The year started with big talk around the metaverse and organizations across the globe scrambling to decipher what this new dawn for the internet might mean for them.
But while the world awaits more enlightenment on this new virtual reality concept, social media continues to rapidly adapt to evolving audience appetites and habits.
So this week our team has delved into the social media news getting most airtime in the industry, from twitter’s simple but radical edit button announcement, a potentially monumental shift in the Instagram interface, to YouTube considering a big commitment in the podcast space.
These are the major updates in this essential five-minute read.
#1 Twitter’s edit feature
In a major u-turn from Twitter’s comments last year that stated, “you don’t need an edit button, you just need to forgive yourself,” there is talk that a new, and potentially controversial, edit feature is coming this summer.
What the Edit feature may look like according to Twitter
The edit feature is a relatively simple interface change and one of the most requested features in recent years.
But the real complexity revolves around the implications of users of the platform being able to re-write their tweets and change them after publication.
Imagine the scenario where someone posts something, others ‘agree’, and then the author later changes the meaning of the initial post by editing it.
Twitter is rightly testing the feature extensively among users of its paid Blue subscription service in the coming months.
It’s been an interesting few weeks at Twitter, and we’ll be covering more on this and the recent takeover and what it could mean for you in an upcoming article.
#2 Instagram trialing new full-screen interface
Hot on the heels of TikTok creating a similar format and announcing an expansion to it’s video length to 10 minutes, Instagram is said to be testing a new fully integrated interface whereby Posts, Stories, and Reels are all rolled into one full-screen, immersive and swipeable experience.
This approach, taking the app away from its traditional grid format, feels somewhat inevitable following the take-off of Instagram Stories and then Reels, the latter of which is the biggest contributor to engagement growth on the app.
It would also allow for more accurate engagement measurements and better algorithms to deliver users more relevant bespoke content.
Check out this Tweet from Alessandro Paluzzi for a quick preview.
Video has been taking over images in popularity on Instagram for a while now, and savvy university digital marketing teams have been putting more investment and commitment into video.
And if this trial translates into a fully-fledged rollout, then this will need to be even more of a focus if institutions are to maximise their engagement levels on social channels.
#3 Whatsapp set to launch huge group chats
Organizations will soon be able to message thousands of people at once on the Whatsapp messaging platform, thanks to a brand-new feature called Communities.
Groups have previously had a limit of 256 members, but this new function allows news and updates to be sent out to thousands of people at the nudge of a finger.
It comes with added features such as large-size file sharing, 32-person calls, and emoji reactions to messages, to boost engagement between participants.
In its announcement, Whatsapp said:
“Communities will enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella with a structure that works for them. That way people can receive updates sent to the entire Community and easily organize smaller discussion groups on what matters to them. Communities will also contain powerful new tools for admins, including announcement messages that are sent to everyone and control over which groups can be included.”
Like Facebook Groups, Whatsapp Communities also enables members to share updates as well as create sub-groups for more specific interests or events.
But unlike its Facebook counterpart, Communities will be invite-only and is likely to be for groups of people that already know each other or have some affiliation, given that personal numbers will be displayed.
With universities relying heavily on the messaging app for coordinating activities throughout the pandemic—which, in part, inspired the new functionality—along with an increasing interest in Whatsapp to reach and chat to prospective students (particularly to bring together international students) this could bring big benefits to the higher education communications sphere.
#4 Instagram improves Reels editing
As Reels continues to be the biggest driver of growth on Instagram, a recent update to the tool has improved the editing experience for users.
There have been a series of tweaks since the Reels rollout began in 2020, and this latest one makes it easier than ever to trim and rearrange clips before publishing.
There’s now a reorder button within the editing suite that allows users to drag clips into different positions or delete them altogether.
All users were also recently given the ability to produce minute-long Reels, when they were previously restricted to 30 seconds and 15 seconds at launch.
Reels enables the most novice video editors among us to make engaging video content, sitting under its own tab on profile screens.
Edinburgh Napier University is one of the many institutions tapping into the Reels success, with some sleek promotional content and videos with high reach exploring anything from location highlights to its position in The Complete University Guide rankings.
#5 YouTube reveals podcast platform plans
A recently leaked pitch deck has reportedly revealed YouTube’s plans to build a podcast home discovery function, as audio formats continue to out-perform expectations.
Although a big deviation for the video entertainment brand, it’s not surprising given its move into music streaming and the audio ads generated to support it. There’s also been ongoing investment in content creators, many of whom already have their own podcasts.
If this idea becomes a reality, it could be of huge interest to universities, with many already investing in creating podcast content for a variety of means, from targeting students going through clearing (in the UK) to shows promoting institution faculties and expertise.
It would allow universities with a YouTube presence to create audio feeds alongside traditional video, which could open a whole new world of possibility with an on-the-go format to reach and recruit new students as well as support existing ones.
Watch this space!
#6 Instagram Guides—one of the most underrated tools for higher education social teams?
Instagram Guides first launched with relatively little fanfare and a focus on the wellness industry back in 2020, but was expanded late last year to incorporate more topics.
It’s slipped under many radars, but we’ve been noticing a handful of universities recently waking up to this underrated but effective content creation tool.
Like a mini-blog, it allows users to curate evergreen collections of content, pulled in from across Instagram, complete with commentary, under a standalone tab on the profile.
At present, users can choose from three different formats for a guide—places, products and posts—which are created from the same ‘plus’ icon as other Instagram content.
Commercial outlets are using Guides for things like gift lists and product highlights. Universities doing it well are using the functionality for rich content on aspects of student life, such as area guides, and product topics like sustainable local fashion.
Guides are also perfect for ‘how to’ posts, top tips, ranked lists, showcasing content collaborations, the promotion of causes and sharing brand stories.
The University of Salford is one shining example of how to take advantage of Guides to sell the location and student experience to new recruits as well as engaging those already on campus.
Have you spotted any new social media features or incorporated new functionality in your institution's social activity?
We'd love to hear about them in the comments below or on social media.