Social MediaDoesn’t it feel like every other week everyone is complaining about another social media update? There’s a confusing new way to share photos, a seemingly useless new feature or a revised layout that makes you feel like you’re trying to learn a new language. However, updates aren’t designed to confuse and frustrate us- they are generally improvements of the existing platform.With that being said, it’s important to note that social media is a continuously emerging environment that will just continue to develop and improve. Instead of antagonizing updates or ignoring it, it’s best to embrace, understand and take advantage of them. You never know- embracing the latest social media update may just become your social media competitive advantage.Hopefully I’ve opened your mind to social media updates, or you came into this post with that mindset. So now that we’re all (hopefully) embracing social media updates, what are the latest updates, and how can you, as a business, take advantage of these updates?The most recent updates in social media have been Pinterest Rich Pins, Instagram’s tagging function and the Google+ Redesign. The updates in these three social media platforms have implications on your business, and understanding them will allow you to fully take advantage of them.

Pinterest Rich Pins

Going up the rank as the third most popular social media website, Pinterest now has more than 12 million users, with 28.1% of them having an annual household income of over $100,000. This means that a significant portion of people who use Pinterest are affluent users. It gets even better- 43% of Pinterest members agree that they use Pinterest to associate with retailers or brands with which they identify with. This means that these affluent users use Pinterest as the platform to associate and identify themselves with brands and businesses.Pinterest gets all of this- this is why they came up with Rich Pins to make Pinterest an even better platform for businesses.

The Update

Rich PinsOn May 20, 2013, Pinterest announced Rich Pins, a new feature that will allow businesses to not only pin an attractive photo of their product, but provide useful product information to their customers. Currently, rich pins are available in three categories: movies, recipes and products.Movie pins will offer information such as content ratings and casting information. Recipe pins will provide information such as cooking time, ingredients and serving size. Lastly, product pins will display real time pricing information, product availability and locations customers could purchase the item.Pinterest launched Rich Pins with a plethora of well known partners including eBay, Home Depot, Sony, Urban Outfitters, Wal-Mart, Target, Netflix and Whole Foods Market just to name a few.

Urban Outfitter Pin

What It Means For Your Business

If you’re not in the retail, film or culinary industry- don’t worry. Pinterest has plans to expand Rich Pins for a wider variety of businesses in the near future. Learning about Rich Pins ahead of time will do you no harm!Ultimately, Rich Pins is Pinterest’s response to the relationship between users and brands that has developed through its platform. Pinterest has a strong ability to influence its users’ buying behaviours and by introducing Rich Pins, Pinterest is helping businesses solidify and materialize this influence.Rich Pins is truly a gem for businesses. As long as you’re properly using Pinterest and posting the right content, even if it is about your product, users will welcome it. Rich Pins provides you with a way to advertise your product and even provide detailed information about it without users feeling disrupted or annoyed.So if your business is not already on Pinterest, you should probably get started. Check out 4 Steps to a Successful Pinterest Marketing Strategy to start taking advantage of Pinterest. If you’re already on Pinterest, Rich Pins provides a platform for you to display your products and product information in a new way that customers will welcome, and may even share. This makes Rich Pin an update that you can’t ignore.

Rich Pins

How To Utilize Rich Pins

1. Take high quality photos of your products Pinterest is a visual platform, so you want to make sure you are only pinning high quality images. A poorly taken cell phone photo isn’t going to cut it- Pinterest users like artsy photos that are visually appealing, so make sure your image reflects that.2. Choose your category Choose whether you would like to implement product, recipe or movie pins.3. Add the appropriate metatags to your site Add the specific metatags to the image pages that are to be pinned.4. Validate your rich pins and apply to get them on Pinterest You can validate your pins here: http://developers.pinterest.com/rich_pins/validator/It may sound like an easy 4-step process, but it actually requires strong technical expertise. For more information, check out Pinterest’s Guide For Developers.

Instagram: Photos Of You

Instagram was constantly stereotyped as a “hipster” photo platform, and many businesses failed to see the value of Instagram as a social media platform. It wasn’t until April 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram that Instagram began emerging as a valuable social platform. As of January 2013, Instagram has 90 million monthly active users who are posting 40 million photos per day that are generating 8500 likes per second and 1000 comments per second. Despite the increase in engagement, Instagram still seemed to be lacking a major aspect of being a social platform-until now.

The Update

Instagram introduced a tagging feature, “Photos of You” earlier this month. Sounds a bit like Facebook now doesn’t it? Although it may just seem like an extension of Facebook, Photos of You brings immense benefits to businesses.With the new tagging feature, Instagram users can tag any Instagram account in their photos. The photo will then appear on the tagged account’s Photo of You tab that will feature all photos that the user has been tagged in. It may sound like a simple, overused concept but there are several positive implications of this update on your business.

Photos of You

What It Means For Your Business

Not only can Instagram users tag other users, but they can also tag brands and businesses. This gives businesses great potential to strengthen customer engagement. Now that you can see pictures that your customers tagged your business in, you can comment and engage in conversation with them. On the other hand, customers can now not only see the pictures that you post of your own brand, but pictures that real customers have tagged you in. This acts as a testimonial of your products that make your business more personal to your customers.On the reverse, you can also tag your customers in your Instagram photos. You can use this feature to take pictures of customers with your products and thank them for engaging with your business.Although Facebook has always given us the ability to tag people in our photos, Instagram is its own platform that has very different dynamics. Instagram is known for its various filters that will make your photos appear very personal and artistic, rather than an advertisement. Instagram is also viewed as a more intimate platform than Facebook, making your interactions with your customers more personal.

How To Utilize Photos of You

Photos of You Tab 1. Upload meaningful photos There are many different ways you can utilize Instagram photos to your business’s advantage. You can  take pictures exemplifying the company culture, which will strengthen your brand image. To improve customer engagement, you may want to set up a photo booth in which customers take photos with your products.2. Tag people in the photos After uploading your photos, you will have the option to tag users in the photos.3. Engage with your audience It’s great that your business is being tagged in photos, but that’s not enough. Be sure to engage with your customers, thank them for using your product, answer question and address issues that are brought up through their pictures. Just comment on the photo they tagged your business in to begin a conversation.

Google+ Redesign

Google+ has recently been coined a disappointment, as brands and businesses neglected to integrate it into their marketing plans. Businesses have failed to realize, however, that Google+ is still a growing platform and now has over 500 million registered users. There are also many useful tools and features that has been integrated into Google+ that many businesses can take advantage of.

The Update

Google+ redesign has caught the attention of many businesses due to its emphasis on visual content and amplification of cool features and tools. The most apparent update on Google+’s layout is the Google+ stream. Instead of just one column, Google+ profiles now have 3 columns in which content is displayed. This will allow businesses to expose their audience to more visual content at once.

Google+ Stream

Not only can you display more visual content, but you can also optimize your visual content with Google+’s new features. With Auto Enhance, Google+ will automatically improve your photos by enhancing the brightness, contrast, colour, noise and saturation of your photo. It gets even more awesome with Auto Awesome. With Auto Awesome, Google+ will take photos and automatically turn it into a panorama or an animation for you.

Auto Enhance

Auto Awesome

Among its many updates, hashtags are another notable one. By adding hashtags (keywords) to your post, Google will make it easier to find via search. Google+ will also automatically add hashtags to your post by scanning your content and picking out the main ideas from it.

What It Means For Your Business

Google+ is becoming increasingly user-friendly and attractive to social media users. If you don’t already have a Google+ account or you’re not sure how to fully utilize it, check out our Marketer’s Guide to Google+ that provides you with the steps and best practices in using Google+. As a business, you should be taking advantage of Google+’s redesign to post compelling and valuable visual content that will induce users to share your content. Adding hashtags to highlight key concepts of your post will also improve your rankings for search, so post interesting content that is helpful to your audience but also relevant to your industry.

How To Utilize Google+’s Redesign

Visual Content1. Keep it visualGoogle+ is not the place for long essays. The new layout and features emphasize the importance of visual content, so keep a majority of your content visual.2. Do something awesomeAuto-Awesome is meant to be a cool feature that will be fun to users. Do something interesting or fun with your visual content with Auto Awesome and watch as it is shared over and over again!3. Hashtag your posts Hashtags can get annoying on Twitter, but they are very helpful on Google+. Although Google+ automatically adds hashtags for you, be sure you are adding important keywords in your posts that will allow it rank higher in search.The social media world is constantly changing and for many businesses who have already developed a social media strategy, this may become frustrating. However, an important component of your social media strategy should be flexibility. Social media platforms update with the intention to improve user experience. Having the flexibility to adopt these updates is what makes a successful social media strategy.What are your experiences with social media updates? Have you integrated these latest updates to your strategy?

Tagged with: Google, Instagram, marketing, Photos of You, Pinterest, Rich Pins, Social Media, visual content

About Karen Yu

Karen (@kykarenyu) is a Marketing Assistant for Powered by Search (@poweredbysearch), a profit HOT 50-ranked digital performance marketing agency in Toronto, Ontario. Karen is passionate about creative marketing and social activism.