Social media icons and a notebook and penThe world of social media never stops changing. The social media giants are always coming up with new and improved features to keep their platforms interesting. This is usually good news for both users and businesses, but it does mean that you need to be constantly up-to-date and learning about how these new features work, and which ones will work best with your practice audience.
Over the past 6-10 months, some major changes have been implemented or announced for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Below, we list the top 5 that we think will be most relevant for your practice.

Facebook

Facebook Live

The latest social network to leap on the livestreaming bandwagon (following in the footsteps of Twitter’s Periscope), Facebook launched Facebook Live last summer to famous Facebook users, and has been slowly rolling it out for iOS and Android ever since. Currently, the roll out outside of the US isn’t complete yet (as this Canadian Android user can attest to), but for our American friends, Facebook Live is an exciting tool that they can utilize to reach their audience in a new way. With Live, businesses can live stream video to their followers within the News Feed or on their Facebook Page. When a live video is done, it can be rewatched on their Facebook Page, just like any other video.
Facebook Live posts could be an opportunity to increase reach. Danielle K. Lambert of Snout School has noted that she is seeing higher reach with her Facebook Live posts than she has with some other types of posts. This could be Facebook rewarding people who use the feature, in attempt to increase its popularity, or just a result of higher engagement from viewers. Whatever the case may be, using Facebook Live might a good technique to reach a greater audience, and could be worth experimenting with.
Need some ideas for a Facebook Live video? How about taking and responding to questions about pet health in the comments? It’s an opportunity to engage with your clients in a meaningful way and educate them at the same time!

Instagram

Of all the social platforms we’re covering, Instagram has the most changes to note. These changes seem like pretty good news for businesses, so no matter how you feel about their new logo, it might be time to consider setting up an Instagram account.

Advertising

Instagram had been experimenting with advertising for a while, charging high prices to big brands to let them test out sponsored posts on Instagram. But this past fall, Instagram made advertising available (and affordable) for the little guys too! So now, your practice can set up sponsored ads on Instagram. The only thing you need is…wait for it…a Facebook Advertising account.
That’s right, Instagram advertising is done through Facebook, which will likely be good news for those of you who are already savvy with advertising on Facebook. Creating an Instagram ad can be as easy as selecting Instagram from the list of placements for your ad. The other good news is that Instagram ads appear to get more reach than Facebook ads. Just make sure that the ad you’re using is visually appealing. As a visual platform, your Instagram ad’s image should say more to a viewer than your Facebook ad might. For that reason, it may be a good idea to create ads for Facebook and Instagram separately, to maximize the effectiveness of the ads according to the specific platform.

Analytics and Business Profiles

This has yet to actually happen, but Instagram has confirmed that they are planning to launch business profiles and analytics tools for users.
According to the beta versions we’ve seen, the analytics will provide users with helpful information about their accounts, including demographics and post analytics. For businesses, this is an exciting opportunity to better understand their audience is, who they’re reaching, and how effective their posting is.
The business profiles will be similar to Facebook Pages, and will provide businesses with additional functionality to help them reach customers, including the ability to contact a business and to see their location on a map.
It’s not clear when these features will be added to Instagram, but beta versions have already been spotted on the Internet, so keep your eyes peeled for the real deal in the upcoming months!

Updated Algorithm

For a long time, Instagram photos, like tweets, were displayed in chronological order. This meant that photos were simply shown as they were uploaded. This created an even playing field for everyone, and made sure pictures of your friends’ breakfasts showed up alongside posts with 11,000 likes. But recently, Instagram announced that they would be switching to an algorithm-based feed, designed to prioritize the images Instagram thinks you will care about most.
The decision to switch was controversial, as algorithm-based feeds can lead to posts being buried or not shown at all in people’s feeds (Facebook’s News Feed is the perfect example of this), and understandably, it had businesses and Insta-celebrities feeling nervous. You may have noticed a huge uptick in the number of Instagram profiles asking you to turn on Instagram notifications for their posts near the end of March, like this one:
Instagram post asking user to turn on notifications
This was due to an unfounded rumor that the change was going to happen over the following week. In hindsight, that didn’t come to pass, but it seems that the change will be happening soon.
What does all this mean for your business? The truth is, we don’t know yet. Since Instagram is planning to roll out analytics and business profiles, we can only assume that means that they are looking to be more supportive of businesses using their platform. So while this algorithm change sounds like a bad thing – will your practice’s posts get buried or hidden from people’s feeds? – I have a feeling that the algorithm change will actually mean good things for business users of Instagram. However, only time will truly tell.

Twitter

Changes to the 140 Character Limit

Rumor has it that Twitter will soon be removing images and URLs from their 140 character limit. Pictures and URLs currently take up 24 and 23 characters respectively, something that has irked Twitter users for years. We’re not sure yet when this update will happen, but we’re really excited for when it does. The change will make it easier for you to stuff everything you have to say into a 140-character tweet, without having to cut out 20+ characters for a link or image.It can be challenging to keep up with the constant barrage of social media changes. However, the social platforms are always trying to make it easier for businesses to connect with their clients, so it can be well worth the effort to learn about and use any changes to social media to your practice’s advantage.

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