Updated throughout the week of July 20th, 2020.

This week in social media news, TikTok launches interactive ad templates for brands, Twitter says the direct message inbox of hacked accounts were exposed, Facebook convenes a team to study minority users’ experiences, LinkedIn’s revenue grows 10 percent, Twitter’s Q2 revenue decreases 19 percent year-over-year and more.

TikTok Launches Interactive Ad Options, Gamified Branded Effects

TikTok is introducing a variety of templates called Gamified Branded Effects to its self-serve ad platform that brands can use to create more immersive ads.

Why it matters: As rumors about TikTok’s potential ban in the US circulate, some brands may be reluctant to use the new templates as they have already started to distance themselves from the platform and shift focus elsewhere.

The details: Brands can access 20 formats customizable to their campaign “for a fun and competitive video shooting experience.” The Gamified Branded Effects are similar to Snapchat’s augmented reality (AR)-building tool, Lens Web Builder, which offers hundreds of 3D effects.

Twitter DMs Of High-Profile Accounts Were Accessed In Breach

Last week, Twitter experienced a major security breach of over 100 high-profile accounts as a result of a social engineering scheme. Twitter says the hackers were able to access the direct message inbox of some of these accounts, as well as other private information.

Why it matters: Twitter’s response to the situation included restricting functionality for many Twitter profiles, but for 45 of the targeted accounts, the attackers were still able to reset the password, log into the account and send tweets.

The details: As per Twitter:

“We believe that for up to 36 of the 130 targeted accounts, the attackers accessed the DM inbox, including 1 elected official in the Netherlands.”

For all the accounts that were hacked, attackers were able to see email addresses and phone numbers but not previous account passwords.

Facebook Convenes Team To Study Minority Users’ Experiences

Facebook is convening a new equity and inclusion team tasked with studying how black, Hispanic and other minority users in the US are affected by Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithms, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The move to examine disparate racial impacts comes as an advertiser boycott over Facebook’s hate speech policy persists. The issue of algorithmic bias arose last year, when Instagram set new thresholds for disabling or deleting accounts after an internal analysis revealed black users were 50 percent more likely to have their account suspended than other users. Instagram said the issue was due to the fact that the company’s existing data doesn’t accurately capture race.

The details: A spokesperson from Instagram confirmed to WSJ that both Instagram and Facebook will create an inclusion team to see if their systems contain algorithmic bias. Facebook’s team, the Inclusivity Product Team, will seek advice from black users and experts on race.

LinkedIn Revenue Grows 10 Percent In Q2

In the most recent quarter, LinkedIn’s revenue increased 10 percent and its sessions grew by 27 percent, Microsoft’s Q4 2020 report shows.

Why it matters: A glimpse into LinkedIn’s performance comes after the company announced that it would reduce its global workforce by six percent due to the pandemic.

The details: After seeing record levels of engagement in April, LinkedIn is experiencing more usage as those out of a job seek to make new connections. However, as the report notes, “LinkedIn was negatively impacted by the weak job market and reductions in advertising spend.”

Twitter Q2 Revenue Drops 19 Percent Year-Over-Year

According to its Q2 earning report, Twitter generated $683 million in revenues, a 19 percent decrease year-over-year, but reached 186 million daily monetizable active users (mDAUs), a 39 percent increase YoY.

Why it matters: Twitter’s performance update reflects an ongoing struggle among social platforms whose ad businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19.

The details: Twitter’s mDAUs grew from 166 million at the end of Q1 to 186 million in Q2. Its ad revenue represented $562 million, down 23 percent YoY.

As per Twitter: “We saw a gradual, moderate recovery relative to March levels throughout most of Q2, with the exception of late May to mid-June, when many brands slowed or paused spend in reaction to U.S. civil unrest.”

Snapchat Q2 Revenue Grows 17 Percent To $454 Million

Snapchat’s revenue increased 17 percent to $454 million in Q2 from a year prior and reached a user base of 238 million, the company’s quarterly report shows.

Why it matters: Given the increased usage it experienced at the onset of the pandemic, Snapchat overestimated its Q2 growth. However, Snapchat chief financial officer Derek Andersen said the surge “dissipated faster than we anticipated as shelter in place conditions persisted,” adding that the company’s net loss grew 28 percent to $326 million from a year earlier.

The details: Snapchat’s revenue growth in Q2 pales in comparison to the 44 percent revenue increase it saw in Q1, potentially a result of the gradual easing of restrictions. Snap’s revenue is up 32 percent during the first few weeks of Q3, but Andersen estimates it’ll reach 20 percent by the end of Q3.

Instagram Launches Personal Causes Fundraising Feature

Instagram is testing a new feature that lets you raise money for a personal cause with a select group of Android users in the US, UK and Ireland.

Why it matters: Instagram says that since January, people have raised over $100 million for COVID-19 fundraisers globally across Instagram and Facebook. In addition, donations on Instagram have doubled in the US in the last 30 days.

The details: Users eligible to donate through Instagram’s donation sticker can now donate to a personal fundraiser by tapping “edit profile,” adding a fundraiser and selecting a fundraiser category. Instagram must review fundraisers before they go live. Once approved, the fundraiser lasts 30 days and can be extended another 30 days. When the fundraiser ends, the funds are transferred into the user’s bank account, which they connect via Facebook’s payment processor Stripe.

US Bans TikTok On Government Devices

According to Politico, the House voted to prohibit federal employees from downloading or using TikTok on government-issued devices as part of a $741 billion defense policy bill.

Why it matters: The move comes as national security concerns about TikTok’s ties to China and its data privacy practices abound.

The details: Part of a package of bipartisan changes to the National Defense Authorization Act, the proposal was passed by lawmakers who voted 336-71 and would extend to members of Congress and congressional staff.

Facebook Clarifies Its Content Monetization And Brand Safety Practices

Facebook announced that the Media Rating Council (MRC) will perform an audit of its partner and content monetization policies and brand safety controls it makes available to advertisers. It also said it’s considering opening up its content moderation systems to external audits to validate the figures it publishes in its Community Standards Enforcement Report (CSER), which is released on a quarterly basis.

Why it matters: Still in the thick of a boycott by advertisers and civil rights groups over its content moderation policies, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced new changes that would prevent potential voter suppression and expand its ad policy to protect people from different races, gender identities and immigration statuses.

The details: MRC will evaluate the development and enforcement of its partner monetization policies and content monetization policies. The MRC will also assess Facebook’s ability to apply brand safety controls to ads displayed within publisher content. Facebook will provide an update on the audit by mid-August.

TikTok Suspends Plans To Build Global Headquarters In The UK

TikTok is suspending plans to build a global headquarters in the UK amid a potential trade war between London and Beijing, as reported by The Guardian.

Why it matters: Based in Beijing, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, halted plans for a UK-based headquarters after the UK government banned Huawei, a Chinese telecoms firm, from developing Britain’s 5G mobile phone network.

The details: ByteDance underwent months of negotiations with the Department for International Trade to expand operations in the UK, according to The Guardian. Now it will look to Dubai, where many TikTok employees are already located.

Google Launches All-In-One Video Shopping Platform Shoploop

Google’s in-house lab for experimental projects, Area 120, is rolling out an interactive video shopping platform called Shoploop that lets users discover, evaluate and buy products all in one place.

Why it matters: Shoploop is Google’s latest project to expand shoppable content. Last month, it launched shoppable video ads on YouTube.

The details: Users can browse videos of products in action, which are 90 seconds or shorter, read reviews, then either save or buy products later. Google has convened a group of Shoploop creators who will make tutorials displaying products, with a focus on beauty brands for now. Shoploop is available on mobile devices, but Google says it’s creating a desktop version.

Twitch Launches A Standalone Sports Category

Amazon’s Twitch is launching a sports category, which will include streams from soccer clubs and serve as home to the existing NBA, NHL, RFL, UFC and NWSL content that’s available on the platform, The Verge reports.

Why it matters: Twitch has become one of the top destinations for live sports watching. A few weeks ago, the platform streamed Premier League soccer free for the first time.  

The details: In addition to creating a new sports category, Twitch is re-launching its “twitchsports” channel to showcase the available sports content.

Instagram Prepares For Global Launch Of Reels

Facebook is set to launch its TikTok-like feature, Reels, in the US and over 50 countries in a few weeks, unnamed sources told NBC.

Why it matters: Instagram Reels’ forthcoming global rollout comes as the White House is considering a ban on TikTok in the US over its handling of user data. Reels could catapult Instagram to TikTok’s level of popularity among its billion-plus user base.

The details: Reels enable users to create and share 15-second video clips and borrow and remix music from other people’s videos. Facebook introduced Reels in Brazil last November, expanded it to Germany and France last month and more recently launched it in India.

Snapchat Enables Four Snap Mini Apps

Four of the seven Snap Minis, simplified versions of apps on Snap’s Chat section, that Snapchat introduced last month went live on the platform, as reported by TechCrunch.

Why it matters: Snapchat’s relationship with Tencent, a Snap investor who has seen over a million mini apps on its WeChat app, influenced its plan for mini apps, which could lead to increased user engagement on Snapchat.

The details: Designed by developers via HTML, Snap Minis let users perform various tasks without leaving Snapchat. The four mini apps that went live include Headspace, Flashcards, Prediction Master and Let’s Do It. The other three mini apps coming soon include a festival trip planning app by Coachella, a class schedule comparison app called Saturn and Atom’s movie ticketing.

Zoom Downloads Surpass TikTok In Q2

A new report from Sensor Tower shows that Zoom was downloaded over 300 million times worldwide in Q2, outperforming TikTok and making it only the third app in history to surpass 300 million downloads in a three-month period.

Why it matters: Zoom’s popularity has grown since the onset of the pandemic, when businesses shifted to working remotely. In Q1, Zoom’s revenue spiked 169 percent to $328.2 million from a year earlier. The company doubled its revenue forecast for 2020 from $905 million to $1.78 billion.

The details: In Q2, Zoom received 94 million downloads worldwide on iOS devices, beating TikTok’s 71 million installs. On the Google Play store, however, TikTok led the way with 230 million downloads.

Globally, app downloads reached an all-time high of 37.8 billion in Q2, a 31.7 percent increase year-over-year.