Read Time: 5 minutes

In this week’s update, read about global social media trends as detailed in a new report; the nuts and bolts of Google’s “Updates from Customers”; Google’s fight against “anti-tech” legislation; a rise in popularity for automated customer support; Apple’s autonomous driving technology; and Yelp’s efforts to combat misinformation. 


Facebook and Instagram Remain the Top Social Platforms, According to GWI Report


Market research firm GWI has issued a new report on global social media usage, finding that over 40% of users are active on at least 5 social platforms. The average time spent on social media per day is 2 hours and 29 minutes, and Facebook is rated the most popular social platform in every global market. As for messaging platforms, Messenger wins the race in the U.S. while WhatsApp is the most popular across the globe. 


Facebook is the most popular platform across all age demographics in the U.S. except Gen Z, where Instagram takes the top position. Facebook, in fact, comes in fourth for Gen Z behind Snapchat and TikTok, whereas Instagram occupies the number two position for all other age groups. 


Short-form video continues to grow in popularity, with 85% of Gen Z and Millennials, 77% of Gen X, and 70% of Baby Boomers having watched short videos in the past month. Social commerce is also on the rise, with usage of Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping up across all demographic groups. Millennials are the most active social shoppers according to the study, and Baby Boomers have seen the biggest growth at 33% year over year. 





The most used social media platforms in the U.S. by age group, courtesy GWI


A Deeper Look at Google’s “Updates from Customers”


Joy Hawkins has posted some observations about the new “Updates from Customers” feature that is beginning to show up on many Google profiles. She notes that the feature is linked to Photo Updates, a fairly new feature in Google Maps that allows users to upload photos, and optional descriptive text, related to their experience with a business. 


Because the prompt to add a Photo Update is relatively hard to find – you have to scroll down towards the bottom of a Maps profile to see it – Hawkins suggests we may not see a lot of this content being uploaded by users in the near future. When they do appear, Updates from Customers show up in Maps but not in Search, and are placed below any recent Google Posts from the business. Though businesses can’t control whether users upload photos using the Photo Updates feature, they can flag photos they deem inappropriate. 




Photo update interface in Google Maps for iPhone


Google Warns Businesses about “Anti-Tech” Legislation


Google has launched a PR campaign against the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at online companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta who have a large audience and who “serve as a critical trading partner” for business users. The bill would allow federal agencies to issue penalties for various anti-competitive practices, including promotion of the products of the online platform over those of other businesses, as well as the “use of non-public data obtained or generated by the platform’s business users to preference the platform’s products over the business’.”


The language is vague, but Google is saying that the bill threatens its ability to publish business information on Search and Maps, along with disrupting the operation of Google Ads and Google Docs. Google has created a website to support its position, prompting users to send messages to Congress expressing their opposition, and has sent emails to consumers and businesses advocating its position. 


In the FAQ section of the website, Google says that the proposed legislation might prevent the company from displaying business contact information, hours of operation, directions, and reviews. It’s unclear, though, whether the bill’s intent matches Google’s characterizations. 


Automated Customer Support Growing in Popularity

Automated text and voice assistant provider Agentz says user engagement with its products grew by 37% in 2021, suggesting that consumers are becoming more comfortable with chatbots and similar assistive technologies. According to the company, 25% of users are now opting to interact with automated assistants, and fewer than 1% of engagements with an automated assistant resulted in the user asking for live help. The company, which targets SMBs, says that small businesses typically miss about one third of their inbound calls, and want to be able to transfer those calls to automated text conversations. Moreover, one third of all automated assistant sessions occur outside regular business hours, providing a means for consumers to access needed information when human staff are unavailable. 


Apple Testing Autonomous Driving Technology


Required filings with the state government of California recently revealed that Apple has been testing its own self-driving car technology, logging 13,000 miles of test driving in 2021 on California roads. Apple hasn’t built its own cars; instead, its software has been embedded in a fleet of Lexus SUVs. The filing details 662 instances where a driver had to take control of the car due to errors of various kinds, including an error category referred to as “map discrepancies.” Apple’s stealth project joins Google’s Waymo, GM’s Cruise, and Tesla in the race to make autonomous driving a reality, capitalizing in Apple and Google’s case on sophisticated mapping and navigation technologies millions of users already rely on. 


Yelp Details Its Efforts to Combat Misinformation


Yelp has issued its annual Trust & Safety Report for 2021, cataloging the company’s efforts to maintain the integrity of reviews. The report states that 19.6 million reviews were submitted to the platform in 2021, of which about 71% were recommended by Yelp software, 22% were not recommended, and 6% were removed for policy violations or deleted by the reviewer. 


Of the reviews removed by Yelp, 15,500 were flagged for violating Yelp’s COVID-19 guidelines, which state that businesses cannot be reviewed unfairly due to their COVID-related policies. (The report also tells us that 103,500 businesses have made use of Yelp’s new health and safety attributes, intended to communicate COVID policies to consumers.) Some 1,850 consumer alerts were placed on business profile pages, warning consumers that the business is suspected of manipulating its ratings and reviews. Yelp also removed 29,300 reviews for racist or discriminatory content. 



Courtesy Yelp


Damian Rollison

With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCI's Director of Market Insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online. Damian's columns appear frequently at Street Fight, Search Engine Land, and other publications, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Localogy, Brand Innovators, State of Search, SMX, and more.

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