Digital Dash: Top Google I/O news & more

1. Ready to let Google run your life? 4 I/O announcements that prove it would really like to2. This could be big! Instagram trials in-app payments
3. (More) proof that Facebook’s alive and kicking: 75% logging in as much as usual or more
4. Instagram simplifies Direct inbox, businesses breathe collective sigh of relief
5. Facebook updates video metrics, launches cross-posting for Live video and (possibly) tests a rewind button

 

1. Ready to let Google run your life? 4 I/O announcements that prove it would really like to

Fresh off the back of Facebook F8, Google held its own annual developer conference – I/O – this week, where plenty of trailblazing tech hit the stage.

As this weekly news roundup is called Digital Dash not Digital Dawdle, I won’t go through the updates on by one. Instead, here’s a roundup of the 5 most exciting/important announcements:

1. Self-writing emails: a new AI-powered feature called Smart Compose means that you can let Google write your entire email for you. As you start writing, sentences are auto-completed in light grey – you can override these by just continuing to type, or accept them by pressing the tab key. What make this really interesting is the AI element – if your tone of voice, turns of phrase etc. are mimicked successfully, I can see us all wondering how we ever lived without this tool!

via GIPHY

2. Duplex: prepare yourself for things to get really cool creepy cool. With this experimental feature, you can ask Google Assistant to book an appointment on your behalf… by PHONE!?!? Major advances in voice tech means that the assistant sounds more human-like than ever, to the point it can handle a full-blown chat with a receptionist. You won’t believe it ‘til you see it:

3. Google Photos updates: a new feature called Suggested Actions will see Google offering to instantly brighten, fix or colourise your photos (using AI to identify and classify the image). It can even turn photos of documents into PDFs. Handy.

4. Tour creator: it’s great to see tech companies investing in tools to bring AR/VR creation to the masses. With Google Tour Creator, you can simply select images from Google Street View, your own 360 photo library or Google’s 3D content library to quickly and easily create VR films.

 

2. This could be big! Instagram trials in-app payments

Instagram is making important strides forward in the area that every retail brand on social is most interested in: shopping.

The company has confirmed that a native payments feature for booking appointments (e.g. restaurants or salons) is now live – albeit only for a very select number of partners.

By simply registering a debit or credit card to your profile and setting up a security pin, you can go shopping in-app, without ever having to visit an external website.

Photos: Genady Okrain via TechCrunch

This news is the sweetest music to retailers’ ears.

A huge amount of potential revenue is lost between someone seeing something they like on Instagram, then navigating to a website/payment page and completing the order. Any additional stages cut out of the purchase journey equals an immediate uplift in conversions.

And although the newly rolled-out Shop tab is a huge step forward for social commerce, it’s nothing compared to a fully native system.

While the feature – first spotted in the wild by a TechCrunch reader – is only currently linked to making bookings, it’s surely only a matter of time before other retailers can jump in too. And that could genuinely be game-changing.

Talking of making bookings, Instagram also announced a range of action buttons for business pages this week.

Certain partners will now be able to choose to add Reserve, Get Tickets or Start Order as well as Book buttons to their profile pages – which will load their websites within Instagram when tapped.

 

3. (More) proof that Facebook’s alive and kicking: 75% logging in as much as usual or more

Just a week after I filled you in on Facebook’s strong Q1 results – achieved despite recent high-profile privacy scandals – more noteworthy stats on the platform’s popularity and usage have come to light.

A recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos found that around 50% of Facebook users (US) have not changed the amount they use the platform.

And get this – another 25% said they are actually using it more!

Facebook? Dead? Don’t think so.

The remaining quarter said they were either using it less, had stopped using it or deleted their account in the recent past.

In terms of privacy, the results were a little more indicative of recent troubles.

Nearly 40% said they’d changed their privacy settings on Facebook in the not too distant past. While this is admittedly quite a large proportion – and a much higher score than any of the other platforms got for the same question – it’s hardly surprising considering the media circus surrounding Facebook at the moment.

 

4. Instagram simplifies Direct inbox, businesses breathe collective sigh of relief

Good news is on the horizon for anyone managing social media communities: Instagram has announced it’s introducing a new set of features to make managing messages on Direct much easier.

Unfortunately, integration with Facebook’s Inbox isn’t on the list (WHY is this not a thing already!?) but the updates will definitely make using Instagram Direct a much smoother experience.

Firstly, important new customer messages will now land straight in the main inbox, instead of hanging around in the pending inbox until you’ve approved them.

Secondly, you will be able to ‘Star’ and filter messages to make it easier to keep track of what you need to follow up on etc.

Lastly, Instagram will be testing quick replies in the coming weeks. Just like Facebook’s version, these are customisable replies to common questions.

 

5. Facebook updates video metrics, launches cross-posting for Live video and (possibly) tests a rewind button

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this a few times before, but when it comes to data, it’s always a case of the more, the better.

Unfortunately, it’s also a case of ‘the more, the longer’ because having lots of data means lots of time spent analysing… buuut it’s always worth it. The more granular you can get with your audience’s behaviour and preferences, the better you’re able to create content they’ll like and engage with.

With that in mind, we’re kind of excited about three new Facebook video view metrics announced recently:

  • Follower vs. non follower
  • Gender breakdown
  • Zoom Chart

Out of the above three metrics, only the last really needs explaining. With ‘Zoom Chart’ enabled, you’ll be able get a closer look at data to better visualise engagement throughout a video. This should help with understanding how key visual moments affected viewership.

Along with the update, Facebook sheepishly confessed that the viewer retention graph might have been inaccurately rendered for videos longer than 2 minutes – the result of a bug that’s now ‘been fixed’. Hmmm.

In two other bits of Facebook video news, Live video cross-publishing (across multiple pages) is now in testing, and so – according to rumours – is a rewind button for Live broadcasts.