The 5 new features on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that PR pros need to understand

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If you feel like you’d pay closer attention to the ongoing evolution of social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, if only you had the time, this post is for you. The triumvirate of key social networks in the U.S. has been hard at work rolling out new features over the past month. Here’s the executive summary, with links to insightful blog posts about each innovation.

1. Promoted Tweets. Twitter stirred up a lot of media coverage a few weeks ago when it introduced its first serious attempt at generating revenue in the form of “Promoted Tweets”, which allow companies to sponsor their tweets so that they rise to the top of users’ searches. The program is currently available only to a test group of companies that includes Starbucks, Virgin America and Best Buy.  

Eventually, Promoted Tweets will also appear in users’ feeds even if the user didn’t perform a search and doesn’t follow the advertiser, according to the New York Times. Twitter was generally applauded for accompanying the move with an algorithm that takes into account 9 factors of “resonance” to determine whether the tweet is relevant to users. If not, the tweet loses its promoted status so that users won’t be interrupted with irrelevant tweets. Companies will pay based on the number of impressions the tweet receives, though Twitter hasn’t been very forthcoming about pricing, as Jeremy Schoemaker at Shoemoney points out in a recent post.

2. Facebook “Likes” on Web sites. At its F8 developer conference last week, Facebook announced a number of new features, most notably the ability for Web publishers to include a “Like” button with each post or article on their site (we’ve implemented it here at CisionBlog, see the bottom of this post). When you “Like” an article, it gets published to the news feeds of your friends on Facebook. This little feature has the potential to drive a lot of new traffic to your content. If you publish press releases or blog posts online, you should consider using it. To learn more, check out this excellent post on the feature’s significance from Chris Crum at WebProNews.

3. Facebook Insights enhancements. Facebook page administrators, app developers and Web site owners now have a new suite of reporting and visualization tools at their disposal for tracking the user engagement they generate through Facebook. The new Facebook Insights dashboard lets you track activity on pages, apps and external Web sites integrated with Facebook in one place for the first time, with a new API for mashing up this data with other analytics tools. Check out this video of Facebook developers discussing the changes at F8, or this comprehensive overview from Inside Facebook.

4. The ability to follow companies on LinkedIn. We’ve discussed here before that many professionals use LinkedIn as a sort of virtual Rolodex and not much else; in fact there is lots of great business intelligence being exchanged there every day (particularly in LinkedIn Answers discussion threads). Last week, LinkedIn introduced the ability for users to “follow” or track all changes at a company, including profile updates, new hires, open positions and promotions. The feature could prove to be a great career-building tool for PR pros. Andrew Rosen at SocialTimes outlines other potential uses here.

5. Embeddable tweets. Twitter also introduced a tool called Blackbird Pie that allows you to convert a link to an individual tweet to a snippet of HTML code that can be embedded in a blog post. Most bloggers take screenshots of tweets to paste into their posts instead, and will probably continue to do so as Twitter refines Blackbird Pie, which tends to spit out a fairly long bit of code that is not yet compatible with all content management systems. Due to poor reception, Twitter backpedaled a bit and referred to Blackbird Pie as more of a “hack”, as Andy Beal points out here on Marketing Pilgrim.

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