As 2019 comes to a close, we are looking back at some of the changes introduced this year on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. From hiding likes to app redesigns to the end of political advertising, new features and updated policies have changed how users experience each platform. As consumers’ mindset on content consumption and the social media landscape evolved, the platforms took 2019 as an opportunity to shift towards authenticity and privacy.
Below are just a few social media changes implemented over the course of 2019.
A move toward privacy – Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced a monumental move toward building a “privacy-focused platform.” After over a year of data leaks and privacy scandals, 2019 marked a shift for the company as efforts were made to secure private communications and reassure users their information would stay…well, private. We think we can speak for everyone when we say “time will tell” on that front.
New design – In the middle of the year, we saw a glimpse into where Facebook was headed during their F8 conference. One of the main announcements was a huge Facebook feed redesign, affecting both desktop and mobile app experiences. In an effort to put “communities at the center,” a greater emphasis was placed on groups and events, which in turn made the News Feed less prominent. Facebook hopes this redesign will be a step in their goal toward shifting the platform from a focus on public sharing to private communities.
“Why am I seeing this?” – Facebook introduced a new feature that allowed users to view more context about a post or ad on their News Feed. The option, when clicked, explains how past interactions impact the ranking of the posts and ads on the user’s feed.
Increased transparency in Ad Library – Previously called the Ad Archive, Facebook launched a new Ad Library in an effort to make advertising on the platform more transparent. Whereas Ad Archive only showed ads related to politics or social issues, the updated Ad Library allows users to see all active ads any Page is running as well as information about who saw the ad, its spend and impressions, and previous ads up to 7 years.
Algorithm updates – Unsurprisingly, Facebook continued to make adjustments this year to their algorithm (aka the tool it uses to rank all posts on a News Feed based on the likelihood of a positive reaction from the user). Facebook uses survey results to update its algorithm — this year using the results to prioritize Pages and groups it predicts users care about the most. Continuing on an update first announced in 2018, Facebook uses three main signals to rank group and Pages content to determine how high it will appear on a user’s News Feed, increasing the visibility of the content.
As Facebook continued their endeavor to remove posts that violate Community Standards, reduce misleading or harmful information, and inform users with context surrounding posts, Facebook also implemented News Feed changes that would improve personalized experiences. This included reducing spammy content and showing comments that add the most value.
Facebook Dating – And finally, the platform made it “Facebook official” by rolling out Facebook Dating in the US. Previously available in multiple countries, the feature now allows users in the states to make romantic connections with their Facebook friends. The whole process is completely private, but Facebook took it one step further by offering “Secret Crush” — a feature that allows users to privately express interest and match with mutually interested friends…similar to a stranger-free Tinder experience.
Instagram launches Checkout – Earlier this year Instagram launched a new feature allowing users to purchase a product they see on Instagram without ever leaving the app. This feature is incredibly crucial for e-commerce sites, providing a separate area on the account’s page to showcase products which can lead to in-app sales.
Instagram launches Creator Account – Also this year,Instagram launched the option for a Creator account. This update allows users to alter their account to a creators account, giving creators more valuable insights and tools. Under this feature, users have new creative options to categorize their account, including labels such as actress, blogger, photographer and many others.
Later in the year, Instagram launched their own creator account aimed at encouraging creators and influencers on the platform. Designed to share tips and tricks for content producers, the account provides data and information as well as answers to frequently asked questions from creators. We find the account to be especially great for new influencers and marketers in the industry, sharing information that isn’t typically general knowledge for the average user.
Testing hiding likes for certain users – As mentioned in our article last month, in mid-July Instagram announced the pilot’s rollout in seven countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. By making like counts private, Instagram wanted to send a clear message. Per a spokesperson at Instagram, “we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” This update has us questioning how hiding likes will effect influencer marketing.
Compared to Facebook and Instagram, Twitter can feel like an underachiever — its core function is clear, but its ambitions aren’t (remember when its big move was changing profile pics from squares to circles?). 2019 didn’t do much to buck the trend, with many quality of life changes promised in one way or another, but few seeing the light of day. Here are our highlights:
Twitter’s user base in the US is growing, but just barely – Twitter had a sub-1% level of yearly growth in the States, while maintaining a healthy number of active users. The trend lines for 2020 look much the same.
A redesigned desktop experience – Bringing a bit more to the table than the aforementioned profile pic decision, Twitter rolled out a new desktop experience in July, giving new attention to lists, bookmarks and trends with a revamped aesthetic, while skirting any fundamental changes.
An end to political advertising – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey grabbed attention when he announced that the company would no longer allow political advertising, distancing it from rival Facebook’s policies in the midst of a long-running debate on misinformation and fake news. Of course, given that political ads made up a truly paltry share of Twitter’s ad revenue, you can draw your own conclusions about the altruism of the decision.
Hiding replies – As we mentioned last month, Twitter’s decision to let users hide replies marked a big shift for the platform. It’s likely a welcome change for many, but might not make the most sense for brands.
What to Expect in 2020
As Facebook continues in their effort to provide a privacy-focused platform, we expect to see an increase in regulations for publishers and advertisers. This could mean posts and ads being funneled through a finer sieve, possibly flagged as spam, clickbait, or low-quality and consequently hidden from users. Further, Facebook may also limit the number of ad campaigns it allows pages to run at once in order to cut down on the amount of third-party content users receive. Which means it’s now more important than ever to focus on creating quality content and abide by Facebook’s policies when crafting ads.
Also, as Facebook prioritizes posts based on users’ smaller communities, advertisers may experience a drop in their paid reach and need to adjust their paid strategy budgets and increase their focus on creating organic fans.
As always, we can assume we’ll have to adjust once again to more algorithm changes. We think one of the main tweaks will include ways to combat fake news and harmful information, possibly removing these posts from the feed altogether.
As Facebook is the owner of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, we also presume we’ll see more integration of the apps, allowing users to better communicate seamlessly across the platforms.
As we approach 2020 it’s hard to predict what will be the next drastic changes that Instagram implements. Will hiding likes be rolled out to all users on the platform? Will we see an uptick in creators accounts as the app leans towards lending support to these accounts? We are eager to see the changes the app makes as popular apps like TikTok begin gaining increasing popularity among Generation Z.
Despite continued hints at new features (like hiding likes, implementing nested replies, and including added control over who can see and respond to tweets), we expect the Twitter experience and landscape in 2020 to look a lot like 2019.
We WOULD love to see more core improvements to the app experience that would make social media planning and monitoring viable without third-party solutions, like native scheduling and more robust options in TweetDeck, but we aren’t holding our breath.
Considering its slowly growing but fairly active user base, we recommend relying on Twitter as a worthwhile line of communication, but don’t expect your message to hit a wider audience next year.
Overall we are excited to see what 2020 will bring to the social media realm. Happy New Year!