February was a busy month for social media news. In this new series, we’ll take a look at some of the stories that caught our attention.
In early February Twitter made two changes to the way it presented a user’s timeline. First it announced that it would be introducing an algorithm. Like Facebook’s algorithm, this would rearrange the user’s timeline to prioritise tweets from people they engaged with the most, rather than – as is traditional – presenting tweets in reverse chronological order.
Of course, Twitter users went slightly mad at this announcement (myself included) and started #RIPTwitter trending . Twitter’s CEO was quick to respond (was it, however, wise to use the hashtag?)
Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we're always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week.
— jack (@jack) February 6, 2016
It introduced the changes days later.
But, what’s changed?
Go into settings and check the above box and you’re telling Twitter that you want it to prioritise relevancy over recency. On the face of it, that sounds great, of course we want more relevant content, but will it give us relevant content, or just those users who we engage with a lot?
You might, for example, talk to Bill from Birmingham when you both live tweet The Walking Dead. He might be the person you chat with the most on Twitter. But, is the rest of what he has to say relevant to you?
What about tweets from brands? You might not engage with them, but you could still find the informative. How can an algorithm measure that? Of course, these tweets aren’t going to disappear, they’d just be pushed down your timeline, but will you take the time to scroll back through your timeline, or will you just stop seeing those tweets?
Facebook’s continued obsession with our social lives
Facebook started the month by giving everyone their own unique friends video in celebration of both friendship, and its own 12th birthday.
Now, I hated it (I’m cynical, can’t help it!) but at least my video wasn’t a highlight reel of people I’d broken up with, that one that used to bully me at school and several dead relatives. That, I can imagine, must have been somewhat grim. I can understand why Facebook would think this was a good idea, but it’s hard to see how it could be made to work for everyone.
Later in the month, Facebook announced that it wanted people to start making happy birthday video messages for friends (it clearly doesn’t realise that a “Happy Birthday random person from primary school!” is the most that a lot of people can manage these days).
It’s also created a social virtual reality team. Does this mean that in future, we can stop saying “we really must catch up soon!” to these people, and start catching up with them in some sort of Matrix inspired construct? That sounds like fun.
Finally, in a month packed with new things, Facebook started rolling out its new emoticon buttons. Now, as well as simply clicking “Like”, Facebook users can click “sad” and “angry” faces to express themselves. It’ll be interesting to see how brands adapt to this change.
Copyright battles on YouTube
2016 has seen several popular YouTube creators having their videos taken offline due to copyright violation claims. Some YouTubers fought the removals, citing fair use, while others are looking for ways to keep their videos online.
YouTube has a thriving Let’s Play community, where gamers play video games and upload their playthroughs with their commentary for their viewers to watch. Video game developers and publishers often go out of their way to support these content creators, granting them early access to games, behind the scenes access and interviews with writers and developers. They do this because they know that these videos are a great way to engage the fan community.
But, if one of those videos contains a couple of bars of a song that the publisher doesn’t own the rights to, it can get removed and the creators channel penalised.
In a month where a video of a copyright lecture was removed, for copyright infringement, it’s clear that something needs to change. YouTube’s bread and butter is its community of creators, it cannot afford to alienate them – hence the recent announcement that it’s working on resolving the issues.
Instagram introduces account switching
Social media managers rejoice for Instagram has finally made it possible for people to switch accounts. Now we can post to all of our Instagram accounts from the same phone (let’s just hope that we don’t post to the wrong one!).