ICYMI: Reels and Hashtags Edition

Here's what happened on social media this week, October 1

[via Emily Mariko’s YouTube channel]

💻 Roadmap

#️⃣ Instagram’s been busy this week, providing official updates on Reels and Hashtags that could have an impact on your account as a creator or a brand. 

Instagram’s summer bonus program, which paid creators to produce Reels, was such a success that they’re expanding the test as Reels Play. (People like to get paid for their efforts, shocking I know.) From now until the end of the year, U.S. creators will have the opportunity to get paid to make Reels. And Reels Play could potentially expand globally in 2022.

Facebook also wants to make Reels happen. The short-form videos officially launched on their platform this week. Facebook is promising creators the opportunity to have their Reels discovered in the News Feed and alongside Stories by existing followers and other users. Facebook is also testing the ability for Instagram creators to have their reels recommended on Facebook. This is a major pivot for Facebook since they killed organic reach on their platform years ago and it’s been pay to play ever since. 

So, love ‘em or hate ‘em, Reels are here to stay.

Instagram also provided some guidance around hashtags. The full list of dos and don’t is here. But the BIG takeaway was their advice to keep the number of hashtags between three and five. “Adding 10-20 hashtags will not help you get additional distribution.”

That’s a big shift from the 30-hashtag limit they set previously. Obviously, the number of hashtags is a recommendation and not a strict rule. It’s important to test for yourself what works on your account. It seems arbitrary right now, but there is a possible SEO-related explanation for encouraging users to dial back on the number of hashtags. 

Google is reportedly working on deals with ByteDance and Facebook to improve search results for TikTok and Instagram. The results right now when you search for their content are primitive but the world’s largest search engine is looking to change that.

So, it’s possible that Instagram is trying to clean up the number and relevance of hashtags to make captions more search-friendly. The company’s shed more light on search recently and talked about their own efforts to improve search.

Terms like #instagood or #like4like probably don’t fit into Instagram or Google’s plans to improve search results by delivering high quality, contextually relevant content so some changes need to be made. Right now it’s just a theory, but it’s the best one I’ve got pinned on my evidence board. 

🗂 Facebook just released the research that was part of the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files exposé. The material is fascinating but so are the annotations seeking to downplay the results and criticize its own researchers for their word choice. And there may be even more to come. I cannot recommend enough that you click through both decks, especially if you work with or have teens in your family:

Garbage Day’s Ryan Broderick also flagged this confusing Twitter exchange between a New York Times journalist and Facebook’s Policy Communications Director, Andy Stone, who seemed to take issue at the New York Times’ Kids section. Except the only people who seem to feel more depressed after looking at a newspaper are the journalists working there

🧒🏽 The Facebook Files scandal have temporarily squashed, but not ended, Instagram’s plans for a kids app aimed at young people 13 years old or younger. “This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post explaining the decision to postpone.

In related news, teenage Finstas (fake Instagram accounts) came under fire in congress when Senator Blumenthal asked Facebook to “commit to ending Finsta.” There’s some debate and lols whether or not he understood that Finsta is a type of account, not a product or service. What I think Blumenthal was pushing for is removing the ability to create fake accounts with no identity verification but admittedly it wasn’t his finest moment.

🎉 TikTok joined the 1 billion club this week — joining the likes of Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram to have 1 billion active users. And it took them only five years to get there, versus 8 years for Facebook and 7 years for Instagram. But as Axios’ Sara Fischer pointed out, Facebook walked so TikTok could run. There’s no way they could have scaled without significant ad spend across Facebook’s ad network — reportedly spending $1 billion in ads in 2018. 

🌎 A big part of TikTok World — a digital conference for brands and marketers this week — revolved around expanding partnerships, live shopping and new tools.

One detail that stood out — and is likely being monitored very closely by online retailers — is a test currently happening in Indonesia and the U.K. for TikTok to become a full-service shopping solution whereby they manage everything from shipping to fulfillment and point-of-purchase for partners.

👆🏻 Click Thru

Microsoft’s failed attempt to take over TikTok U.S. was “the strangest thing I’ve ever sort of worked on,” reminisced CEO Satya Nadella — isn’t it absolutely wild that just over a year ago we all wondered if TikTok would survive?! 

👯‍♀️ Do you ever watch something on TikTok and assume you’ve discovered something unique? And then find out that more than 2 million people feel exactly the same way. See: Emily Mariko and Jada Rounds

🏆 TikTok’s subtitles and captions may be the MVPs of 2021. But did you know they got sued by the robotic-sounding woman used in their text-to-speech voice?!

▶️ A new Pew Research Center survey on social media use reveals that a majority of Americans say they use YouTube and Facebook, while use of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok is especially common among adults under 30. 

It’s interesting to note that while most most platforms show little growth, fully 81% of Americans say they use YouTube, up from 73% in 2019. 

🚫 A new Influencer Outreach survey revealed the top reasons influencers are turning down collaborations, including: they do not like or value the brand (51%), they’re not happy with the budget (42%), and being told exactly what to write with no creative freedom (38%).

This TikTok video is a 3-minute masterclass in breaking down Mormon influencers — young, hot, white-orange moms — and their spheres of influence. Energy! Luxury! Chill!

📲 How to level up your Stories game: This article focused on five ways to elevate everyday journalism while using the stories format but really these tips could be used by brand, too. Click in for visual examples that come with each suggestion:

  1. Stories as a community response tool 

  2. Stories as a newsletter lead generator 

  3. Stories as a peek behind the curtain 

  4. Stories as a way to increase readership 

  5. Stories as a way to share audio content