – unless you pay to boost your posts. For small businesses trying to attract followers, it might even be severely detrimental to their social media campaigns, if they are unable to draw followers in through content alone.
Instagram’s changes have been well-publicised and visible – but what about Youtube? Has it changed at all?
In fact, it has. Although you might not get access to it for some time, Youtube’s big change is the introduction of something very different – a messaging service. In the last few months, almost every social media platform has either sustained or introduced a messaging service. Facebook has had their messaging service for a while. More recently (in some cases purely because of the app’s age), Instagram, Vine and Snapchat have had messaging possibilities, and even more recently, Tumblr joined the fray. In some ways, it was inevitable that Youtube would then join in.
It also means that brand-to-sponsored Youtube communication could be made easier. The Youtube partnership program has flourished rapidly over the last few years, but the best method for brands to get in touch with Youtubers to endorse their products and services has always been email. With a messaging system comes an easier way to reach out to possible affiliates, and another way for brands and Youtubers alike to reach out to their audiences.
Youtube’s aspirations for the new messaging service hinge on the tendency of people to share videos with their friends – the change comes about through a desire to create a new way to share content with other people, but instead of going through another social media platform to share videos of interest, like Facebook or Tumblr, Youtube wants viewers to stay within the site.
So many changes, so little time. But what does this rapid succession of changes mean?
The bottom line is, the nature of social media is changing. Each separate platform is taking on the characteristics of other platforms in order to create a more immersive user experience. Each social media website and app wants you to use it as often as you can, and that means innovating and bringing in new features for you to engage with it as much as possible.
Of course, if you’re looking for a better way to engage with your audience online (or offline – yes, that still works too), you can give us a call on (02) 8012 8008 or drop us a note.