This week in social media news, new App Annie research shows TikTok remains the most downloaded non-gaming app globally in Q1, LinkedIn pilots a new feature to make the hiring process more equitable, Discord debuts new audio-focused “Stage” channels, Twitter adds 11 new content categories to its Amplify pre-roll ad offering and more.

TikTok Remains The Top Downloaded Non-Gaming App In Q1

According to App Annie’s latest research, TikTok was the most downloaded app in Q1 worldwide. In addition to ranking the top apps globally by downloads, consumer spend (YouTube) and monthly active users (Facebook), App Annie found that consumers spent $32 billion on in-app purchases across iOS and Google Play globally in Q1—the biggest quarter since they started measuring it and a whopping 40 percent increase on Q1 2020.

Why it matters: Despite its nascency and having faced a potential ban in the US, TikTok continues to dominate the non-gaming app charts and surpass other social media platforms. In February, TikTok announced a global partnership with WPP as well as an expanded partnership with Universal Music Group. And for the first time, the app took part in SXSW 2021, a virtual event this year where it hosted conversations on how brands are using the app to grow and how music is consumed on the app.

TikTok has also proved to be particularly useful for engaging audiences at a time when in-person events are still on pause. Fashion designers joined the app’s live Fashion Month initiatives and several musical artists have starred in virtual concerts since the pandemic.

The details: App Annie’s data show that smartphone users spent $9 billion more on apps and games in Q1 2021 than they did at the height of the pandemic in Q1 2020.

iOS and Google Play shared that Q1 2021 growth equally, with consumer spend growing 40 percent YoY to $21 billion on iOS and growing 40 percent YoY to $11 billion on Google Play.

Combined, downloads on both iOS and Google Play increased by nearly 10 percent to 31 billion in the quarter.

On iOS, the biggest gains were observed in the games, finance and social networking categories; for Google Play, it was the weather and dating categories, respectively.

Among non-gaming app downloads in Q1, TikTok took first place, followed by Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp. By consumer spend, YouTube led the way, followed by TikTok, Tinder, Disney+ and Tencent Video. For MAU, the top players include Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Amazon.

According to App Annie’s estimates, the fastest-growing app by downloads and MAUs in Q1 was Signal Private Messenger, while the fastest-growing app by downloads alone was MX Takatak, most popular in India for short user-generated video content.

Total consumer spend on gaming reached $22 billion in Q1 2021, with the quarter’s most downloaded game being Join Clash 3D, followed by Among Us! And DOP 2: Delete One Part.

Lastly, the biggest breakout game by MAUs was Project Makeover. 

App Annie expects mobile gaming will reach $120 billion in consumer spend this year.

LinkedIn Makes Hiring Process More Equitable For Candidates With ‘Skills Path’

In an effort to help remove barriers for candidates that might not have the necessary degree or network, LinkedIn is piloting a new skills-based hiring process with select companies called Skills Path. More than a dozen companies have tested Skills Path, including Wayfair, TaskRabbit and Microsoft.

Why it matters: While testing Skills Path for its customer service teams, LinkedIn removed traditional requirements like a degree or 1-2 years prior experience in job descriptions. Instead, they evaluated candidates based on their proven skills required for the job by implementing a validated skill test in the application process. This resulted in a broadened talent pool, which enabled LinkedIn to hire from companies it typically doesn’t hire from, and also improved their hiring efficiency.

The details: According to LinkedIn, Skills Path is meant to help recruiters evaluate job candidates in a more equitable way, namely based on their proven skills. The way it works is hiring managers first identify the core skills for a job, then candidates get a more fair shot at the position by closing skills gaps with LinkedIn Learning Courses and multiple choice skill assessments. If they pass these tests, they can then schedule a conversation with the recruiter.

Interested companies can apply to be considered to access Skills Path here.

Discord Debuts New Audio-Focused “Stage” Channels

Discord wants to make it easier for users to host audio-only events, which is why it has launched a new type of channel for community servers called Stage Channels. This gives users the ability to host voice AMAs (ask me anything), interviews, book clubs and karaoke.

Why it matters: Discord says the new channel aims to address the challenges that would come with managing audio events within voice channels— juggling what permissions users have, what roles a user might have that override said permissions and more.

The details: Like Clubhouse, the Stage channels make it clear who’s speaking and whose turn. Stage moderators can add, remove or mute an existing speaker, while audience members can “raise” their hand during an event for a chance to speak.

To enable a Stage channel, users must enable “Community” on their server, which can be found in the server settings > community. The new feature is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and the browser.

Twitter Gives Advertisers More Control Over Amplify Pre-Roll Placement

With Twitter’s Amplify pre-roll offering, advertisers can run ads in-feed next to video content from Twitter’s 200-plus content partners, including Buzzfeed, Hearst, Fox Sports and NBCUniversal. Now, the platform says it’s expanding offerings for advertisers in the US, UK, Brazil and MENA with a new feature called “Curated Categories,” which gives brands more choice over the types of premium video content they run ads against.

Why it matters: Twitter found that ads paired with premium video delivered in-feed produced 2.2 times brand favorability and 1.7 times purchase intent compared to the same ads in a non-feed environment.

The details: Throughout the pandemic, Twitter says advertisers have expressed a desire to reach audiences on their timeline via feel-good content. As a result, Twitter has been testing new categories. Now, in addition to the 15 industry and Interactive Advertising Bureau standard video content categories Twitter offers for pre-roll, it’s adding six new Curated Categories to the US–they include football, basketball, baseball, soccer, gaming personalities and esports. Twitter is also adding five categories globally, including women’s lifestyle, men’s lifestyle, light-hearted content, footie fans and Ramadan.

Additionally, Twitter announced updates to the way people see pre-roll ads in their timeline and what advertisers see while setting up their campaigns. Now, advertisers’ brand logo, as well as additional labeling such as the message, “Video will play after ad,” will be prominently displayed throughout the duration of the ad. Twitter found that these subtle updates led to an increase in ad recall by 10 percent and brand favorability by seven percent compared to its previous pre-roll design.

Twitter also is introducing a new campaign set-up experience that makes pairing selection easier for advertisers using the Pre-roll Views objective. With this upgrade, advertisers will be able to see Twitter’s full library of publisher content category offerings while selecting targeting

LinkedIn Is Testing Audio Rooms

With the rise in podcast listening and audio-only social experiences offered by Twitter, Clubhouse and Facebook, LinkedIn is developing its own live audio room feature, reports Social Media Today.

Why it matters: LinkedIn confirmed to Social Media Today that in response to seeing nearly 50 percent growth in conversations on the platform, it’s “doing some early tests to create a unique audio experience connected to your professional identity.”

The details: LinkedIn shared this mock-up with TechCrunch of what the audio feature will look like. It shows a user interface similar to that of Clubhouse’s UI, with a feature box at the top that lists speakers’ photos, names, and titles. Below that box is a section showing the number of people listening and their profile image icons. 

Google Announces New Eco-Friendly, Curbside Shopping Updates To Maps

In a company blog, Google announced that it’s on track to release over 100 artificial intelligence-powered updates to Google Maps this year. Among them is an Indoor Live View feature that helps people navigate tricky indoor places like airports and malls, as well as new options to see which routes use the lowest fuel consumption and detailed information for business profiles like curbside options and order minimums.

Why it matters: Google’s updates address a major pandemic-induced shift in consumer behavior, which is the surge in curbside pick-up. Google says it will add information about delivery providers, pickup and delivery windows, fees and order minimums to business profiles, starting with mobile search for Instacart and Albertsons Cos. stores in the US.

The details: First up, Google says new advancements to its AR-enabled Live View option will help the company understand the precise altitude and placement of objects inside a building. This will show users the nearest elevator, restrooms, ATMs and more in airplanes, malls and transit stations. The Indoor Live View feature is live on iOS and Android in some malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

Next, in the coming months, Google Maps will display more information about the weather and air quality with data from partners such as The Weather Company, and the Central Pollution Board.

With insights from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, Google Maps will also soon default to the route with the lowest carbon footprint when it has approximately the same arrival time as the fastest route. These routes will launch in the US on Android and iOS later this year. Similarly, Google will soon introduce low emission zone alerts to help drivers in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain and the UK understand when they’ll be going through areas that restrict polluting vehicles.

Google is working on another update that will enhance the way people shop for groceries, namely a notification that tells the customer when it’s time to leave and lets them share their arrival time with the store. Google is kicking off the feature with a pilot with Fred Meyer in select stores in Portland, Oregon.

Instagram Expands IGTV Ad Access To Creators In The UK And Australia

Last year, Instagram began testing IGTV ads with a revenue share model for select US creators. Now, over the coming weeks, it will give some creators in the UK and Australia access to IGTV ads.

Why it matters: As per Instagram, the update is part of its larger commitment to giving creators the tools they need to grow their following and income. Instagram also recently rolled out Automatic Placements so advertisers worldwide can have their ads delivered next to IGTV videos.

The details: The IGTV ads, which are optimized for mobile and up to 15 seconds long, will first appear when users click to watch IGTV videos from previews in their feed.

Instagram plans to continue expanding IGTV ads throughout 2021 so that creators in other countries have access to them.

YouTube Tests Automated Product Detection In Videos

According to a company blog, YouTube is experimenting with a new feature that shows a list of products detected in some videos, in addition to related products.

Why it matters: The product detection feature marks YouTube’s latest attempt to make the platform more shoppable. In June last year, YouTube launched shoppable video ads that enable users to click a “shop now” button that then directs them to the product on the brand’s site.

The details: As per the blog, YouTube’s product detection feature is visible to US users. The product list will appear in between the recommended videos to viewers browsing below the video player, with the goal of providing more information about the products.

Facebook Research Highlights Branding’s Impact On Performance

Facebook’s latest research suggests that the key to driving conversions while simultaneously building brand awareness is optimizing campaigns for mobile and conveying branding clearly.

Why it matters: The study found that failure to convey brand identity benefits the most prominent brand in the category more often than not, highlighting the importance of establishing brand identity in creative—especially for brands that are new and young to the market and brands that have established competitors.

The details: With many brands struggling to bridge the gap between brand growth and direct response outcomes, Facebook recently partnered with agencies in North America and Europe on a meta-analysis of 35 brand lift studies with 34 advertisers across 10 verticals.

Due to a lack of distinctive branding, 57 percent of brands saw brand awareness uplifts for their competitors as well as for themselves. To drive both brand and performance outcomes, Facebook suggests utilizing mobile-optimized creative that is 15 seconds or less and leads with strong branding in the first three seconds.