Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms seem to push out changes every other day. We round up the ones you need to know before 2016’s over.
Though 2017 is around the corner, social media platforms are rolling out an impressive amount of new features and changes. We gathered up the most important and recent implementations to be aware of.
Consider this your cheatsheet into 2017.
Facebook’s had many big changes this year. There’s been the rising prominence of video, especially live streams and 360 content. There’s the launch of Workplace, to compete with the likes of Slack, in addition to a big focus on Messenger and AI.
And, there’s been the question of whether Facebook is a tech company or a media company. (Apparently, it’s kind of both.) Here are Facebook’s most recent features to be aware of.
Fake News: After the US presidential election, the distribution of fake news on social media has caused a hailstorm. Facebook is partnering with Snopes and others to fact check fake news in the news feed. Facebook will also ask users for their help in identifying fake news, and alert users before they share potentially fake news.
Messenger: The popularity of social communication apps is growing, and Facebook wants in. This year, they released a series of important new features to their chat app. Much like WeChat in China, Messenger is aspiring to be the app for users. That applies to communication, games, shopping, and payments between users.
Most recently, they’ve implemented a six-screen group video chat, so that users can virtually hang out with their friends. Nabbing selfie filters from Snapchat, they’ve added these in as well.
And we can’t forget about Facebook’s push for AI. BuzzFeed, Time Inc, and Nordstrom used Messenger this month to help with last-minute gift ideas. Meanwhile, Facebook’s been testing their own personal assistant chatbot, M.
How the Guardian experimented with chatbots this year, through a helpful recipe bot.
Facebook is also considering turning comment threads into Messenger-like group chats. This will help for posts that branch off into lengthy discussions.
Live Audio: One of the last new features of 2016, Facebook Live Audio allows users and publishers to broadcast voice recordings, pushing audio-only content into the news feed. The audio content can be listened to as users browse through Facebook. Publishers like BBC World Service and HarperCollins are already onboard to experiment with the possibilities.
Original Video: Facebook is currently exploring creation of original video content, produced by the company.
Live 360 Video: Combining two of the platform’s video innovations, Live 360 video will be available to everyone in 2017. Curious as to what it might look like? Facebook’s already tested it out with social media superstar National Geographic.
Following its parent company, Instagram is becoming an “everything” platform. Whereas when Instagram launched, it focused on doing one thing really well, photo sharing. Now the platform has live video, shoppable content, and stories mimicking Snapchat’s.
In just six months, the platform went from 500 million to 600 million users, perhaps due to the adoption of an algorithmic feed this year.
Add Links and Mentions to Stories: A criticism of Instagram has long been the difficulty in directing users from native content to the web. Now the link feature in Stories solves at least some of that. We wrote about how publishers, brands, and influencers are already taking advantage of the feature here.
Disappearing Live Video: Combining Facebook Live with Snapchat’s disappearing stories, Instagram’s live videos last only as long the broadcast does.
Liking and Disabling Comments: Comments were previously a very static feature. Now users can like one another’s comments, or disable comments entirely.
Stickers: Another nod to Snapchat, Instagram added a stickers feature to Stories that allow users to overlay images on top of their photos and videos.
Snapchat has started to grow up this year, changing its company name to Snap Inc. as it prepares for big things ahead. What sort of things? In 2016, Snapchat produced their own wearables and partnered with companies to produce original content like TV shows, including a spinoff of The Bachelor.
Let’s look into some of the platform’s newest innovations.
Spectacles: A foray into wearables, Spectacles are sunglasses that can take 10-second videos from the point of view of the viewer. Like 360 video on Facebook and Youtube, videos taken with Spectacles can be viewed in a new format that captures the full range of the camera’s circular lens.
Snapchat already helped make the vertical view the favored format for video. Now, Spectacles, which are whimsical and fun, may popularize this new video view.
Group Chat: The long-awaited group chat for the platform allows up to 16 people to talk to each other at once.
Removal of Stories Autoplay: Perhaps not the best news for publishers and brands, Snapchat has gotten rid of the autoplay feature. While this means less views overall, it does indicated that views on content are intentional.
Twitter and Periscope
Breaking News Notifications: This year, Twitter moved its app from the social networking category in Apple’s app store to the news category. Taking this pivot seriously, Twitter has begun to test pushing breaking news notifications to its users.
Live Streams: Twitter is incorporating Periscope’s software directly into the Twitter app, so that users can broadcast live video, right from the app.
Search Results by Relevance: Instead of showing users the newest tweets, Twitter will surface the most relevant tweets for a search query. This should help users find what they want faster, and keep them engaged on the platform.
Get Your Social Ready for 2017
As for the other big platforms — Youtube, Reddit, Tumblr, etc — there haven’t been too many major changes. This year, we wished a fond farewell to our fallen comrades, Vine and Meerkat. As social media continues to evolve and grow, we’ll be watching the newest features and what they mean for publishers and brands alike.
So what do these latest changes indicate? Take a look at our 2017 Predictions Report. The report is packed with insights from social media editors, audience development strategists, and other media experts, for what you need to know in 2017.
Did we miss anything? Please reach out to us on Twitter and let us know if there’s a major change we should include.