This Week in Social (Week of Feb. 11)

This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are discussed in greater depth on the Brave Ad World Podcast.

Google+ Updates Circles with ‘Find People’

Google+ has added a new way to discover connections through the ‘Find People’ icon, which now sits in the left-hand menu and actually replaces the Circles icon. This takes users to a list of suggested contacts with the profile pictures of recommendations organized in a grid format.

Users can also filter contacts in several ways, including places of work and educational institutions.

This doesn’t mean Google is replacing Circles. Instead, they’re trying to make the change because most new Google+ users coming from the world of Facebook don’t know what Circles are. Google+ is now being more explicit on how to find connections. The update is similar to Facebook’s friend discovery functionality.

It seems Google is taking steps to make Google+ a bit more user friendly. They’ve been requiring new Gmail users to sign up for Google+, and the platform has built the second-highest active user base of all social networks. However, questions remain on just how engaged that user base is.

This could be a first step of many to make the platform more accessible to more users.

Amex Launches Pay to Tweet

Twitter and American Express have grown their partnership by launching a new service that allows members who connect their cards with their Twitter accounts to tweet a hashtag to purchase a product with a special deal shared by @AmexSync on Twitter.

Basically, users tweet with a hashtag to make a purchase and tweet that purchase to their followers. Once a user tweets, he or she will receive an automated message with a confirmation code. From there a user has 15 minutes to tweet the confirmation hashtag. Then Amex processes and sends the product.

The move comes only two weeks after Facebook partnered with Discover to launch Facebook Card. Although, American Express has been experimenting with tactics like this for some time. They launched Card Synch technology in 2011, allowing card members to connect their accounts with their social media profiles. According to Twitter’s VP of Global Brand Strategy Joel Lunenfeld, “We’re convinced that commerce is going to be one of the areas advertisers are going to start using our platform.”

Lunenfeld may be right, but it still has a ways to go. This seems to be using technology for the sake of using technology, not necessarily making the lives of consumers easier. It also has the potential to annoy Twitter users by filling feeds with spam of people making purchases. At best, this is an opportunity for Twitter to test an ecommerce feature to turn into a full product because this is not there yet.

Twitter Builds on its API with Additional Features

Twitter is adding additional metadata to its API on February 20.  The first allows developers to identify the language a tweet is in.  The second tells developers which tweets are of ‘high value,’ to better surface content a user wants to see because of its relevancy and engagement.

Value will be categorized as “none,” “low” and “medium” at first with “high” coming in a future update. “Medium” and “high” tweets will likely be ones that have received a lot of retweets and come from users with large followings. This feature will likely be leveraged in Twitter’s Discover tab.  Although, what third-party developers do with the updates is what will be most interesting.

This means developers will be able to weed out a lot of the noise on Twitter and identify the best tweets. Twitter is full of a lot of data, but much of is noise. This has the potential to allow developers to find the tweets that carry the most value, which could be excellent for research as well as helping marketers get a better understanding of consumers who are most “influential.”

Facebook Closes Preferred Marketing Developer Program

Facebook has temporarily closed its Preferred Marketing Developer Program to new applicants until it’s able to update the requirements. The updated requirements will focus on a partner’s ability to deliver paid advertising expertise along with earned opportunities like creating brand pages and apps.

The program began with the intention to allow businesses an easier method for finding partners to help them build applications and make the most out of Facebook. Now, there’s a big emphasis on paid media expertise, too.

“Please note that if you do not buy ads or Sponsored Stories on behalf of your clients, you will need to show us that you have the ability to pitch a Facebook holistic strategy and influence your clients on media spend,” said an email sent to a developer by Facebook.

Facebook says there isn’t a requirement to run ads, but it does want members of the program to have a comprehensive understanding of the platform.

Success on Facebook is requiring marketers to take both a paid and earned approach more and more every day. Marketers can no longer fully leverage Facebook by focusing on one without the other. Plus, Facebook’s under pressure to show gains in revenue and has been courting advertisers and agencies to do so. This is one more step to push businesses away from viewing Facebook as just earned media.

News Quick Hits

  • Foursquare launched a “share” button on venue pages this week that allows current Foursquare users to share venue content with other mobile users who do not use Foursquare via email or text. The venue pages will include tips, photos, address and contact information in the form of a mobile-friendly web page. The move appears to show Foursquare is taking a step away from being a social network to being a local business discovery service, similar to Yelp. Foursquare is also improving search, adding more prominence to the ‘Explore’ section and improving navigation for the Android version of its app.
  • Skype is adding the ability to send Skype gift cards to fellow users. The feature is included in birthday notifications. From there, users can design a Skype card with credits, add a message and send it to the birthday boy or girl. The feature is limited to Skype credits, but it has the potential to expand like Facebook gifts and Facebook cards  to include retailers.
  • Facebook has allowed users to pay to promote their own posts for a few months, and this week it’s allowing users to do the same thing for friends’ posts. That’s right. You’ll soon be able to promote the post of a friend by clicking the menu button on the top right of a post. This feature, according to Facebook, could be used to promote charities, events or help friends sell something or rent out their apartments. Posts will not be promoted to anyone you don’t already allow the ability to see your posts, but friends don’t need permission to promote your posts.
  • Vimeo has launched a new app for making animated GIFs. Vimeo announced this week that it acquired Echograph, which, much like Twitter’s Vine, allows users to create and view short video clips in a loop. The Echograph team will join Vimeo but will remain a separate brand.