Snapchat’s New Feature Is Freaking People Out

Snapchat has been fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant while social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even Whatsapp replicate features that once made it unique. Snapchat’s latest feature has certainly got people talking, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Snap Maps, allows your followers to find you by your location. According to Snapchat, the addition is meant to help users see what’s happening, find their friends, and get inspired to go on adventures.

The concept could be particularly useful to explore locations or tourist destinations, for example. Imagine being able to see unedited videos from people in London while you’re in South Africa. You could also experience events as they happen, like a Nicki Minaj concert or see real-time content from users at an event on the news.

Since the announcement on 21 June 2017, the internet has been peppered with articles about the new feature. Some media sources have hyped up the addition and commented on the possibilities, especially for marketers. Although there are certainly pros to the feature, articles have largely been negative and focused on concerns about compromised privacy.

While the idea is cool in theory, the reality is that your followers can see where you are at all times – even when not using Snapchat. This is pretty creepy for anyone, but parents are particularly concerned about the safety of their children, and rightly so.

In a recent video, YouTuber Joey Salads did a social experiment where he added a young girl he’d never met to Snapchat. See what happened for yourself:

Location settings on Snapchat
Upon activating Snap Maps, users can decide who can see their location.
Although you can select whether or not to share your location and with whom, the reality is that children and teenagers are not as social media savvy as they think they are. Anyone is at risk though – a stranger could quite easily learn your routine by tracking your movements and target you when you least expect it.

After being live for less than two weeks, Snapchat has removed the promotional video from YouTube, which suggests they’ve second guessed the update. This is, of course, just speculation but the addition could potentially lead to more trouble than it’s worth at what is an incredibly critical time for Snap Inc.

In my opinion, we can’t keep shifting the blame to someone else. At some stage, we need to step up and take responsibility. Parents need to continueously educate their children about the dangers of social media, and we need to be more discerning with who we allow to see our information as well as be more aware and protective of the information we share on the internet. Technology and social media are constantly evolving and the onus is on us to keep up.

Question: What are your thoughts? Should Snapchat remove this feature or is the onus on the user to be selective with who they share their information with?

Resources and Additional Reading

Facebook Copies Snapchat Again

Find Wi-Fi Hotspots With Facebook’s Latest Feature

Facebook has recently launched its latest feature that allows you to find venues that provide public and free Wi-Fi. Introducing ‘Find Wi-Fi‘. 

How Does It Work?

If a business has shared that they provide Wi-Fi on their Facebook Page, the business will be added to the Find Wi-Fi map, where users can find out more about the business and navigate to the venue.

Find WiFi Menu
‘Find Wi-Fi’ can be accessed on your iPhone or Android device under the Menu tab on the Facebook app

Who Can Use ‘Find Wi-Fi’?

The feature was tested in some countries in 2016, but as of 30 June 2017, Find Wi-Fi is now available globally. The feature is available to all iPhone and Android users.

How Do You Find Wi-Fi Hotspots?

On the Facebook app, click the ‘More’ icon and scroll down to ‘Find Wi-Fi’. If the option isn’t there, select ‘See More…’ and the option should appear. Once in the ‘Find Wi-Fi’ tab, enable the service and you will now be able to explore available hotspots on a map and learn more about businesses hosting them.

Who Benefits from the Feature?

Find Wi-Fi is a wonderful feature that is helpful to practically all Facebook users:

  • Particularly in South Africa where costly mobile data is a constant struggle, being able to find free Wi-Fi would significantly help people who have limited access to the internet. Students and entrepreneurs and students, in particular, could really benefit from this feature.
  • Businesses can enhance the chance of discoverability by firstly providing (preferably free) Wi-Fi, and making sure to add this detail to their Facebook Page. This can be a persuasive offering when considering a business meeting spot or study group location.

Facebook is an absolute innovation machine that is constantly releasing features to improve the user experience. With features like this, it’s no wonder Facebook is the largest social media platform with 2 billion monthly active users.

Additional Reading

Vlogger Accidentally Kills Boyfriend in YouTube Stunt

19-year-old YouTuber Monalisa Perez has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after a YouTube stunt went horribly wrong.

Monalisa Perez Fatal Tweet

Monalisa Perez and boyfriend Pedro Ruiz started their channel in March 2017 and have grown their subscriber base very quickly earning over 2,000 subscribers in just a few months. The focus of their vlogs was to show “real life of a young couple who happen to be teen parents.” Their videos were your typical internet couple kind of videos raking in thousands of views. But on Monday 26 June 2017, one video ended tragically after Perez shot Ruiz dead.

According to reports, Perez was urged to shoot a hardcover book Ruiz held in front of his chest, which was meant to stop the bullet. Unfortunately, the bullet penetrated the book as well as 22-year-old Ruiz. Perez claims she was initially reluctant, but Ruiz was insistent. After being convinced to do it for the views on YouTube, she succumbed to the pressure.

Although the incident was an accident and regardless of her reluctance, Monalisa Perez, who is seven months pregnant, now faces up to 10 years in prison and or a fine of $20 000.

This is an incredibly tragic story and is a result of society’s unhealthy obsession with likes, followers/subscribers and views. No matter how badly you might want to be famous on the internet, there are some things that are simply not worth the risk.

Resources and Additional Reading

Social Media Analyst Confirms #SocialMediaBlackout Was A Fail

#SocialMediaBlackout has been a trending topic on Twitter for the past two days (20 to 21 June 2017) after MTN introduced a cap to its previously unlimited free Twitter usage.

According to Eye Witness News, the hashtag was started by activist Ntsiki Mazwai who encouraged the public to not use social media or purchase mobile data on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 in an effort to convince mobile operators to reduce data tariffs.

Since 99% of #SocialMediaBlackout posts originated from Twitter I thought I’d analyse usage on the platform to better understand if the fight against data was successful. Here are the findings.

Twitter Activity in South Africa

On 21 June 2017, the day of the #SocialMediaBlackout, tweets and retweets totalled 1 014 134 posts and was 6% above the daily average of 956 080 posts. This was, however, below the average from the past year.

Twitter Usage South Africa
The above graph represents Twitter usage from June 2016 to June 2017.
Twitter Usage 2017
The above represents the number of tweets and retweets in South Africa from 1 January to 21 June 2017.

Over the 24-hour period, posts increased throughout the day as represented below.

Total post on Twitter 21 June 2017
The above reflects the total number of posts on Twitter per hour on 21 June 2017.

According to the data, Thursdays are the most popular for Twitter users, followed by Wednesdays.

Week Day Twitter Usage in South Africa 2017
The above graph indicates the average number of tweets and retweets per day of the week for 2017 to date.

The total number of posts was also 3% above the average number of posts on Wednesdays in 2017.

#SocialMediaBlackout

Not only was overall Twitter usage higher than average, but #SocialMediaBlackout was a trending topic and was the second most used hashtag, accounting for 2% of total tweets and retweets in South Africa on 21 June 2017.

Although it is unclear how the social media protest was expected to result in significant change to data prices, the drive has had no impact. MTN and Vodacom reported that there was no notable difference to internet usage over the past 24 hours.

Key Takeaway

South Africans are all talk and no bite. Despite the topic of data being a pain point for many South Africans, and although individuals have been vocal about grievances around the perceived high cost of data, when it comes down to actually taking action we aren’t prepared to do anything more than complain.

Find out more about the hashtag as well as other data-related hashtags below:

#SocialMediaBlackout Stats

Additional Reading

#SocialMediaBlackout Stats

On 14 June 2017, South African mobile operator, MTN announced that their free Twitter service will be limited to 100MB per subscriber per day. The news was not well received by users and sparked a public campaign against telecommunication companies to reduce the cost of data.

As a result, the #DataMustFall trend, first made popular by Tbo Touch in September 2016, started to increase.

Data Must Fall Trend
The above graph shows how many times #DataMustFall has been used in South Africa.

Despite being announced on 14 June, the public only started noticing the changes in the following couple of days.

Data Must Fall posts June 2017
Online mentions of #DataMustFall from 1 to 21 June 2017.

Although triggered by MTN, other network giants have been involved in #DataMustFall mentions. In June, MTN was the most mentioned telco in #DataMustFall conversation and was found in 14% of mentions, followed by Vodacom with 11% and Cell C and Telkom accounting for 6% each.

South African mobile operators Data Must Fall Stats
Since 1 June until 21 June 2017, there were 70 369 mentions of #DataMustFall on the internet.

Not only was #DataMustFall being used, but #SocialMediaBlackout was introduced in retaliation. The hashtag was reportedly introduced by activist Ntsiki Mazwai on 19 June and encouraged the public to not use social media on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 in an effort to get the attention of mobile operators and reduce data tariffs.

Despite intentions, ironically, the hashtag was trending again yesterday and was the second most used hashtag on Twitter over the 24-hour period.

The most used hashtags on Twitter on 21 June 2017
The most used hashtags on Twitter on 21 June 2017.

The hashtag was most used on 20 June totalling 27 635 online mentions and accounted for 56% of all #SocialMediaBlackout posts. The hashtag received 18 989 mentions on 21 June – 31% fewer mentions than the day before.

#SocialMediaBlackout Statistics
#SocialMediaBlackout started on 19 June 2017 and saw a significant increase in usage to promote the initiative.

#SocialMediaBlackout was a trending topic and was the second most used hashtag during the tracking period and accounted for 2% of total tweets and retweets in South Africa on 21 June 2017.

#SocialMediaBlackout Data
#SocialMediaBlackout and #DataMustFall were popular hashtags used in mobile data-related posts from 19 to 21 June 2017.

Although the main hashtag was #SocialMediaBlackout, #DataMustFall and #SocialMediaShutdown were also used.

#SocialMediaBlackout Related Hashtags
Other hashtags used that relate to #SocialMediaBlackout.

The protest wasn’t taken seriously by the public nor telcos however, Afrihost and Telkom who took the opportunity to capitilise on the negative sentiment.

https://twitter.com/Afrihost/status/877451093688668161

 

It is doubtful that the #SocialMediaBlackout had any impact, but the latest Twitter user statistics suggest that the drive was a fail.

Find out how many people were on social media and did not participate in the data fight here.

Twitter Activity in South Africa June 2016 to 2017

Additional Reading

Snapchat’s Latest Features May Be Its Saving Grace

It’s no surprise that Snapchat has seen a difficult few months, with competing platforms such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook mimicking (and in some cases improving) its main features. But Snapchat certainly isn’t going down without a fight. Introducing Snapchat World Lenses and Custom Stories.

1. World Lenses

Snapchat’s popularity skyrocketed after the addition of its face filters. More recently however, the app introduced World Lenses, which is certain to pique user’s interests again. These live filters/lenses allow users to add augmented reality elements to their surroundings. This groundbreaking innovation is tonnes of fun as it not only allows users to overlay 3D elements in their world, but you can actually walk around the object to see it from different angles!

This feature is already available to experience yourself. Simply use the rear-facing camera, tap the screen once and select the World Lense you’d like to use. It’s that simple!

The best (and most fun) way to learn is to try it out for yourself, but if you’d like a bit more info, check out the video below:

2. Custom Stories

Today Snapchat announced its latest feature called ‘Custom Stories’. This feature allows multiple users to add images and videos to one story. Custom Stories are intended for collaborators to document specific occasions or periods, and to share their experiences with their viewers. After losing some individuals to the likes of Instagram Stories, this is a clever tactic as it encourages users to involve others, which will likely increase the number of active Snapchat users.

There are two ways of using Custom Stories. Users can add others to a Custom Story to either contribute or watch the stories. Alternatively, a user can create a geofence that allows friends of friends located in the same area to contribute to the same snap pool. As Darrell Etherington from TechCentral points out, this is “super useful in settings like weddings where the people you’re hanging out with might not be part of your actual Snapchat friends group.”

While mainly for shorter periods of time, Custom Stories can last as long as you want them to, disappearing only if no one has contributed to them in the past 24 hours.

Final Thoughts

While Snap Inc is still recovering after going public and the platform is desperately trying to fight off competition, these two additions are pretty good attempts at staying relevant. One could argue that the World Lenses are a bit gimmicky, but the addition of Custom Stories might just do the trick to put Snapchat back on the map. That is, if Facebook doesn’t adopt the idea in the next couple of weeks…

References and Additional Reading

YouTube Is Getting a Facelift

YouTube has recently unveiled the new design of their desktop website to enhance the user experience. With 4 major changes and more on the way, YouTube is certainly doing all they can to keep users on the platform. Here’s what you need to know about the latest developments on the video site.

What's Different?

1) Clean Design – YouTube has simplified the design for a much cleaner look. There is noticeably more blank space, which makes the interface easier to navigate and is a sleeker, more modern look.

New YouTube Design 2017
I tested out the new design on my channel and I love the new look!
2) Endless Timeline – YouTube has finally caught up with all the other social platforms and introduced endless scrolling on the timeline, which means that you can discover new content more easily.

3) Dark Theme – YouTube is known for being white and red, however, a black version has been introduced to reduce strain on viewers’ eyes. In addition to reducing glare, the Dark Theme also lets you see true colours of the videos you watch. This is certain to be a favourite for many. To find out how to activate Dark Mode, click here.

Polymer Dark Theme
The YouTube interface using the Dark Theme. Source: The Verge
4) Faster Framework – The new framework, Polymer, was developed by Google and is an open-source JavaScript library for building web applications using web components. By using this, the new site has been designed for development optimisation, meaning that we can expect a lot more features being added a whole lot quicker.

“This is only the beginning — you can look forward to more powerful new features coming soon.” – Brian Marquardt (Product Lead at YouTube)

How Do I Get The New Design?

A major consideration for YouTube has consistently been to gain insights from its users and so they’re relying on feedback from the YouTube community before the new design is implemented across the board.

Although not available to everyone just yet, select groups of people from all parts of the world have been given a chance to preview the upcoming change. But if you’re just dying to try it out yourself, you can preview the new and improved site here.

YouTube is constantly innovating the platform with multiple new features being introduced in the last few months – arguably, the most notable additions being the Community Tab (September 2016) and YouTube Messenger (January 2017). The golden thread tying these developments together is the user experience, which very clearly demonstrates the core purpose of keeping users on YouTube for longer. With the implementation of the new framework, it will be interesting to see what changes the developers have in store for the near future, and whether or not it will lead to a significant change in the social media landscape.

References & Additional Reading

YouTube TV Is Officially Here!

The wait is over! YouTube has officially launched its streaming service, YouTube TV, which allows users to stream and record live TV shows.

YouTube TV shows
YouTube TV allows viewers to watch a range of networks (50 channels) without the need for a cable

Here's What You Need to Know About YouTube TV

  • An impressive number of the top US networks are available for viewing, including Fox, E!, The CW, NBC, YouTube Red Originals and more
  • The main focus is so that users can watch TV wirelessly from anywhere. However, sign in from home at least once every 3 months is required to keep the account active
  • A household can have up to 6 separate accounts, which is particularly useful when recommended shows are tailored to your interests
  • Viewers can watch shows live or record to the cloud with no storage limits
  • YouTube TV is mainly a mobile app however, you can access the platform via mobile (Android and iOS), TV (Android and Chromecast) or computer (Chrome being the recommendation, obviously)
  • As with other streaming services, YouTube TV has commercials, with the majority of ad revenue going to the networks
  • Users can sign-up for a 1-month free trial
  • The service costs $35 dollars per month
  • The service is currently only available in select US cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia & San Francisco Bay Area, with more on the way)

Traditional television viewing is undoubtedly changing and social networks are quickly coming to the party as well. In February, Facebook also announced they will be launching a TV app soon, but have not given any indication of exactly when. The number of available TV streaming services in rapidly increasing, so it will be interesting to see who else will enter the market and how they differentiate themselves from competitors. So, what are your thoughts – is traditional TV dead?

You can find out more about YouTube TV by visiting their website or click on any of the links below for a more objective opinion on the service.

References and Additional Reading

 

Facebook Copies Snapchat Again

Facebook has just launched their latest feature, which allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. This is the fourth time the giant has mimicked Snapchat after introducing the feature on other Facebook-owned entities – Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Here’s what you need to know about Facebook Stories:

  • The feature is only available on iOS and Android mobile devices and is essentially a second Newsfeed.Facebook Stories Screen
  • It is accessible as soon as you login to the app and can be found at the top of your screen, much like on Instagram.
  • Navigation is easy and works just as Instagram Stories, allowing users to skip stories or move forward and backwards in a story.
  • To add your own story, you can click on the plus icon or simply swipe across to access the camera.
  • The camera comes with a number of filters, including filters that use facial recognition – arguably Snapchat’s key differentiator.
  • The pen feature is also a nice touch, allowing users to choose the colour, width and texture of the pen.
  • Photos and videos can be shared publically or directly to one, or a few, of your friends.
  • Direct messages allow the recipient to view the file one more time within 24 hours after opening the photo or video.
  • Comments on Stories are kept separate from Messenger
  • At this moment, you are able to see who has viewed your story but not if they have taken a screenshot.
  • Your content can be downloaded and stored on your phone as with the other platforms.

The topic of Snapchat being on borrowed time has been a popular opinion for some time now. Is this the last nail in the coffin?

It is already available to all users, but for more information on Facebook Stories, you can visit their website here.

Additional Reading and References

SA Government Considers Regulating Social Media

In a press briefing on 5 March 2017, State Security Minister David Mahlobo indicated that the South African government is considering the regulation of internet usage in the country, with a particular interest in social media activity.

“We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space” – Mahlobo

According to Mahlobo, the primary reason for the drive is to restrict the amount of fake news shared via social media channels. He highlighted misrepresentation of oneself and other people on social media, and photoshopped images being main areas of concern in perpetuating fake news. While Mahlobo acknowledged that the campaign would be met with resistance, he claimed that even the best democracies regulate internet usage. However, as a reporter for The Citizen pointed out, “It’s unclear which “democracies” do this, since the foremost country that controls the use of the internet, China, is not a democracy in any sense of the word.”

This is not the first time the possibility of internet monitoring has been discussed. In October 2016, the South African government approved the submission of the Films and Publications (FPB) Amendment Bill, which restricts South Africans from uploading videos to online channels, including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, unless they have registered as a distributor and have paid a registration fee. The bill was aimed at curtailing child pornography and revenge porn. There have been no notable developments on the bill since then.

Read more: Internet Censorship Restricts Video Uploads in SA (2016)

#HandsOffSocialMedia

 

#HandsOffSocialMedia trending topic
Twitter mentions of #HandsOffSocialMedia on 6 March.

Numerous South Africans have taken to social media to voice their outrage at the recent news, resulting in #HandsOffSocialMedia being a trending topic for several hours on 6 March 2017. The majority of mentions were in the form of retweets from news sources reporting on the update, while others provided their commentary on the subject. Negativity towards the African National Congress (ANC) was the most popular theme in this conversation.

Unfortunately, fake news exists and the implications cannot be ignored, but is government involvement necessary when the likes of Google and Facebook are working towards filtering questionable news? I say no. Internet censorship is unconstitutional and as consumers of information, the onus is on us to ensure that the ‘news’ we believe and share is real. Hopefully, nothing comes of this, but it’s scary to think the conversation is even being had. What are your thoughts?

References and Additional Reading