What’s New in Social Media? (January)

It may only be January, but we’ve already had a host of key developments in the world of social media marketing. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Introducing Clubhouse, the New Invite-Only Social Media Platform

Although the app has been out for a few months, widespread media coverage has seen it grow in momentum. Everyone wants to know: “what is Clubhouse, and how do I join?”

Firstly, Clubhouse is a social media platform that is built around audio. It’s being described as a mash-up between Spotify, Zoom and the X-Factor (yes, that X-Factor). Clubhouse is about connecting people through voice alone. You can drop into live conversations, share your thoughts, or simply listen from the sidelines, akin to a podcast.

What’s grabbing the most attention is its unrivalled exclusivity – it’s easier getting into Berghain than Clubhouse. The likes of Oprah Winfrey, Drake and Jared Leto use it. Each member can only invite an additional two people to join. There’s only 2 million Clubhouse users, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll receive the prized invite just yet. In the meantime, you can join the waiting list on their website.

Although it’s early days for Clubhouse, we can already see its marketing potential. With celebrities and content creators active on the platform, there’s a foundation for influencer marketing activity. Audio as a medium has been experiencing a resurgence recently, thanks to the rise of podcasts, streaming services and TikTok. Clubhouse looks to combine the best qualities of all three. Let’s also not forget that exclusivity drives desire – people want what they can’t have.

2. Millions Delete WhatsApp Over Privacy Concerns

Facebook is once again at the source of controversy, this time concerning WhatsApp, which it purchased in 2014. It has managed to avoid the ongoing backlash facing its parent company – until now.

Millions of people are deleting WhatsApp off their phones and switching to rival messaging services. The reason? WhatsApp issued a confusing new privacy policy that suggests they will share all your sensitive data with Facebook and its partner companies. Worst of all, the privacy policy came with a warning: accept our terms, or delete WhatsApp.

Facebook has already been under scrutiny for its less-than-ethical data collection policies, which have been in the public eye since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2018. WhatsApp clarified that they can’t see the content of your messages, as they’re protected by end-to-end encryption. But they can see the attached metadata, including the message senders name, phone number and time sent.

It’s not been enough. WhatsApp users have become increasingly aware that Facebook is harvesting tons of data on them, causing them to leave the en-masse. Rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram have been downloaded 7.5 million and 25 million times respectively since the start of January. Signal in particular is amassing interest for its privacy-led service.

What this whole ordeal proves is that data privacy is still a hot-button topic for consumers. Users are becoming more educated on how their data is handled online. It’s up to us marketers to make sure we maintain their trust. Brush up on the rules around GDPR, and if you’re unsure whether something infringes on a consumer’s privacy, assume that it does.

3. YouTube Shorts

It wouldn’t be an E1MA monthly social media round-up without announcing the latest in a long line of TikTok clones. Not wanting to be outdone by Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight or Twitter Fleets, YouTube are currently beta testing their stories feature – Shorts. Many UK users can already view Shorts within the YouTube app despite officially being in beta.

We could go into more detail about how YouTube Shorts works but there’s not much to say. It’s the same mobile-led, story-audio hybrid we’ve come to expect in recent times. Your videos can be up to 60-seconds long and can be viewed on your YouTube channel or the user’s homepage (if the algorithm permits). YouTube also recently revealed how Shorts will impact channel analytics, which you can read more about here.

The proliferation of TikTok-style functions within social media platforms can be a little overwhelming. What we would suggest is creating content with your favoured channel (e.g. Instagram Reels) and sharing to your additional channels. As they all resemble TikTok in both form and content, so it’s easy to make any necessary adjustments. This would dramatically increase your content output and allow you to reach audiences that use Shorts but not Reels. 

4. Pinterest Updates Story Pins & Adds New AR Tools

Often the forgotten child of social media platforms, Pinterest has been making some serious waves in recent times. Initially starting off as a ‘visual discovery engine’, the platform has been steadily growing in popularity and adding new features to its offering. We announced the launch of Story Pins, Pinterest’s take on Stories, a few months ago. Now it looks like they’re actively encouraging its usage. Recently they’ve been testing a new ‘Stories Panel’, found at the top of the home screen.

Look familiar? That’s because, like all social media advancements in 2021, they’ve decided to play it safe and copy everyone else. The key difference with Story Pins is that they don’t disappear after 24-hours – they live permanently within a Pin. We expect the relocation of Story Pins to become permanent, even if it’s an uninspired development. The top of the home screen is a tried and tested location and it’s where users have come to expect stories to live.

A more exciting Pinterest development is their expansion of new ‘try-on’ AR tools. Looking to gain an edge in social commerce over their competitors, the platform has introduced the ability to test eyeshadows through AR (Augmented Reality).

You can already ‘try-on’ lipstick with Pinterest, so this is a sensible next step. As you test shades, the feature will recommend new products you might like. They’re trying to replicate the experience of shopping in a beauty hall or department store like Debenhams (gone but not forgotten). As the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down, social commerce looks to fill the void left by brick-and-mortar shopping – AR tools like this blurs the line between the two.

5. Instagram Launches New ‘Professional Dashboard’

Instagram looks to improve the experience of content creators and businesses on the platform with their new professional dashboard. The dashboard essentially combines Instagram’s analytics feature with other tools that can help creators make the most of the platform.

Instagram themselves describe the dashboard as “a central destination to track performance, access and discover professional tools, and explore educational information curated by Instagram.

This should make it easier to understand how your business is performing on Instagram, and how you can improve. Any feature that simplifies the user (or in this case, creators) experience gets a big thumbs-up from us. Instagram have also hinted more tools being integrated into the dashboard soon.

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