8 Lesser Known Social Media Changes – What to Pay Attention to in 2017

8 Lesser Known Social Media Changes – What to Pay Attention to in 2017

There is plenty of coverage on new features that were launched on social networks over the past year. While additions such as Conversation Starters on LinkedIn or live 360 videos on Twitter are likely to impact B2B marketing in 2017, there are more critical changes that are certain to have an effect on established social marketing tactics.

In addition, users constantly evolve and adopt new behaviors, sometimes guided by social networks but often because of macro trends such as shortening attention spans. For these reasons, I chose to focus this article on key features and user behaviors that changed over the course of the last year and to offer suggestions to adjust current strategies.

Changes on Twitter

The recent most notable change on Twitter was the way characters are counted in Tweets. Starting from September, media content like photos, videos, GIFs as well as polls and Quote Tweets are no longer counted towards the 140-character limit. This removes many of the constraints that marketers experienced on Twitter all these years and adds flexibility for annotating Tweets.

Here I attach an image to a Tweet but the character counter doesn't change:

Twitter character count with image

Among many positives, this change allows to get the most out of hashtags. Because there is more room in a Tweet, marketers can separate hashtags from the headline and group them together at the end of a Tweet (or wherever it makes most sense). Doing this makes your annotations cleaner (less spammy) which grows engagement. This also means that you can use more hashtags – reaching more people and getting more engagement.

Another interesting feature is the ability to retweet yourself. Users can boost a Tweet’s engagement if they feel it didn’t get the attention it deserves. As with any other Retweet, these can only be done once. It makes sense to retweet your content because it raises your overall engagement rates and ensures that your future posts have more visibility.

Retweeting my own post

The last Twitter feature that should be mentioned is the ability to move a public conversation to a private Direct Message. By adding a specially formatted URL, you can add a link to a public Tweet that will take the conversation to a direct message. Here’s the URL to use:

https://twitter.com/messages/compose?recipient_id={your account’s numeric user ID}

Here's how the link above gets formatted once it's sent in a reply:

Formatted link to send a private Direct Message

In case you don’t know your numeric ID, you can find it with this tool.

If you append “&text={default text}” to the end of the URL above, you can pre-populate the reply text for your client. This way they will open the message and already have the beginning of their reply to you. This can be useful if you need specific information such as an order number. I added the text "My order number is" and here is the final URL:

https://twitter.com/messages/compose?recipient_id=2371071644&text=My%20order%20number%20is

There are many situations where you might want to move a conversation to a direct message, such as concern for a customer’s privacy or a potentially unpleasant conversation which you don’t want displayed publicly. The only catch is that you need to adjust your Twitter settings to accept Direct Messages from everyone.

The option in Twitter's settings to receive Direct Messages from anyone

Changes on Facebook

Facebook started supporting hashtags already in 2013 but it wasn’t broadly adopted by users until last year. In fact, according to Kevan Lee, posts without hashtags fared better than those with hashtags. However, this was a year ago and much has changed. Based on our analysis of 4 million B2B posts on Facebook from October 2016, we concluded that hashtags do contribute to engagement.

Besides, search results for the same term with and without a hashtag return different results, so it’s at the very least worth experimenting with. Here is the first result of a search for the Hashtag "#ContentMarketing":

Search results for a hashtag search on Facebook

And here is the first result of a search for the keyword "Content Marketing":

Search results for a keyword search on Facebook

From the data we analyzed, we saw a good case to use between 1 and 3 hashtags per post. It’s important to note that hashtag search adoption strongly depends on geography so you’ll need to make sure that there is use of hashtags in your country if your business is targeting a local audience.

If you need to find good hashtags, you can type them into the search field on Facebook. This will show the search volume for the specific hashtag you typed as well as related hashtags.

Suggestions and search volumes for a hashtag on Facebook

Another noteworthy aspect is the way that Facebook analyzes and treats images with text. An Ad Image with more than 20% text gets increasingly less visibility as the percent of text increases. We found that the same holds true for unpromoted posts. This also applies to posts with thumbnails instead of images. If you nevertheless want to use images with text on them, you can verify their potential reach in Facebook’s Image Text Check tool.

Facebook's Image Text Check Tool results

Changes on LinkedIn

In my opinion, the most important changes on LinkedIn in 2016 were behavioral: The default filtering of updates in the home feed by "Top Updates" facilitated a shift towards more generic content. This content generates more engagement and takes away visibility from industry-specific updates.

A generic post on LinkedIn

Some people (me included) claim that the network is losing its quality and professional appeal because of this trend. Whether it’s true or not, LinkedIn remains the only large professional network and the new behavior needs to be taken into consideration. Most companies can no longer remain super-focused and get visibility in the same time. Broadening the scope of topics to post about is likely to help.

On the bright side, LinkedIn changed the way thumbnails are displayed. Thumbnails used to be small but became large in LinkedIn's new user interface. This means that links to posts will start to regain visibility and can compete with image posts for engagement.

A large thumbnail image with a link to an article on LinkedIn

Another behavioral change is that there is less activity and engagement in many groups. This varies by industry but the overall trend indicates that people aren’t getting enough value from participation in groups and slowly losing interest. It makes sense to cut on groups with low engagement and concentrate on the active ones only.

An Extra Change: Annotation Lengths

This is also a behavioral change rather than functional and equally applies to the three main social networks. As people’s attention spans get shorter, so do annotation lengths. From as many as 18 words in 2013 down to 6-9 words today. Longer annotations pick up on engagement again once you go above 50 words because with this length it’s possible to tell a story and appeal on an emotional level.

Summary

The changes above got little or partial coverage and might at first glance seem subtle. However, these are changes to core functionality and are very likely to have significant impact on your reach and engagement numbers. So whether you are posting to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, you can guarantee that your engagement doesn’t take a dip with just a few small adjustments as described in the article.