The second half of 2021 saw some major updates and announcements. These included critical changes that opened the doors for content creators to many new avenues. From Instagram’s Collab feature, Facebook’s thread option, Twitter’s related fleets to Instagram’s comments limit, Twitter’s new layout, and messenger’s new Soundmojis, there have been many critical updates in the month. Let’s take a look at every #NewThingsInDigital for the month of July 2021.
In case you missed last month’s list of #NewThingsInDigital click here to read.
List of The Top 31 Latest Digital Marketing Updates in July 2021
1. Instagram is testing ‘Link’ Stickers in Stories for all users
Currently, only profiles with 10K followers can add a swipe-up link to their Stories. Instagram is now running a test that provides all users with the option to add links to their Stories, asking followers to swipe up to view the link. The swipe-up option has been excellently helpful for marketers and brands with over 10K followers. However, the unavailability of the feature to brands and profiles with lesser than 10K followers has proven to be a speedbump. The lack of access to essential brand features can limit partnership and collaboration opportunities. In recognition and acknowledgment of this limitation, Instagram is looking to make this feature accessible to more profiles that are established but with lesser than 10K followers, providing them with more avenues to grow.
2. Instagram has added ‘Black-owned’ label in business profile options
In a move to signify diversity, Instagram has added a new ‘Black-owned’ label in business profile options. This is quite a significant e-commerce feature being added to Instagram. Once the ‘Black-owned’ label is added to the business’ profile, Instagram will use this to highlight black-led businesses in its Shops tab and curated product collections. This is a move from Instagram’s side to making black-led businesses easily discoverable. This also hints at the different opportunities for communities from diverse backgrounds.
3. Twitter adds physical security keys option to make the platform safer
Twitter has announced that it has added the physical security keys option to make the platform safer and more secure. Last year, Twitter was pushed into troubled waters, with many high-profile accounts being hacked. To provide more security to profiles, Twitter has added physical security keys as the only form of two-factor authentication. This is an added layer of protection from potential hackers. According to Andy Slayer, Senior Security Engineer at Twitter, “Security keys offer the strongest protection for your Twitter account because they have built-in protections to ensure that even if a key is used on a phishing site, the information shared cannot be used to access your account”. These security keys use FIDO and WebAuthn security standards that can tell the difference between authentic and malicious sites.
4. Facebook looks to make Instagram more TikTok-like by running video tests
Facebook is focussing on making Instagram more video-friendly, which looks like it is trying to make the photo-sharing platform more TikTok-like. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced a plan to show full-screen, recommended videos in users’ feeds. He also said that they are looking at ways in which they can embrace different formats of videos on the platform, including full-screen, immersive, mobile-first, and entertaining formats. Instagram has already shifted focus to videos with more emphasis on IGTV and now on Reels. Adam also cited TikTok and YouTube as significant competitors and that Instagram is no longer just a photo-sharing platform.
5. Google rolls out July 2021 core update
Google has been releasing core Google Algorithm updates every few months. After announcing two significant core updates for June and July, Google has officially rolled out the second part of the significant update for the month of July. Google’s core updates improve the Search experience since it involves broad improvements to Search. The update can have both positive and negative impacts on rankings, and Google has assured that a negative impact does not mean that something fundamentally is wrong with the page’s content. If you are an SEO specialist, keep a close watch on your analytics and rankings over the next couple of weeks.
6. Google tests displaying two rows of popular products in Search
Google is testing the display of popular products in two rows on Search. This is a test running on the desktop version of Google Search. In this test, the ‘Popular Products’ unit shows a two-row display of products and involves a pop-up that quickly sorts through options. Google is evidently placing more emphasis on products in Search. This two-row display of popular products takes up a huge chunk of space in the SERP.
7. Google tests new ‘Forums’ Carousel on Mobile Search
Google is apparently testing a new form of Q&A rich results on mobile Search Results, with a new header called ‘Forums’. This looks like a Question and Answer rich results carousel.
8. Instagram is testing ‘Comment Limits’ to tackle targeted abuse by groups
Instagram is looking to roll out a new option to tackle targeted abuse by groups on the platform. A few users are getting prompts from Instagram, providing them with the option of placing limitations on comments and messages from select groups. This is a move to tackle on-platform abuse. According to Instagram, the platform will recommend groups of profiles/accounts you may want to limit based on detected past activity. You can later manually choose to see and interact with them. It looks like Instagram is looking to provide users with ways to manage intense abusive interactions on the platforms.
9. Facebook tests ‘Thread’ option for feed posts
Facebook is testing a new ‘Thread’ option which lets users add more posts to the original post on their feed, thereby enabling them to create a ‘thread’ of posts and give better context to their story through their updates. With this option, every post you add to the thread will be linked to your original update, creating a thread of posts. This option is useful for those who want to provide updates on something they had shared a while ago. This is quite similar to Twitter’s ‘Thread’ option, introduced back in 2017. This feature from Facebook gives more ways to add context to your existing content.
10. Twitter is testing in-stream prompts for various Privacy settings and options
Twitter is testing out a few features in the Privacy settings options to provide more transparency around the impact of changes within the Tweet process. These are some of the changes the platform has lined up.
(a) Prompts when you change privacy settings – These prompts will outline what the change means and how it will impact your Tweets and tweeting process.
(b) Seamless switching of accounts – Twitter is also looking to make the process of switching accounts while Tweeting easier by making the name, profile picture, privacy settings, and handle’s name clearly visible within the Tweet composer window. It will also provide us with the option to switch accounts from within the composer.
(c) Provision of in-stream overview of privacy settings – Twitter is also looking to provide you with a summary explaining what each privacy setting is about and how it will impact the way you Tweet. This will give you more clarity on the privacy setting and help you understand the same better.
11. Twitter tests highlighting ‘Related Fleets’ beneath selected Tweets on the feed
Twitter has been trying to find more ways to push Fleets’ use, its Story-like feature within the platform. In a move towards this, Twitter is testing what it calls ‘Related Fleets’. With this feature, it will feature ‘Related Fleets’ beneath select Tweets on your feed. This is a test in which the platform shows a few users Fleets that include Tweets they have already viewed as additional content when they expand the initial Tweet. Once they view the Tweet, the platform hopes they would click on to view more Fleets, thereby maximising engagement on the feature. This would help users discover new content as well as accounts, which is interesting.
12. YouTube launches ‘New To You’ prompts to highlight channels based on your interests
YouTube is launching a new feature called ‘New To You’. This focusses on providing users with improved channel recommendations, thereby enabling them to discover more content and, subsequently, even channels. The video-streaming platform will highlight channels based on your interests, ensuring they are relevant and relatable for you. This option is said to be primarily focussed on increasing engagement, but it also provides creators with the opportunity to maximise reach with the right targeting. The ‘New To You’ prompt will appear on top of the Feed ‘Explore’ recommendations on the mobile version. When tapped, the user will be taken to a window with personalised recommendation of content.
13. Twitter tests ‘Audience Controls’ on Tweets for easier engagement around topics
Twitter is working on a new option that will let you choose the audience you want to share specific Tweets with. The idea behind this is to help users make more out of their Tweeting experience and allow them to avoid creating more accounts for select audiences. This will significantly impact the platform’s usage and the way users will build audience in the future. Under this, Twitter is testing a ‘variable audience control toggle’, which would let users change the audience within they want to Tweet to, from within the Tweet composer itself. Another option that the platform is testing is what it calls ‘Facets’, which are basically personas through which users can tweet. Users can use different personas they can create under the same profile. These options make audience refinement and engagement simpler and hassle-free.
14. Google tests a sticky footer for Search-related queries on mobile Chrome browser
Google is testing the display of Search-related queries as a footer on Chrome’s mobile version. The mobile version has a sticky footer, with Google’s G-logo on the left-hand side, along with displaying Search-related queries that refine your original Search query.
15. Instagram to roll out auto-captions for feed posts soon
Instagram rolled out the auto caption feature for IGTV and expanded the same to Stories earlier this May, helping users quickly add subtitled text to their video frames. In a Tweet exchange last week, someone had tweeted out to Adam Mosseri and Vishal Shah, asking for auto-captions for posts in the feed. To this, Vishal, who is VP of product at Instagram, responded asking the Tweeter to ‘stay tuned, coming soon!’, thereby hinting at a possibility of auto-captions coming soon for feed posts. This feature will add more accessibility to your content, improve reach, and maximise viewership.
16. Instagram tests ‘Re-share’ sticker for Stories
Instagram is launching a new test of the ‘Re-share’ sticker for its Stories. This will enable people to re-share posts they have recently come across on their Instagram feed via a new dedicated sharing format. On clicking the sticker on Stories, you will be able to view the whole set of posts you have recently viewed on Instagram. You can then choose the post you want to share on your Story. Your Story will then see that post appear in a dedicated, smaller sticker, which you can append to your larger Story image or video. This option is being tested with the aim to induce more creativity in the sharing of posts on Stories, as opposed to just directly sharing them on your Stories.
17. Twitter tests new layout for images and might add limited-time Tweet editing option
Twitter is currently testing a new image presentation format – it has taken off the round bordered format and is looking to switch to a full horizontal view. With the new format, the image will take up the full horizontal space in the Twitter feed. Apart from this, the micro-blogging site is also looking to provide time to go back and edit your Tweets. Twitter has been talking about this possible addition for years now and is looking to make it available for the Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter’s Product Lead, Kavyon Beykpour, tweeted a poll tagging Twitter Blue and asked people if they would subscribe if they could edit their tweets on Twitter Blue within a few minutes of Tweeting.
18. Instagram adds new Safety check-up alert within the app to tackle security concerns
Instagram has been working on tweaks and features within the app to tackle security concerns. In a step inching closer towards being a safer platform, Instagram is rolling out a new Security Safety check-up alert in the app. This helps users keep their profile safe and secure by asking them to keep their profile info and settings updated.
According to Instagram, “Security Check-up will guide people, whose accounts may have been hacked, through the steps needed to secure them. This includes checking login activity, reviewing profile information, confirming the accounts that share login information, and updating account recovery contact information such as phone number or e-mail.”
The check-up will be shown to profiles with any level of suspicious activity. Apart from this, Instagram also pushes users to enable two-factor authentication for their profiles to be more secure and ensure that their phone numbers and e-mails are up-to-date.
19. Stories drafts now available to all Instagram users
Instagram announced the drafts option for Stories back in March, but now, all users have the option to save the Stories they have created on Instagram as drafts. These Story drafts have an expiration period of seven days, after which Instagram will remove them from the drafts section. When you exit the Stories composer mid-way, there’s a pop-up that will give you options to either ‘discard’, ‘Save Draft’, or ‘Cancel’. Once you save your Story as drafts, you can go back, edit them and post them to your Stories within 7 days. You could save your stories to your device until now, but this option saves your Stories for a short span of time within the app itself.
20. Messenger launches ‘Soundmojis’ as another way to reply to messages
Messenger has launched a cool, new way to reply to messages called Soundmojis. Soundmojis are nothing but emojis with sounds or audio clips playing in the background when they are sent. This provides another interactive element to Facebook’s messaging feature. The launch of Soundmojis coincides with World Emojis Day.
According to Facebook, “[Soundmojis are] a next-level emoji that lets you send short sound clips in a Messenger chat, ranging from clapping, crickets, drumroll, and evil laughter, to audio clips from your favorite artists like Rebecca Black and your favorite TV shows and movies like Universal Pictures’ F9, NBC and Universal Television’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Netflix and Shondaland’s Bridgerton. “Ah, the drama of it all.”
This could be an interesting addition, making the platform and your message threads more interactive.
21. Google once again tests round corner design for Mobile Search results
Google is back again, with the test of round corner design for Search results on the mobile version of Google Search. Google is a platform that constantly runs tests on various features. In addition to this, the platform is testing rounded borders for the mobile version of its Search Results.
22. Google tests big carousel for ‘More Specific Searches’
Google has presented the ‘More Specific Searches’ section in two main formats till now – one, as a list, second, in a more expandable format. Currently, Google is testing this section as a set of buttons in a huge, slideable, multi-lined carousel. This can be added to one of Google’s many tests to its formats and algorithms.
23. Instagram tests new ‘Collab’ option that lets users partner up on Reels and Posts
Instagram has launched the test of ‘Collab’, a new feature that will let users partner up with each other on Reels and Posts. Users will be able to partner up for a particular post or Reel by simply inviting each other to ‘Collab’. When the user accepts the invite, the Collab’d post will appear to both sets of followers. When users Collab with each other for posts or Reels, the update will appear with 2 bubbles, indicating that 2 people have partnered for the content. The Collab post will also appear on the photo grids of both users. This feature opens up interesting partnership opportunities between users and also opportunities to maximize engagement with a broader reach. This can also pave the way to build a stronger Instagram community!
24. Instagram launches language translation options in Stories
Instagram has been looking to improve accessibility. In a move to make content on the platform more perceivable to a broader audience category, it has launched language translation options within Stories. When you see a Story with overlay text in another language, Instagram will provide you with the option to translate the same on-screen. Instagram will detect foreign languages based on the user’s phone settings and show a new ‘See Translation’ option on the top left corner of the Story with the foreign language. When you tap on it, you will be shown a pop-up with the translation of the text in the Story. Instagram has said that the functionality currently supports around 90 languages, and translation is only available for text right now.
25. WhatsApp taps into the audio-social trends with ‘joinable calls’ update
As lockdown continues in many parts of the world owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, people still turn to technology and social media to keep in touch with their loved ones. With group audio calls seeing more demand than ever, WhatsApp is looking to tap into the trend with its all-new ‘joinable call’ update on its group call feature within the app. With joinable calls, you will be able to see all calls that are in progress and choose to join them at any given time, even when the call is in progress. You can also leave the call and join back whenever you want as long as the call is ongoing.
26. Instagram adds new ‘Sensitive Content Control’ option for users to manage their content intake better
Instagram adds a new ‘Sensitive Content Control’ option under account settings for users to manage their on-platform experience better. The Sensitive Content Control setting presents the users with three options they can choose from:
- Allow – You may see more photos or videos that could be upsetting or offensive
- Limit (Default) – You may see some photos or videos that could be upsetting or offensive
- Limit Even More – You may see fewer photos or videos that could be upsetting or offensive
Head to Settings > Account > Sensitive Content Controls to access these options. The ‘Limit’ option is set as default for all users. The ‘Allow’ option is accessible only to users above 18 years of age. This feature in the Account Settings of the app is helpful to make the platform more user-friendly and to protect users from unwanted exposure.
27. Twitter adds upvote and downvote options to replies to improve its recommendation system
A few users got hyped when they saw upvotes and downvote buttons for replies on Tweets. But Twitter was quick to explain that it is not adapting Reddit’s up and downvoting feature. Twitter said that the buttons are part of a small-scale research to understand the relevancy of replies amongst audience/users and learn about the kind of replies they find interesting and relatable. The platform is doing this to improve their recommendation system and show more relevant tweets to users. Twitter further clarified that the downvotes are not public, while the upvotes will be shown as likes.
28. Google’s new feature will now tell you why a page is being ranked
Google has launched a new feature that would give out information and list down reasons as to why the Search engine is ranking a page. This new feature is for the ‘About the result’ overlay, where Google will tell us why that page is being ranked and based on what factors. The Search engine outlines up to 9 different factors on why a page is being ranked, and some of them include (as highlighted by Barry Schwartz):
(1) The search term matches the content on the page or in the HTML (like title tags, etc.)
(2) The search term is related (like a synonym) to the content on the page
(3) The search term matches or is related to links pointing to that page
(4) The images on the page are related to the search term
(5) The language is relevant to the query (i.e., English queries are more likely to match on English content)
(6) The region of the page or what region the page serves is relevant to the query (i.e., like searching for COVID shot, you probably want to know what is offered in your region, or looking for when your trash is being picked up on your block).
Google probably will add more factors to this list. This might be useful for SEO and content specialists in optimising their content for better rankings. Apart from this, Google is also giving out tips on how they can improve their queries.
29. Google tests displaying Maps on the right side of the local pack
Google is testing a new display format for the local pack. The Search Engine is testing the display of Maps on the right side of the local pack as opposed to the display of Maps above the local pack listings. This seems to be one of Google’s many tests on display and formatting of Search Results.
30. Google removes AMP label from mobile Search results
Google has dropped the display of AMP labels from mobile Search results. Neither the pages nor the Top Stories carousel is now showing the AMP lightning bolt icon. Last month, users were able to see non-AMP pages showing up in these sections, but right now, AMP pages also do not carry AMP labels or icons with them.
31. Google adds ‘Math Solvers’ rich results to the Google Search Console performance report
Google has added a new filter to the Google Search performance report. Under the ‘Search Appearance’ filter, you will now be able to see a new ‘Math Solvers’ listing, which is a new rich result that helps you solve Math problems on Google. Google had added structured data and debugging tools for Math Solver back in March this year. Google has now added a way for us to see how well these rich results perform in Search Console’s performance report.