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Social Media Updates: Twitter and Instagram

What’s New on Instagram and Twitter

Two of my favorite social media platforms — Instagram and Twitter — have been making changes, something that can be a little unsettling in social media land.

Remember the short period when the Facebook “Timeline” took up three columns and you had to do this odd switch between viewing your “Newsfeed” and your own profile? Luckily Facebook walked that one back quickly and has learned to ease its huge user base (over 1.6 BILLION of us) into new features gently.

So when I updated the Instagram redesign a few weeks ago, I admit I wasn’t a happy camper. After all, Mashable had predicted that the platform was testing a flat, black-and-white design.

What’s New on Instagram

But that wasn’t the first thing I saw. Instead of the vintage-looking camera that we’ve come to associate with Instagram, my phone now showed a camera-ish thing that is a combination of pink/purple/orange/yellow.

Looking at it I was reminded of the Apple redesign of all its iOS icons so that they no longer evoked the real-life version of the digital app. The Instagram icon is now quite colorful, and kind of psychedelic.

Still, the reports leaked by Mashable and other tech outlets weren’t completely wrong about the “black and white” thing. Open the app on your phone, and you’ll see that the header and footer are now in black and white.

The effect: the photos and videos now pop. When I first opened up the editing tools in the new app, I thought, “weird.” But the tools remain the same and offer all the great features we’re used to. And since I’m talking about being used to something, I’m actually now used to the fade-to-black-and-white look. In fact, I think it makes users able to focus better on their photos and videos.

What’s New on Twitter

Happily, the Twitter news is good as well. In the fall of 2015, Jack Dorsey returned as CEO of the company he had founded. Soon followed buzz about refreshing changes to a platform that began life as a messaging tool. Somewhere along the way the rumor mill was claiming that Twitter was going to do away with the 140 character limit.

Twitter users immediately started having an existential crisis. I mean, how could Twitter still be Twitter if people could send really long messages?

Most of the worrying was for nothing, apparently. Twitter is enabling users to have more characters per tweet, but all-in-all the new specs will add 30 or so characters, or, depending on what’s in your tweet, nothing at all. For example, links to photos, which used to count as 20 characters, now won’t count at all. However, links to URLs will still take up 23 characters (even if the link is less than 23 characters).

Where It’s @

The @ symbol rules are also changing. When you reply to a tweet, Twitter will no longer begin the tweet with the person’s @name. So that gives users up to an extra 16 characters (@ plus the 15-characters max for a handle). The name of the person (or people) you’re replying to will show above the tweet.

So you can reply to a lot of people (a “Twitter canoe”) and still have plenty of room to write a message. When you @ mention someone within a tweet, however, those characters will still be deducted from the 140 limit.

While we’re talking about the @ mention, the strange behavior of the @ has over the past several year been part of my bread and butter as a social media consultant. I mean, who would think that if you began a tweet with @ and nothing before it, the only people who would ever see it would be those who followed BOTH you and the person you @ mentioned?

Beginning a tweet with @ in some instances could be a sort of a semi-private DM. No longer. Now you start with @, not put a character in front of it, and the tweet will be visible to everyone who follows you, along with the person to whom you are sending it.

Retweet me, baby one more time.

The final change involves retweets. Yes, in what may be a really bad idea, Twitter is allowing people to retweet themselves.

I bet lots of Twitter users will now retweet every tweet they send, similar to the way some people “like” every post they put on Facebook. Generally people who do this on Facebook are happy types adding a bit of oomph to their words rather than self-promoters trying to give their posts a boost. (I don’t “like” my own Facebook posts, and I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to this practice.)

But I fear that people who retweet themselves will be obnoxious self-promoters. Still, the ability to retweet your own tweets does have one huge benefit. With a quote retweet, you can now add context or an update to an old tweet.

Bottom Line

I’m happy that for now, at least, there don’t seem to be any huge social media upheavals in sight. Platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat and Flipboard just keep adding new features. So far it’s nothing that would confuse users who had been under a rock for a year or so.

There is so much social media, and sometimes it is indeed hard to keep up. And this is from a person who spends way too much of her week on social media. So the next time you decide to crawl under a rock to avoid it all? You just might find me right beside you!

Linda Bernstein

Linda Bernstein is a professor, writer, social media consultant, and proud Baby Boomer. She has written hundreds of articles for dozens of national and international newspapers, magazines, and websites. Instagram: wordwhacker