This week in social media news, TikTok surpasses 2 billion downloads, Instagram launches a new live donations feature, WhatsApp increases its group video chat participant limit from four to eight, Facebook announces a virtual ceremony for the graduating classes of 2020 and TikTok rolls out an interactive donation sticker.

TikTok Surpasses 2 Billion Downloads

Sensor Tower reports that TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin, have exceeded 2 billion downloads on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Why it matters: The milestone makes TikTok the first app after WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger to top 2 billion downloads since Sensor Tower’s data analysis started in January 2014.

The details: In January 2020 TikTok surpassed 1.5 billion downloads. Now, Sensor Tower data shows in the quarter ending on March 31 TikTok was downloaded 315 million times, the highest amount of downloads for any app in a quarter. Comparatively, WhatsApp saw 250 million downloads in Q1 2020. To date users have spent nearly $456.7 million on TikTok, 72.3 percent of which has come from China; US TikTok users have spent about $86.5 million to date. In India TikTok has been downloaded 611 million times, accounting for 30.3 percent of the app’s downloads.

Facebook Reports 3 Billion Total Users Across Its Platforms

Facebook’s latest earnings report reveals double-digit increases in users and revenue, namely 2.6 billion monthly active users (MAUs) to date.

Why it matters: Despite the increased engagement, Facebook expects it will lose some of this added momentum once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, and warn of slowing ad growth as a result of COVID-19.

The details: Facebook reported revenue of $17.74 billion in Q1. In the last three weeks of Q1, it says it experienced a significant reduction in the demand for advertising and a decline in the pricing of its ads. Facebook also added 105 million users in Q1, a 10 percent increase year over year.

LinkedIn Reaches 690 Million Members

Microsoft’s Q3 2020 performance report shows LinkedIn increased total members from 675 million in January to 690 million for the quarter that ended March 31.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a dramatic lift in engagement on LinkedIn, with the platform reporting 4 million hours of content watched on Linkedin Learning in March, a nearly 50 percent increase month over month. In addition, LinkedIn Live streams are up 158 percent since February.

The details: Microsoft says LinkedIn sessions are up 26 percent for the quarter while revenue is up 21 percent.

Google Makes Video Streaming Platform Google Meet Free To Everyone

In a product updates blog, Google announced that it’s making Google Meet, its video conferencing platform, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks.

Why it matters: Up until now, access to Google Meet was limited to paying G Suite customers. 

The details: Google says Meet’s peak daily usage has grown 30x. As of the week ending April 24,  Meet’s daily meeting participants exceed 100 million. Now, up to 100 people can use Google Meet at one time, for up to 60 minutes. Users can sign up to be notified when the free version of Meet is available.

Google emphasized the security of Meet, noting it provides a strong set of host controls and denies anonymous users to join meetings. Meet users, Google says, can also enroll their account in Google’s Advanced Protection Program to prevent phishing and account hijacking.

Snapchat Is Working On AR Campaigns With New Brands

Snapchat is using its Snap Camera webcam to create new integrated augmented reality (AR) campaigns with brands like Universal and L’Oréal.

Why it matters: Downloads of the Snap Camera app jumped 30x since the beginning of the pandemic, plus 75 percent of Snapchat’s daily active users now engage with AR content every day.

The details: Snapchat partnered with Universal to promote its “Trolls World Tour” movie via AR-enabled Trolls masks available on Snap Camera. Recently, L’Oréal released eight custom branded AR lenses on Snap Camera, available for one week in a dedicated “beauty” section on the platform’s opening page. With these lenses, users can virtually try on different looks on screen.

YouTube Tests “Products In This Video” Tool 

YouTube is testing a tool called “Products in this Video” that would detect and show which products are mentioned in the video with visual elements overlaid on the video and below it.

Why it matters: The tool would provide more specific product matches and enable a simpler way to shop products through links.

The details: As per YouTube, “For example, in a ‘top 10 smartphones in 2020’ video, some viewers will see an icon on the video, along with more information below, listing the phone models included in the video.”

Instagram Rolls Out Live Donations Feature

Instagram has announced a new donation feature for Instagram Live that lets people raise money in real-time for nonprofits.

Why it matters: Live Donations is the latest effort from Instagram to help support communities affected by COVID-19. In March, the platform said it was rolling out its stories’ donation sticker in more countries.

The details: With Live Donations, users can see how many people are supporting your fundraiser and the amount of money raised in real-time. The feature also provides a breakdown of your donors and individual contributions. Users can thank donors by tapping “Wave.” Live Donations can be accessed by tapping the camera in the top left of the feed or by swiping right in the feed. In addition, Instagram partnered with a Brazilian illustrator to create a custom “I Donated” sticker, accessible after you’ve donated to a nonprofit fundraiser on Instagram Live or stories.

WhatsApp Launches 8-Person Group Video Chat Feature

WhatsApp’s group video and voice calls now support eight participants, up from four, the company said in a blog post.

Why it matters: WhatsApp reports that over the last month, people on average spent over 15 billion minutes talking daily on WhatsApp calls.

The details: To utilize the new higher participant limit, users need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp.

Facebook To Broadcast Virtual 2020 Graduation With Oprah Winfrey

On May 15 at 11 a.m. PST, Facebook is broadcasting a live #Graduation2020 with a commencement address from Oprah Winfrey, and additional celebrity appearances and performances. The virtual ceremony will acknowledge US high schools and colleges by name, state by state, including photos and videos of graduating classes. The ceremony video will be shared on Facebook Watch, with highlights posted to Instagram’s eponymous account.

Why it matters: Facebook’s virtual activation will give both Facebook and Instagram grads a reason to celebrate graduation on social media despite schools being closed throughout summer.

The details: In addition to a commencement given by Oprah Winfrey, celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Awkwafina, Lil Nas X and Simone Biles will “share words of wisdom for the class of 2020,” and Miley Cyrus will perform her song, “The Climb.”

Facebook and Instagram are also adding a variety of creative tools to help grads celebrate the occasion, including a virtual graduation hub and custom filters on Facebook, as well as a grad countdown sticker, AR effects and grad-related songs added to the music stickers on Instagram.

TikTok Introduces Donation Stickers

TikTok’s new in-app feature Donation Stickers, enabled by fundraising platform Tiltify, lets users raise funds for their favorite charities within their videos and live streams. TikTok plans to match the user donations made through the feature until May 27.

Why it matters: TikTok is the latest social platform to beef up its donation feature amid coronavirus.

The details: TikTok’s interactive Donation Stickers can be embedded directly in user videos and in TikTok Live streams. Upon tapping a Donation Sticker, a pop-up window appears where users can submit a donation without leaving the app. The hashtag #doubleyourimpact will be automatically added to videos and live streams that use the donation feature.

Facebook Named Leading Platform For Consuming Coronavirus News

A survey from Flixed among over 1,000 people about their media consumption found that a majority of people are getting their news content from Facebook. 

Why it matters: As Facebook told The New York Times, the platform has seen an “unprecedented increase in the consumption of news articles,” with US traffic from Facebook to other sites experiencing a 50 percent increase.

The details: More than a third of respondents (35.8 percent) named Facebook as their primary social media platform for discovering coronavirus news, followed by Twitter (17 percent), YouTube (16.3 percent) and Reddit (12.4 percent). Those who identified Reddit as their primary coronavirus news source, however, were the most likely to say their mental health had worsened. 

Snapchat Announces A New Way For Brands To Advertise

Snapchat’s new offering, First Commercial, lets brands buy the first commercial any user sees before the first Snapchat show they watch that day, as reported by Adweek.

Why it matters: According to Snapchat’s vice president of global agency partnerships David Roter, First Commercial comes after Snapchat noticed “a good amount of marketplace demand for a premium takeover” over the past year.

The details: First Commercial will be available on shows like Snap Originals, Good Luck America, Nikita Unfiltered, Complex’s Hot Ones and NBC’s Stay Tuned. First Commercial will initially be offered through direct sales then programmatically. AT&T is one of the first brands to have tested the feature.

Facebook To Introduce Virtual Dating On Messenger

Facebook is working on a new video calling feature that will allow Facebook Dating users to video call over Messenger.

Why it matters: Facebook’s announcement comes after many rival dating apps have pivoted to video as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to provide a safe alternative to real-world dates.

The details: With the new video calling feature, online daters can invite a match to a virtual date and the recipient can either accept or decline the invitation. If they accept, the users will be connected in a video chat powered by Messenger.

TikTok Launches Gift-Giving Program Called Small Gestures

Together with its brand partners in beauty, music, gaming and more, TikTok is launching a new program called Small Gestures that lets users send gifts for free to friends and family amid the pandemic.

Why it matters: With the program, TikTok’s brand partners like Adobe, Pandora and DoorDash can remain top-of-mind for the platform’s Gen Z audience.

The details: TikTok is offering Small Gestures for free to all users to send gifts up to three separate times. Gifts include a three-month membership to Adobe Premiere Rush, a one-month free DashPass subscription from DoorDash and a 90-day trial subscription to Pandora. Other brand partners involved include Fitplan, Square Enix, REBBL, Talkspace, Skillshare, The Bouqs Co., Alo Moves and Fluent Forever. Users can browse the partner offerings by searching for “Small Gestures” on the Discover page and clicking the purple banner.

WhatsApp Sees 70 Percent Reduction In Virality Of Highly Forwarded Messages

After introducing a new restriction earlier this month, WhatsApp says the spread of “highly forwarded” messages sent on the app has decreased by 70 percent globally.

Why it matters: The new restriction will help mitigate user concerns in India where viral hoaxes about the coronavirus pandemic have been circulating on WhatsApp.

The details: On April 7, WhatsApp rolled out an update that restricts users from sending “frequently forwarded” messages more than once to a person or a group, down from five. In 2018, WhatsApp introduced a similar limit that restarted users from forwarding a message to over five people or groups at once, leading to a 25 percent drop in message forwards in two years.

Facebook Adds New Features To Workplace Platform

Facebook Workplace announced several new features to help businesses better navigate the impact of the pandemic based on feedback from users.

Why it matters: As stay-at-home orders remain in effect, professional work apps must tailor user experiences and features to teleworking.

The details: Facebook says the two main areas where they’ve learned organizations need support are communicating critical information with their entire business in real-time and having the information accessible to everyone, and ensuring employees feel supported and listened to during coronavirus. To help with the former, Facebook Workplace is launching Knowledge Library, “a single place to create, store and share static content like working from home advice or HR . . .” In addition, Facebook has created “Draft for,” a feature that lets users draft posts on behalf of executives who can review, approve and publish. To support employee wellbeing, Facebook Workplace has introduced “Safety Alerts” to enable companies to send standalone alerts that provide updates or context on an incident without requiring a response. A new Q&A-style post has also been created to enable quick feedback to employees.

Facebook Rolls Out Several New Video Chat And Live Features 

With real-time video usage at an all-time high, Facebook is rolling out a video chat tool called Messenger Rooms and several other features to help users stay connected on Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

Why it matters: According to Facebook, between WhatsApp and Messenger, over 700 million accounts participate in calls daily. In addition, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled in many countries. 

The details: Users can start and share Messenger Rooms through Messenger or Facebook via the news feed, groups and events, with the ability to join from mobile or desktop. They can also invite anyone to join the Room, even if they don’t have a Facebook account, as well as lock a Room if they don’t want anyone else to enter.

Facebook also said it’s expanding WhatsApp group voice and video calls with up to eight people.

After seeing a surge in views of Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos in March, Facebook is reviving “Live With,” a feature that lets users add another person into the live video, and giving Pages the ability to charge for access to events with Facebook Live videos. To help raise money, users can add a donate button to Live videos. Those who have a spotty connection have the option to listen to the audio-only on Facebook Live videos. Lastly, gamers can livestream games from their phone to Facebook using the platform’s new dedicated gaming app, available on Google Play.