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Ch-ch-ch-changes: Social media updates you need to know about now

There's been some significant changes made to several popular social channels in recent weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick recap of the developments that are on our radar and highlight how businesses can make use of the new tools at hand:

Twitter makes Direct Messaging a more powerful communications tool

Customer service and the opportunity for increased dialogue with audiences took a major step forward recently, when Twitter announced it was doing awaywith the previous 140 character limit to its Direct Message (DM) function. Users can now send DM's of up to 10,000 characters, which makes Twitter a direct competitor to Facebook's Messenger and other messaging tools like What's App, We Chat and Viber.

What does this mean for businesses and organisations using Twitter to communicate and listen to their online communities? It means that more lengthy queries and discussions can now take place within the social media site, rather than having to direct your customer to a website or forum.

This makes perfect sense, because if a customer reaches out to your business on Twitter, that's because it's their preferred method of engaging with you. Why take them off their native channel to another site, where you run the risk of losing the opportunity to engage?

Snapchat introduces new functions – but is the ephemeral nature of the platform changing?

In a new update which is perhaps less valuable to businesses, but a lot of fun for Snapchatters, Snapchat has just unveiled new functions that has the online world going bonkers (read: rainbows coming out of your mouth, ghoulish faces, and love heart eyes).

If you see a Millennial raising their eyebrows or sticking their tongue out at their phone this week, now you know why.

In the same move, Snapchat has also announced a new replay function, which users can buy for US$0.99. It's a noteworthy play, because the ephemeral nature of Snapchat's disappearing videos and photos has always been its USP. There's obvious demand for a replay feature though, so we'll be keeping a close eye on this rapidly evolving platform.

With Snapchat's Discover and Story functions also gaining traction with brands, it will be interesting to see how the new tools released this week are put to use by companies.

Instagram welcomes advertisers on board (but keeps it native)

In a move met with much outcry by 'grammers everywhere, Instagram recently announced that its advertising platform will now be more widely available to businesses. Ad functions have been available to a small number of brands, but with the continued growth of its dedicated daily user base, Instagram can see the writing on the wall.

I'm interested that Instagram's communication about this development places great emphasis on the fact that any ads will have to contribute to the 'native experience' for users i.e. that the ads don't look like ads, but rather, look like just another perfectly shot 'gram.

In Instagram's own words, the company has three key areas of focus for the ad platform: Expanding ad offerings to include action-oriented formats, enabling more targeting capabilities, and making it easier for businesses large and small to buy ads on Instagram.

Will you be exploring the advertising capabilities on offer through Instagram? We'll be talking to clients already using the platform about how this new marketing function could be of use as a powerful, targeted communications tool.

Neighbourly is open for business

We're really excited about the potential for businesses to communicate through Neighbourly. In the past, the social channel has just been for residents and community organisations, but in a few weeks ago, the Fairfax-owned platform announced that local businesses can now tap into the network too.

According to a recent news article, the "platform enables businesses to boost their community profile by creating a free listing in a local directory and communicating directly with people living nearby."

So then, how might a business use Neighbourly? Think beyond the traditional marketing tactics of yesteryear; take a content-led approach that adds value to people who live in your catchment area. Use the platform as a way to understand the unique needs, concerns and ideas that the community has and think about how you might be able to position your business as a facilitator and enabler of your community. Talk to us if you want some ideas on this powerful, grassroots channel.

Which of these changes could your business benefit from adopting? Tweet us via @ShapeTheMessage (or send us a Direct Message) and we can give you some ideas to help communicate with your audiences using these new tools.