Small steps in social often mean huge leaps in connectivity (and connectedness): Get the latest on how Facebook's plans will change your relationship to your phone, Instagram's new collage layout app, and Twitter autoplay videos. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Skim to stay ahead.

What you need to know from Facebook's F8 conference

First up: Facebook will open Messenger's API to third-party developers, transforming that annoying extra app in your phone into a social network in itself: Send GIFs from Giphy, order a cab, or even transfer payments to friends. Unfortunately apps that work with Messenger will have to be downloaded separately, meaning you'll probably need a whole separate folder dedicated to Facebook alone. But, in the near future, Messenger will be more than a chat platform that you're reluctant to use: It may soon be a place you never leave, embedded into many of the apps you find useful tomorrow.

Take special note of Businesses on Messenger, also previewed at the F8 conference. It enables people to have "rich and personal conversations with businesses." After buying something on your site, people could opt to receive Messenger updates, including order confirmations and shipping status updates, and it will even let users modify or track orders... or simply ask questions. The feature will launch with a handful of partners.

Other goodies: Facebook's launched an iOS version of React Native—a framework for native environments—and successfully piloted a drone that will "help connect people living in the world's most remote communities." It's also diving deeper into Artificial Intelligence, and is investing more into Oculus; Facebook hopes its virtual technology will "completely change the way we communicate and collaborate." It'll be a big year for the new Big Blue.

Oh, yeah. Did we also mention its spankin' new video embed feature? Check it out below. To embed videos, just go to the post in question and click on "Embed Video" on the lower right-hand side of the screen.

Some of the leading minds in AI research are working at Facebook to build intelligent machines. One of the group's more recent advances is a technology called Memory Networks, which enables a machine to perform relatively sophisticated question answering, as in this example of a machine answering questions about a Lord of the Rings synopsis.

Posted by Facebook Engineering on Thursday, March 26, 2015

1. Use Facebook data to auction off mobile app ads

Through a new, real-time auction feature run by LiveRail, Facebook's video ad exchange, mobile app publishers can now sell in-app display and video ad inventory. Facebook will also avail anonymized user data to marketers, for improved ad targeting. This makes Facebook a big player against Google's AdMob mobile ad network, not to mention Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, and Twitter's MoPub mobile ad exchange. Given that Facebook will soon be owning users' phones, it only makes sense that it become your one-stop mobile ad market, too.

2. Get Facebook marketing-certified

Facebook's new Blueprint training program is a series of courses and in-person training sessions that will help you master the fine art of Facebook marketing. Some 35 courses are available, including Facebook terminology, A/B testing, and direct response marketing. The program tracks your progress and results; and, once you've finished, you get a certificate from the 'Book itself.

3. Boost your nostalgia quotient...

Facebook's launched On This Day, a feature that builds on #tbt (Throwback Thursday) popularity by making it easier for you to share moments you've already experienced. A separate "On This Day" section will show what you shared, or were tagged in, in past years on the day in question. To see your page, click on the On This Day bookmark, search for "on this day," or simply visit Only you can see it... until you decide to share a moment with others. Everyday will be Throwback Thursday now (just don't tell our moms).

4. Say hello to Instagram Layout

If you've ever seen collages on Instagram and wondered how people made them, you needn't worry ever again: Instagram's launched Layout for iOS (with Android support to come). Layout lets you combine multiple images into one, and it's super-easy to use. A Faces option lets you toggle to photos in your camera roll that feature faces in them. In addition to filter options and the ability to change the sizes of pics in your different layouts, you also get a Photo Booth, which lets you instantly capture photos for quick layout creation. Think of all the selfies you could make! Or, better yet, share all the servings of a dinner, or features of a product, without imposing four separate photos on your community.

To boost your Layout skills, here are nine pro tips on producing immaculate Instagram photos. Watch your back, Wes Anderson.

5. What actually works on your Instagram account

Why dive into the photo race blind? Picstats tells you what hashtags work best on your account and which filters your community loves most, in addition to details on top likers, commenters, hours of the day, and days of the week. That's just the beginning: It even provides stats on your community's reading grade level. Do with that data what you will; if you're using Instagram for storytelling, it may actually help a lot.

6. Twitter's testing autoplay video ads

Like on Instagram or Facebook, the video ads will start playing in your feed when you scroll by—making it more likely for users to stop and watch. Paired with Periscope, a recently purchased service that lets you watch and create live video from a mobile phone, it may well give Meerkat a run for its money.

Speaking of Meerkat, here are eight ways brands can add it into their marketing mix. These include product demonstrations, events, product launches, promotions, interviews, and more. (This can all apply to Periscope too, obviously.)

7. Salesforce: Using social & CRM to improve ads

Salesforce is wedding its bespoke CRM tool to Facebook's and Twitter's ad platforms to trigger ads based on users' past interactions with marketers. Active Audiences lets you "take your existing customer database and target specific contacts within it with ads," says Senior VP of Product Marketing Eric Stahl. Basically, cut up existing contact lists and serve ads based on previous behaviors: For example, show ads only to customers in an existing loyalty program who haven't booked a room in a few months. The data Salesforce uses will be drawn from customers, so cookies won't play a big role. Say hello to a new age in granular advertising.

8. The definitive infographic guide to Millennials

What percentage of Millennials lives with mom and dad? What's their average marrying age, and when are they most likely to buy a home? Goldman Sachs produced a gorgeous, super-detailed infographic subsite on the Millennial generation (people born between 1980 and 2000). Quick tip: When setting up a Millennial-focused service, think less about ownership and more about access. They care more about the latter... and don't mind sharing.

9. Introducing deep linking by

Our favorite link shortener has launched a deep-linking feature to drive mobile users directly from one app to the next (instead of first sending them to a browser to open a link to an app). Use it to drive app installs.

10. Content marketing on a budget

What's the best way to handle the click-through giant that is content? Start here to ensure your plan doesn't go off into the weeds. You'll learn how to define what content to use (and reuse), identify your audience, and develop a content and distribution plan to keep you on track.

11. An oft-updated guide to social media image sizes

If you're having trouble keeping track of all those ideal-image-size infographics, just hold on to this link, which Buffer plans to update regularly. Throughout the year, it'll be the best place to find out what pixel ratio you should be using for your Facebook cover photos, Twitter profile pics, LinkedIn pages, Pinterest profiles, and more. Why guess when you can always just know?

12. We'll wrap with a shout to the YouTube Music Awards

If you love music, this is gold: On Monday, over a dozen artists debuted new music videos just for the awards, and you can access all the playlists right here. Hosted by Tyler Oakley and produced by Vice, the social spectacle is one piece in YouTube's plan to better serve musicians. Check out the winners, which will give you plenty of ear candy to listen to for the rest of the year.

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image of Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a social media strategist, copywriter, and journalist based in Paris. A Bay Area native and lover of vending machine candies, she co-founded and is a frequent guest on marketing podcast The Beancast. You can follow her on Twitter at @luckthelady.