Social Pulse, Week of 7-13

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

SocNet Updates: This week everything was cake on the internet. Twitter experienced its largest hack ever. Twitter also rolled out a new DM experience. Byte, aka “new Vine,” is seeing a huge surge in downloads as young people look for TikTok alternatives in case it’s shut down. Download it here. Facebook is preparing to launch officially licensed music videos on its social network in the U.S. next month, in a direct challenge to YouTube, and is introducing new image modes for more users. Snapchat launched branded profiles. Pinterest is updating its algorithm. Amazon announced a shopping cart that knows that you’re buying. Zoom announced a $600 standalone video conference gadget. Microsoft Teams is introducing a “Together Mode” to reduce on-camera fatigue, including auditorium mode (coming in August).

The Mobile World of Coronavirus: New data shows that Q2 of 2020 was the largest ever for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer mobile spending. Mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April. Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion.

Virtual Road Trip: A Harvard sophomore is “driving” across the country on Google Street View and live-tweeting his progress while he clicks the forward, left and right arrows. He crossed through Minnesota last week and is headed southeast.  Follow his “drive” here.

Cat Video Film Festival Goes Virtual: Cat lovers across the globe can rejoice, because the annual Cat Video Festival hosted in the Twin Cities each year is moving virtual—which means anyone can tune in on Thursday, August 20. Originally curated by the Walker Art Center, the Cat Video Festival has become an annual tradition to gather and celebrate our feline friends. And it’s not too late to enter your own cat videos here.  

How Afrofuturism Can Help the World Mend: This week Wired wrote about “Afrofuturism” and the importance of imaging the Black futures through the lens of technology to accomplish social justice and equity. Key quote: “Black Lives Matter and related hashtag activist movements are strikingly Afrofuturist: They utilize existing technology to amplify their signal and build coalitions. Even more, the use of cameras on mobile phones to record acts of violence is also Afrofuturist. Even though the cameras weren’t designed to fuel civil disobedience, we wouldn’t be having discussions about how to dismantle corrupt systems in law enforcement without them… Afrofuturism predicts that the events of 2020 will breed new techno-political movements (as it already has), new artistic forms, means of expression, discoveries, and philosophies.”

TikTok of the Week: Seventeen year-old Aidan Caroll has been creating rollercoasters imitating the graphs of coronavirus cases by country — or “Roner Coasters,” as he calls them. The U.S. coaster is the best because it goes SO HIGH! Ride along here: Part 1, Part 2.

App of the Week: If you miss the social and competitive nature of HQ Trivia, you have to download and play Tetris. That’s right – the old Tetris app has updated itself into a nightly social competition, complete with a live host and cash prizes. And it’s basically the same game play as when it was introduced, in 1984. Download here: iOS, Android

Stream of the Week: Amazon Prime Video has 1 hour and 15 minutes worth of vintage drive-in movie theater ads you can watch at home. And then head into your kitchen for an ice cold Coca-Cola and some hot, buttery popcorn.

Viral Video of the Week: Houston-based artist Tobe Nwigwe created the 44-second song “I Need You To” reinvigorate calls for justice for Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, and it’s spreading fast this week. Watch here.

Weekend Inspiration: I made a robot to cut my hair with scissors

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Social Pulse, Week of 7-8

Busting Instagram Myths: This week Instagram leaders tried to squash urban myths about the platform: there’s no limit to hashtags, shadow-banning isn’t a thing, “paid partnership” tags do not reduce engagement on posts, and editing a caption in the first 15 minutes (or even the first hour!) will not get you less likes.

Which Voice A.I. Assistant is the Best? A study asked four voice assistants more than 4,000 questions about brands, ranging from “What is the longest-lasting lipstick?” to “How do I contact JetBlue?” The findings: Google Assistant on a phone offered correct results for 92% of queries, while Google Assistant on a smart speaker hit 81%. Amazon’s Alexa was 34%, Samsung’s Bixby 32%, and Apple’s Siri was 28%.

1st Amendment Social Media Rights: This week the United States Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the First Amendment prohibits an official who uses a social media account for government purposes (like @RealDonaldTrump) from excluding people from an “otherwise open online dialogue” because they say things that the official finds objectionable. Unblock!

Black Friday in July: Amazon’s Prime Day is a two-day only global shopping event that is coming up next Monday and Tuesday. The popularity of Prime Day has inspired Walmart, Target, Macy’s and even eBay to run online sales of their own, setting up next week as one of the biggest online shopping periods in history. Key deals this year include: Ring Doorbell Pro + Echo Dot, Fire TV DVR Recast, and $25 Echo Dots.

Halfway Through 2019 Mobile Stats: Mobile Marketer released a wealth of mobile usage stats including: more than half of weekly Pinterest users use the app while shopping in stores; 1 in 5 consumers have shopped via voice assistant; U.S. adults this year will spend more time on mobile devices than TV; the average time using mobile devices will grow 3.7% this year to 3 hours 43 minutes a day. See the full report here.

Twitterer of the Week: Move over Merriam-Webster, @NYT_first_said tracks the first time The New York Times uses a word, including colorful slang like “thiccc,” “hypebeasts” and “shooketh.”