It’s been a busy month for the major social networks, with a flurry of new features announced. But who is making the best new features?
Facebook effects, Stories and location sharing
At the end of March, Facebook announced an update to the way its in-app camera works on mobile.
Users can now add effects like masks, frames and interactive filters to both photos and videos. There are also reactive effects— such as falling snow — that can be applied to video in real-time.
Anyone using Facebook recently will also have noticed a change at the top of their news feed:
This is Facebook Stories, which lets you share photos and videos which your friends can view for 24 hours by clicking on the Your Story circle. You can also see stories posted by your friends by clicking on their profile picture.
If you’re thinking this all sounds a lot like what Snapchat does, you’d be right. Snapchat’s masks, frames and filters are what have made it so popular. Facebook’s Stories are very much like (identical to?) Snapchat’s Stories.
In the world of social media, it’s impossible to have a unique feature for too long, especially when the players all have deep pockets. These product enhancements (read: stealing the other people’s best ideas) are likely to continue appearing.
While on the subject of new features, Facebook has added a very clever new feature to Messenger that allows you to share your location with a friend or friends. With this new update, you click on the Location icon and the person or people you share it with will be able to see where you are on a map for the next 60 minutes. You will also see an estimate of how long it will take to reach each other (currently only by car).
Facebook said in its trials, users found the feature particularly useful when trying to coordinate with friends, telling people how close you are when you’re on your way to an appointment, or even sharing where you are with your roommate when you’re on your way home at night.
Snapchat Stories search
Brian Fitzgerald, an analyst at Jefferies and Company (disclosure: it was one of a very large number of underwriters behind Snap’s recent $3.4 billion IPO) says Facebook’s new photo features will help increase engagement with its users but that “Snap continues to lead in innovation”.
Snapchat has not rested on its laurels. On the last day of March it rolled out a new feature to let users search Stories.
Previously, Snaps submitted to Stories were curated by a human team but they have become overwhelmed with the volume. Now it’s employing advanced machine learning to analyse what’s happening in user images to create new Stories automatically.
The result is a searchable archive of more than a million Stories. While this includes the usual inanities, there are many things of interest to those in travel marketing – Stories for travel inspiration, for example:
Facebook-owned Instagram has also been adding new functionality. In February it debuted albums which allow users to post up to ten photos and videos instead of a single post. You can recognise these by the row of blue and grey dots at the bottom of a post, showing that you can swipe left or right to see more. This will be welcomed by marketers creating content around events or trying to show off multiple aspects of an attraction.
What about Twitter?
Twitter seems to be getting much less love these days, yet it continues to push out new features. Two interesting new updates have happened in the past month.
The first is a small but useful one – @ replies no longer count towards the 140-character limit.
The second is a technical one, but could make live-streaming video more popular. Brands who want to livestream on the microblogging network previously had to sign deals with the company. Now anyone can use the service through an API. Expect to see more people in travel using it as a result.
Yet more things for travel marketers to add to their must-do list.