State of Social 02: Your essential February updates

Living, breathing, and digesting social media is what our Social Media Manager, Verity, does on the daily.

This month, she's back with a rundown of everything trending, changing, and updating in the fast-paced world of social media. So, if you’re after a February recap – let’s dive right in.  

5 is the magic number 

We’ve heard the recent rumours of the power of 5 (we’re talking Instagram hashtags btw) – but it appears Instagram is now testing this as a more rigorous rule. After many users questioned the effectiveness of hashtags in recent months, the platform has applied a hashtag limit - just 5 per post - in a bid to improve consistency across the platform. 

This comes as no real surprise. Previous algorithm updates have placed strong focus on SEO for caption copy, resulting in an already notable decline in the usage and efficacy of hashtags. It’s likely that other platforms will follow suit.  

Our advice? Prioritise quality over quantity by developing highly relevant caption copy and keeping hashtags succinct. 

Video carousels, anyone? 

We’ve heard a top-secret snippet from the Instagram algorithm gods: the platform is currently testing ‘video carousels’ within Reels. Sized 4:5 (think: original static portrait), this latest development shrinks the standard, and super-tall, 9:16 dimension seen on feed – and will be an already familiar feature for regular TikTok users.  

Enabling users to share multiple videos and/or still images in a single Reels post, video carousels are handy for ‘revealing’ content – showcasing multiple threads, trends, or ideas in a single post. We think, for many, this expanded ‘storytelling’ opportunity will be a welcome update. Reels is Meta’s fastest-growing content format and may prove the perfect place to test out the new feature while maximising potential reach. 

While there’s no word yet on when the feature goes live to all users, a few brands have already started testing the format. And from what we’ve seen, the UI looks pretty polished in-stream. Roll on the roll-out!  

And the beat (won’t) go on 

The rift between TikTok and Universal Music Group continues to bubble over after the two failed to reach a new licensing agreement last month. UMG began removing its music from the social media platform in early February, initially affecting tracks owned and distributed by the company. Now, the dispute has seen further fallout with songs in UMG’s publishing catalogue also being pulled. 

While TikTok says up to 30% of its “popular songs” will be lost, it’s predicted that up to 80% of all music could be lost on the platform, due to varying contributions and “split copyright” with UMG artists and songwriters. 

TikTok has become a key link between fans and artists, with up to 75% of TikTok users saying they use the platform to discover new artists and tracks. Not to mention, other record labels seem to have embraced the platform as part of their overall marketing strategy: showcasing newcomers, using trends and algorithms to spark engagement, and breathing new life into retro tunes (hello, Celine’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”). Some artists have even adapted song titles to align with TikTok’s latest trends.  

Having built a significant portion of its engagement on music, the now-strained relationship with UMG will, no doubt, have an impact on the platform. How serious and far-reaching those effects are remains to be seen; the move will likely force creators to get more creative with sounds and could result in new and emerging artists seizing their moment to shine. 

LinkedIn ‘circling back’  

A major shift in the LinkedIn algorithm is being tested amongst select users this month: the platform is developing a new strategy for content relevance, distributing posts long after their published date. 

Designed to increase reach and encourage visibility, “Suggested Posts” will be distributed across the news feeds of friends and friends-of-friends. The change is intended to highlight the best-performing content from past months, or even years.

LinkedIn has said its responding to a series of changes, focusing on "knowledge and advice", instead of virality. In practice, this means prioritising users’ core expertise, amplifying posts that drive meaningful conversations, and leaning into the original purpose of the platform. Tim Jurka, Senior Director of Engineering at LinkedIn, adds, "We're trying to collect the sum total of professional knowledge on our platform, and make sure it surfaces whenever you need it. Right now, content lives and dies on the newsfeed very quickly." 

If you’re looking to boost your own LinkedIn engagement, these are our top tips for capitalising on the recent algorithm changes: 

  • Contribute to meaningful topics to prompt conversation and debate in comments. 
  • Limit hashtags to just 5 – keep them relevant, timely, popular, and clickable. 
  • Add insight to LinkedIn learning topics when prompted and bring your expertise to the platforms’ resources. 
  • Ensure content adheres to ‘expert knowledge sharing’ and steers away from ‘creator-style content’. 
  • Use Campaign Manager to increase organic reach, boost conversions, and grow interactions through ‘Thought Leadership’ ads. 
  • Claim your own CTA – premium members can now add limited CTAs to their profiles and on published posts, with more on the way. 
  • Get verified – verification can be used to earn a small profile badge, confirm identity, and boost trust with others. Side note: it’s been confirmed that posts from verified profiles don't automatically gain more visibility. 
  • Create a newsletter – 550 million professionals use LinkedIn Newsletters to build an engaged audience and shareable content. LinkedIn is also planning to expand the feature to compete directly against platforms like Substack. 

Looking for in-depth social insights and tips on how to apply them? 

Here at Great State, we run some award-winning Instagram accounts.  

Want in on the action? Get in touch with Verity here. 

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