New Features on Popular Social Networks

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

New Features on Popular Social Networks

Technology changes rapidly, and social media apps and social networking platforms are no exception. You may feel that there are new features cropping up every day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, and that may not be far from the truth. The biggest social networks and most popular apps add new features regularly, often copying one another to stay on top.

Here are a few of the new features you may be seeing on your desktop or mobile versions of some of the popular social networks you’re using.

Twitter Fleets

If you are familiar with Instagram Stories which copied Snapchat Stories, then you probably already understand Twitter Fleets. Twitter Fleets are "fleeting" posts you can make to Twitter (only through the mobile app) combining video, photographs or graphics, and text overlay to convey your message.

Like Stories on other social networks, Fleets are temporary and meant to be more in-the-moment content. When using Twitter for business, however, planning your Fleets is just as important as planning your Tweets. That’s not to say that you can’t be spontaneous now and then as appropriate, however, be mindful of staying on brand.

You can use Fleets as an immediate way to share or comment on a tweet. This technique can be a more prominent way to highlight a conversation and provide your input or perspective. Fleets appear across the top of the Twitter timeline on the mobile app, similar to Instagram Stories.

Twitter Spaces

In response to the explosive popularity of a new live audio community platform called Clubhouse, Twitter is testing a new feature with audio "rooms" where people can gather and speak. Twitter already has a voice tweet feature where you can leave an audio clip rather than typing, and while this feature hasn’t taken off, with the growing popularity of audio in social media, you could be listening to more tweets in the near future.

Anyone can create, join, and participate in a Twitter Space using the Twitter mobile device. Twitter is planning on rolling out the Twitter.com version of Spaces soon. To create a Space on Twitter mobile, press and hold the Compose button on the latest version of the app, and you’ll see a new icon pop up (multiple circles in a diamond shape). If you don’t see this icon, head over to your apps store to get the latest version.

If you still don’t see the Spaces icon, you may not yet have this feature, but you can still join in on other people’s Spaces to get a feel for how they work. To do this, look at your Fleets timeline at the top of your main Twitter screen on the mobile app. You should see your own icon and then next to it, an icon with multiple photos. Clicking that should open a screen that welcomes you to Spaces and lets you join the current Space to listen in.

Using audio as part of your social media marketing can take many forms including podcasts and audio posts. The concept behind a live audio "room" is similar to a conference call or a call-in radio show. The format is worth exploring as an additional way to communicate with an audience and showcase your expertise.

Note that Facebook is about to launch the Facebook Audio Suite, a set of audio creation tools, that will rival Clubhouse, Spaces, and other short-form audio platforms.

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels are Instagram’s response to the popularity of TikTok, short, snappy videos, often with music and text overlay. Reels can be informative or simply entertaining, and they can enhance the way your messages are conveyed.

Reels are between 15 and 30 seconds long and can be made on-the-fly or can be compiled from existing video on your smartphone that you upload. Add text, audio – including original audio you create yourself, plus AR filters to your Reels to make them stand out.

Instagram already gives you many ways to post including regular Posts that remain archived on your Instagram home page, Stories that are temporary but can be saved to your phone, Highlights to display and archive specific Stories, Instagram Live, and IGTV to archive Live and other long-form videos.

The Reels feature has been given more prominent placement than the other features showing Instagram’s commitment to competing with TikTok. Now when you click the middle icon that used to let you post to Instagram, it goes straight to viewing Reels. In order to post, you now have to click on the plus sign (+) at the top of the screen to open the three main posting options: Post, Story and Reels.

Should you be creating Reels? If you’re active on TikTok, adding Reels or switching over to Reels won’t be challenging. Getting a feel for the particular video style of both TikTok and Reels may take some time. Make sure this move is on-brand for your company.

Trying new features that a social network is pushing can be a double-edged sword. Adopting new features can take time to learn and require more resources than you have. These features can also disappear as quickly as they appeared if the social media companies experimenting with them decide they didn’t meet their needs. Trying these new features could give you a fresh way to reach consumers, particularly new consumers. If you adopt these features early, you may also get the benefit of greater visibility as the social network boosts your posts to encourage others to try the new feature. No matter what you decide to try, only pick the features that are compatible with your brand, the resources you have, and the audience you’re wanting to reach.