Social Spotlight: December

2014 was a volatile year in social media, and we expect nothing less from 2015. To round out our Social Spotlight series in 2014, we present to you a list of updates and notable experiments from Facebook, Instagram and others in December, along with our point of view on it all. Cheers to the New Year.

Facebook improves its trending feature on mobile

Facebook has made updates to its trending feature on Android OS mobile devices (with iOS coming soon). Now when users tap on a trending topic, results are divided into five categories: "Articles" shows news organizations that are covering the topic, "In the Story" shows posts from people who are part of the topic, "Friends and Groups" shows what people in your network are saying, "Near the Scene" shows posts from people near where the story is happening and "Live Feed" shows a real-time stream of reactions from people globally.

Our POV: Twitter still has a major foothold in real-time marketing and trending events over social media, but Facebook is aiming to take more of that landscape with this updated feature. The new categories allow users to get an in-depth scope of the topic and more quickly access the content they want most. This trending feature is good for brands, as it allows them to get clear scope of what people and the media are saying about a trending topic, which is crucial for a brand to decide on the point-of-view they would like to take. The live feed is especially interesting, providing a "Twitter-like" experience.

Facebook focuses on its search feature

Facebook has decided to stop using Microsoft's Bing as its default graph search engine. Instead, they have developed their own engine that will allow users to find information related to friends' posts and comments. The search results are personalized, and you can only see things that have been shared with you. Zuckerberg has said earlier this year that search is one of Facebook's main focuses moving forward. The search feature is available on mobile and desktop, and is currently being rolled out.

Our POV: Facebook had originally teamed up with Bing to keep Google away from its search process. However, Facebook has an incredibly huge search database (about a trillion posts to date) and wants to make use of that to fuel user growth. Brands should take note that Facebook will be tapping more into what its users are saying to inform others and answer questions.

Facebook adds call-to-action buttons to pages

Facebook has introduced seven new call-to-action buttons for business pages. New buttons include: Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up and Watch Video. These buttons can link to any destination on or off Facebook.

Our POV: We noted last month in our November Social Spotlight how Facebook is cracking down on promotional posts. This update is Facebook's compromise with brand pages on how to send people to those types of destinations. Facebook noted that almost 1 billion people visited Facebook brand pages in October, so while organic reach may be dropping there is still value in optimizing a brand's page. Brands should not underestimate conversion potential from people visiting a page, even if those users don't necessarily see your content regularly.

Facebook allows marketers to "reach precisely the right people"

Facebook has released new publishing tools that will allow marketers to target posts, remove posts that are no longer relevant, and identify popular links that they haven’t shared yet. The three tools released are Interest Targeting, Post End Date, and Smart Publishing. All three of these tools allow for a more efficient publishing workflow and targeting capability.

Our POV: With these new tools, publishers will be able to maintain a cleaner timeline, keep outdated posts from users’ news feeds, and also keep trending content in front of fans. Specifically, the smart publishing tool is an extremely useful feature for community managers, as it saves time finding quality content that will resonate with fans.

Twitter ads can now be targeted by mobile carrier

Twitter has added an additional advertising feature that will target users by mobile carrier. Advertisers can now target to users using specific mobile carriers to facilitate loyalty programs and apps that have different versions for different carriers.

Our POV: Mobile carriers have specific audience segments themselves, and this feature allows advertisers to stay closer to the carrier that fits their demographic. Though this feature seems more relevant for and specific to marketing apps, brands should understand which mobile carrier meets their target market the most and advertise directly to them.

Instagram adds 5 new filters to its platform

Instagram has added five new filters along with the ability to reorder the app's filters or hide unused ones. The new filters– Crema, Slumber, Ludwig, Aden and Perpetua– now appear first in the list. Instagram has also made mini previews available of what the filter would like if applied to a photo.

Our POV: These are the first filters to be added to Instagram in over 2 years. These new filters add to the creative capabilities of the app, dissuading the use of third party apps that can tack on additional time and effort to creating content.

Instagram reaches 300 million users

Instagram has overtaken Twitter with 300 million users. With this milestone, Instagram is offering authorized badges for celebrity accounts and creating more effective spam filters to keep phony accounts away from fans. Instagram reports it will be deleting these spammy accounts forever.

Our POV: With this many users, brands should prioritize Instagram over Twitter starting in 2015. Instagram is committed to creating a clean and spam-free feed for users, which is good news for brands since it means users will be more trusting of the content that comes through their feeds, possibly more so than with other platforms like Twitter. With the advent of influencers on Instagram and the promise of advertising, fostering a strong Instagram strategy will yield better results in the coming new year.

Pinterest now lets you move and copy multiple pins

Pinterest has updated its platform to allow users to move and copy pins to other boards. In order to move the pins, simply go to a board on the Web app and click on ‘Move Pins’. Then select up to 50 pins and choose the board you want to move them to. You can also copy pins to more than one board, or delete them.

Our POV: Pinterest boards can get messy quickly. This new feature allows users to pin at will, then go back and clean up their content afterwards. This has been a request from users for some time. Additionally, it improves efficiency and allows Community Managers to segment their Pinterest management by finding content first then organizing it.

Youtube now allows users to make GIFs

Youtube has quietly launched a new, built-in GIF creation tool within its platform. This new tool is currently available to a select few accounts, but Youtube announced that it plans to roll it out network-wide eventually. On channels where this tool is currently available, the option is located under each video's "Share" option.

Our POV: Currently, users need to use a 3rd party app to create GIFs to post online. Youtube’s new built-in tool would make content creation more efficient and encourage people to use the Youtube platform as their go-to for video publishing (as opposed to Vimeo or Facebook). GIFs are extremely popular, so as this feature continues to roll out, brands should think about how they create GIFs from their current and future video content, as well as the best way to market them.

Tumblr is testing in-stream commerce

Tumblr has selected a small group of sites to test a clever new button within its platform. Users who post links from the selected sites (Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter, and DoSomething) to their Tumblr will notice a button at the top right. Examples of buttons include “Buy," “Browse," “Pledge," or “Do Something,” depending on which site you link from.

Our POV: If Tumblr decides to move forward with this concept, it would be a fast and streamlined way to get purchase buttons into users' feeds– better than any other platform is currently offering. As TechCrunch noted, "taking in e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and eBay, for example – it could feasibly become much more of a competitor against the likes of Pinterest, Facebook and others…”. Considering we noted in a blog post early last month that in-stream commerce will be a mainstay in the future of users’ feeds, this move by Tumblr situates the network as a strong competitor in the e-commerce sphere in 2015.