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10 Social Media Innovations to Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is unique in North America in that we celebrate it twice. Mid-October in Canada and late November in the U.S. bring us days to reflect on the bounty we have and to give thanks for it. And not just for friends and family, but also for the technology that aids work.

For social media marketers, the last five years have brought a bounty of new tools for finding and engaging with the wider world. Here are ten I'm grateful for, and for which you should be too:

1. Targeted posts. What you share says a lot about who you are and whom you wish to engage. Social platforms that allow for grouping audiences into lists and then targeting posts to only those lists makes it easier to build relationships. At the very least, recipients will know that your message was meant specifically for them, rather than a broadcast into the unfeeling, uncaring ether.

2. Hashtags. Finding the right content and the right audience is easier because of hashtags, which identify posts according to the topics or people to which they relate. Think of them as private rooms set off from a loud and noisy restaurant. Hashtags strip away the din so that conversations can happen.

3. Advanced privacy settings. We've all known the discomfort of a friend or colleague whose inappropriate behavior or newsfeed-hogging game posts get in the way of using social media to forge lasting relationships. Advanced privacy settings allow for limiting what we see from those who don't have much to contribute while also controlling who sees what we choose to share.

4. Lists and newsfeeds. The best social media platforms allow for filtering content. You'll see what you want to see from those who have the most to offer during your browsing and reading time. Filtering also reduces or even eliminates distracting filler content that serves no meaningful purpose.

5. URL shorteners. Social media marketing is only as good as the tools you use for measuring success. URL shorteners do an admirable job of tracking the lives of posts long after they've gone live. Particularly good shorteners also work with Google Analytics and related tools for deeper analysis of sharing trends across platforms.

6. Vine and Instagram. Short-form content is gaining steam at a remarkable pace. Short-form video from Vine and Instagram makes it possible to inject personality into every new post, increasing the potential for engagement through longer-form services such as blog content or YouTube.

7. Periscope and Meerkat. Real-time platforms are also growing in popularity as audiences seek to better understand the people and personalities behind the accounts they follow. As of this writing, Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, had collected more than 10 million users by the summer. Use real-time video if your efforts would benefit from direct Q&A with friends, fans, and even detractors.

8. Groups of common interest. As a whole, the Internet doesn't supply many safe havens. The Social Web isn't much better at this. Groups are the exception; several platforms allow like-minded people to organise around a topic and discuss ideas in a non-public forum. Be mindful that your customers or employees may be meeting like this, especially if they need a private forum for sharing gripes about you or your business practices.

9. Replies and comments. Social media gives consumers control and holds brands accountable. For example, on Twitter, dissatisfied customers can simply reply to brand accounts in hopes of getting service. Yet this same dynamic can also be incredibly powerful for finding and engaging with the right audience. Adding a helpful reply in a relevant, hashtagged conversation can help you to build relevant relationships or even win customers.

10. Cross-platform sharing. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, cross-platform amplification makes social media more beneficial than if every platform was its own silo. What's found on Facebook can be shared on Twitter. What's interesting on Instagram can boost engagement on Pinterest. Tools such as HootSuite and Buffer make it so that, as a marketers, we can look at the social web as a whole platform for engaging the audiences that matter to us.

What social media media innovations have you feeling thankful? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.