As we come into the final weeks of the year, the updates keep on coming from the major social networks. And while most of them are minor, they each carry their own implications and indicators on future functionality and options – and they’re worth taking note of, particularly as you go about planning your 2017 social strategy.

As part of our ongoing effort to keep you up to date, here’s a listing of the latest interesting and/or in-test mode or tools and options – starting with Facebook, which has a few updates in motion.

Facebook Testing ‘Send Wave’ Option for Nearby Users

Facebook’s constantly looking to ways to boost sharing and interaction – it’s those personal exchanges, after all, which fuel the platform’s all-knowing ad platform.  All those prompts asking you to share what you’re doing, what you’re feeling, they all contribute to the greater whole and help keep the platform a more engaging experience.

As you can see from the image, Facebook’s testing out an option that would highlight nearby friends on a map and enable you to casually get in contact by sending them a ‘wave’. The function – which immediately reminded me of the ‘Poke’ option – is aimed at boosting interaction and connectivity by helping you connect with your friends, both on and offline. It’s a small feature, but it works for Facebook on two levels:

It gets people interacting more by seeing those nearby, possible prompting future engagement through either meeting in person or just reminding someone you’re there

It could prompt more users to switch on location tracking to take part in this type of serendipitous connection, giving Facebook even more geo-targeting data to track

It’s a handy addition, which could deliver significant benefits. There’s no word on whether this might see a wider release at this stage.

Facebook Offers New ‘Protect’ VPN Option

Somewhat in contrast to ‘Wave’, if you’re really not into your data and info being tracked, Facebook’s also offering a new ‘Protect’ option in your available tools.

If you click on ‘Protect’, you’re diverted to a download screen for the Onavo app – Onavo is a Tel Aviv-based analytics company Facebook acquired back in 2013.  The Onavo app “helps keep you safe from malicious, phishing and unsecure mobile websites” while also securing your details when you enter personal information.

It’s an interesting option for Facebook to provide – when The Social Network originally purchased Onavo, the view was that it would be used to boost their internet.org initiative by providing alternate ways to connect to Facebook. This newer application gives users more options to protect their privacy, should they feel Zuckerberg and Co are over-stepping their bounds.

But then, of course, the notes for the Onavo app do also state that:    “As part of the process, Onavo receives and analyses information about your mobile data and app use.” So maybe you’re protected from some data breaches while enabling others.

Instagram Displaying Links to Facebook Pages

Later.com has reported that some users are seeing Facebook Page links showing up in Instagram profiles on the web.

You can see at the bottom of the bio field that there’s a new link, with a highlighted blue business name. Click on that and you’re taken to the linked Facebook Business Page.

This is only showing up for some users on the web version, not the mobile app, but it’s interesting to consider where Facebook may be headed with this, whether deeper connection between your Facebook and Instagram presences is coming soon.

The option would certainly add more context to your Instagram presence, and provide an additional link option in Instagram, which is always welcome – but then again, the coming shopping tags will provide more link options for brands either way, so this may not be a huge benefit.

Facebook Payments Coming to Europe

There’s a clear Facebook theme to this edition of the five updates you need to know about, right?

The last relevant update from Facebook is that The Social Network has been granted an e-money license from the Central Bank of Ireland.

Now that might not mean much to you – aside from the fact that Zuck and Co seem to be giving the Irish a lot of focus right now. But actually, it’s a bigger deal than it seems.

As per TechCrunch, because Ireland is in the European Union, getting approval for a payments system in that nation means that Facebook can take advantage of ‘passporting’, which means that the same license applies to all 27 EU member states.

As such, the approval opens the door for Facebook to roll out (according to Facebook) “charitable donations on Facebook or peer-to-peer payments via Messenger in Europe”. Basically, Messenger friend-to-friend payments, currently only available in the US, will soon also be made available to users in Europe, greatly expanding Messenger’s business capacity.

Facebook’s working hard to push messenger as an eCommerce platform, and the additional option to make payments within the app in more regions will help solidify and accelerate those plans.

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