Welcome to Major Tom’s monthly update on social media.

We know that it can be challenging to keep up with the constant changes that take place, so we scour the web for the most noteworthy news on social and summarize them neatly for you.

From Instagram updates to AR ads, here is our roundup of the most important social media stories from the past month.

New Instagram features and testing

Since Facebook showed signs of a plateau this past quarter, Instagram is now the company’s primary source for growth.

As a result, it’s no surprise to see a whole host of new features and updates make their way to the platform. Among the updates, Instagram launched new features for Stories such as Music and Question Stickers as well as IGTV — its competitor to YouTube.

What’s coming up next? Instagram announced tests on a “Follower Removal” tool.

What should you do?

There’s no denying that Instagram is hot stuff right now, and many brands are making it the primary focus of their content marketing.

If it doesn’t already, your content should absolutely include a Stories component. The more you use Instagram’s newest features, the better the algorithm will weight your content. Not only are the Music (if available in your country) and Question Stickers easy to use, they’re also great for encouraging engagement.

Questions, in particular, present many engagement opportunities. Use the feature to crowdsource ideas, run a Q&A, or gain intel on your audience’s pain points. Bonus points if you can respond to these responses via Stories.

IGTV is in its early days, but brands are quickly hopping on it to create short video series, announce product releases, and more. Almost every account is able to upload hour-long videos. Unless you have the resources to create polished vertical video content, it’s okay to keep an eye on this feature and draw inspiration for now.

Facebook testing AR ads

In light of faltering growth, Facebook continues to push the advancement of the platform and its ad offerings. The most noteworthy update over the past month has been the Augmented Reality ads they’re testing.

Only select brands, such as Michael Kors, were invited to test the new feature. But, as we can see from the company’s efforts, AR ads are going to offer a lot of new opportunities to engage with potential customers.

For example, in this recent Sunglasses ad, viewers are seamlessly prompted to “Try On” a product. This means they can see what the product will actually look like on them by using their camera phone and then purchase said product via a Call-to-Action button.

It’s an innovative approach that’s possibly the closest digital advertising has come to enabling customers to see which items will suit them, without having to set foot inside a physical store.

What should you do?

If you’re a retailer, this product was made for you. Facebook is not clear on when it will roll out the feature to everyone, but we suspect the timing of a broader launch will most likely line up with the holiday season.

But just because AR ads are still a few months away from launch doesn’t mean that you can afford to take your eyes off of them. The very best brands will be prepared with ideas in place to take advantage of the new technology as soon as it goes live. With that in mind, start brainstorming which of your products best suit this ad format and how you could bring them to life using AR.

We will, of course, keep you up to date with all of the developments but a little bit of forward thinking could add up to make a big difference when AR ads finally arrive on Facebook.

Instagram Collection Ads and Shopping Bag for Stories

Speaking of the holiday season, Instagram is preparing for the rush with the expansion of their Collection Ads to everyone and the introduction of Shopping Bag icons for Stories. Collection Ads display a carousel of images that users can swipe through and click to the product page. As for Stories, you’ll notice more Shopping Bag icons which also link to product pages.

What should you do?

Instagram users draw a lot of inspiration from their feed for the latest trends. This explains Instagram’s big push to marry commerce and imagery on the platform. Shopping Bag icons aren’t available to everyone yet, but Collection Ads are open globally. If you’re preparing for the holiday rush, start creating your carousels in preparation.

Time for a second look at Snapchat?

Snapchat simply can’t compete with Instagram these days, and many brands have shifted their ad dollars as a result.

Except, there is one department where Snapchat is beating out its fiercest competitor and that is in ad rates. Indeed, while Instagram’s rates have soared with the platform’s popularity, media buyers noticed that Snapchat’s ad rates have actually decreased over the past month.

As a result, brands hoping to appeal to Generation Z are giving Snapchat a second look. The Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) is currently around $1.88 while CPM is $14-$17 on Facebook and $19 on Instagram.

In addition, Snap has opened its Pixel to all advertisers and introduced new tools that improve its targeting capabilities and conversion reporting. These updates, coupled with a more intuitive platform, make Snapchat worthy of further investigation.

What should you do?

Despite all improvements, Snapchat’s audience remains smaller than other social networks. In addition, the demographic is niche. However, if CPM is as cost-effective as media buyers are reporting, then it’s certainly worth exploring. We suggest only those brands that target Generation Z should invest time in experimenting.

Want to discover the right social media strategy that will make your company stand out and impact its bottom line? Contact our social media team now.