8 recent changes to social media that freelancers need to know about

These days, even the most experienced and talented freelancers need some kind of social media presence. It helps to keep their name and work out there, network with existing clients, and find new ones. But how much time and energy are you spending on your posts?

New features are constantly being added to Instagram, Twitter et al, to make your use of them easier, more efficient, and more productive. But the companies involved often fail to publicise them properly and even when they do, it's difficult to know how to even find them in the app menu. For example, did you know you can change the font in your Instagram bio? Check out our Instagram fonts guide to find out how.

In this post, we round up eight significant changes to social media in recent months that freelancers should be aware of, whether they're available yet, and how to take advantage of them if they are. Also make sure you check out our top tools for freelancers and our essential social media tips.

01. Instagram: Checkout

Promo graphic promoting Instagram Checkout

Instagram Checkout lets your followers buy products from you, directly within the app (Image credit: Instagram)

Instagram Checkout is big news for any freelancer who wants to sell their own physical products online. 

In short, it makes it easy to sell your books, prints, T-shirts or whatever on Instagram, via what are called "shoppable" posts. That's because you can tag products directly within said posts, allowing your followers to buy them directly within the app.

Not everyone can use shoppable posts, though. You first need a business Instagram account, and you'll need to connect this to a Facebook Page associated with your business. (That might sound weird, but bear in mind that Facebook does own Instagram). You'll find all the details you need to get started in the 'Instagram for Business' section of the Help Pages.

Also bear in mind, that while Instagram Shopping is available to businesses in a wide range of countries, at time of writing, the Checkout service is only available to Instagram users based in the USA.

02. Instagram: Create Mode

3 screens showing Instagram's Create mode in use

Combine GiFs, text and more to create Instagram Stories: no photo required! (Image credit: Instagram)

Do you create a lot of Instagram Stories as part of your day-to-day? Then you need to be aware of Create Mode. 

Launched this month, this enables you to create content for your stories without requiring either photos or videos. Create Mode lets you combine drawings and text to create content instead, while the 'sticker' option also allows you to add interactive stickers, including quizzes, polls and countdowns. 

And there's more. Create Mode also offers you the 'On this Day' option, which allows you to resurface old posts, from the same calendar date in a different year, just like you've long been able to do on Facebook. Finally, you can also now choose any GIF from Giphy and set it as the background for your Instagram Story.

03. Twitter: ‘Hide Replies’

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In general, Twitter's great for getting your work out there and finding new clients. But trolling and online abuse can be a huge time-suck from a busy freelance day, not to mention being a massive downer. 

The new 'Hide Replies' feature, which is currently being tested in the US, Canada and Japan, is its latest attempt to raise the standard of discussion on Twitter. Basically, if you think a reply to your tweet is offensive, it allows you to hide it; not just from yourself and your followers, but from everyone around the world. You can read the full details in this Twitter blog statement.

Censorship, shutting down debate, or a sensible move to restore calm and promote a reasoned exchange of ideas? Either way, 'Hide Replies' is still very much in the testing stages, so we'll have to reserve judgement until Twitter decides to roll it out properly (if indeed they do). Worth keeping an eye on, though...

04. Twitter: add images to RTs

RT featuring picture of a pizza eating cat

Who needs words, when pictures of cats eating pizza exist? (Image credit: Twitter)

You know how, when you retweet someone's tweet, you get the choice to retweet with or without a comment? Well, if you're using a smartphone, Twitter now gives you a third option: to add a GIF, image or video instead of a comment.

It's not super-obvious this option exists, because there's no new menu prompt. You just have to choose 'Retweet with comment' and then on the next screen, click the appropriate icon and insert your chosen pic, GIF or clip.

Also note that this new feature is not available on desktop yet, and it's unclear when that will be, if ever.

05. Twitter: add multiple images to tweets

Tweet featuring multiple photos

You can now include up to four images per tweet (Image credit: Twitter)

If there was ever a sign that Instagram and Snapchat were stealing all the oxygen in social media right now, it's Twitter's sudden focus on posting images.

Because not only can you add images to your retweets, as mentioned in number 4, you can also now add up to four images to your own tweets, too. Plus, excitingly, you can even rearrange your photos at will. 

To do so, just tap and hold a picture to select it, then drag it forward or back to change the order in which you want the images to be laid out. You can see the new feature in action in the GIF attached to this tweet.

06. Linkedin: Events planning

Linkedin events functionality

You can now organise an event directly on LinkedIn (Image credit: Linkedin)

LinkedIn is a platform most people either love or hate, but many freelancers make good use of it to generate new contacts, network with existing ones, and to generally hustle for work. 

Well, now freelancers who attend events, or organise them, have an extra reason to head to LinkedIn: its new events planning service.

Currently rolling out across English-speaking countries, LinkedIn Events is a free feature that allows you to plan, announce and invite people to meetups and conferences in the "real world". You'll find all the details of what's on offer in this FAQ post.

07. Snapchat: Reddit integration

Phone screen showing Reddit/Snapchat integration

Love Reddit? Love Snapchat? Then this news will make your day (Image credit: Reddit/Snapchat)

Do you make regular use of Reddit and Snapchat? Then you'll be overjoyed to discover that the two platforms - somewhat unexpectedly - have teamed up to make it easier for you to work across the two.

Since 14 October, Reddit contributors (known, cutely, as 'redditors') have been able to share their favourite Reddit posts with their Snapchat friends seamlessly. 

To do so within the Snapchat app, just tap the Share icon on an image, text or link-based post on Reddit’s iOS app, and then select the Snapchat option. 

08. TikTok: Pro accounts

TikTok analytics tools

Find out what's happening with your TikTok videos in detail (Image credit: TikTok)

As we noted in our September article TikTok app: What is it? And why should you care?, the main appeal of TikTok is precisely that's it's silly, fun, chaotic, anarchic, and dominated by youngsters. 

However, TikTok's huge audiences mean that it's inevitably going to become as interesting to freelancers - eventually - as the other social media platforms. (If you're struggling to imagine what you might use it for, then marketing guru Gary Vee 's account is well worth checking out).

And TikTok's owners are clearly thinking the same thing, as they've just launched Pro Accounts: "to offer avid creators greater visibility into how their videos are performing and resonating with fans". 

Right now, that means you get access to a lot of cool analytics and performance tools. And the best news is, it's free. To set one up from your profile page, open the Privacy and Settings tab, choose 'Manage My Account', tap 'Switch to Pro Account' and follow the steps from there.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.