This Week in Social (Week of June 3)

This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.

Facebook Lets Users Take a Break from Home (Read more at TechCrunch)  

Facebook Home, the social network’s mobile operating system, has not taken off quite like Facebook may have hoped. The HTC First is being discontinued and reviews of Home have not been overwhelmingly positive.

Facebook’s taking steps to alleviate issues. One of those issues is the invasiveness of Facebook Home because it literally makes Facebook front-and-center with everything you do on your Android device. Facebook is now letting Home users temporarily deactivate Home to use the stock Android 4.1 OS or other launcher.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on Facebook Home’s success saying, “We consider it v1, very early. We’d love if we could put out a v1 version and get everything right. The feedback we’re getting is very bi-modal. If you look at our stars, we get fives and we get ones. We get almost no threes…. For the people who don’t love it, they don’t like how it takes over their phone. They don’t like how the launcher re-organizes the apps they’ve already launched, but for the most part they actually like the two core features we launched which are Cover Feed and Chat Heads. So what we are doing is getting that feedback. I don’t know how long it will take. I think it will be a long road, but we really believe we’re on a path to making phones more social.”

Other improvements that Facebook has rolled out for Home include a dock that makes it easier for users to access their favorite apps, the ability to send multiple photos in a single message and the ability to change who can see something that’s already been shared.

When you think about what Facebook has done over the past year and a half in the realm of mobile, it’s impressive. They’ve launched mobile ads, which have become a primary source of revenue, and Facebook Home was an ambitious project.

Home may not succeed, and Facebook showed a high degree of hubris with its launch assuming people would want Facebook front-and-center 24/7. This effort shows that Facebook is listening, and as it gathers more information, Home may be more palatable for more people.

Foursquare Tests Small Business Program (Read more at AdAge)

Foursquare is continuing its monetization expansion efforts by testing a new program that lets small businesses promote themselves within the platform. This has already been tested on large advertisers such as Burger King, Starwood Hotels and Gap.

Now, several New-York based small businesses are allowed to promote their listings when a customer is close their locations. Users can be targeted by check-in behavior and geographic location. Merchants can show photos of products, highlight reviews, share their listings and offer discounts for checking-in.

All of this is part of Foursquare’s plan to deliver value to users, while also generating revenue from advertisers. This represents phase two of Foursquare’s monetization approach.

Foursquare has all the pieces to succeed. It’s unique and very mobile friendly. Their challenge at the moment is reinvigorating its user base and getting advertisers excited about the technology. From an advertising perspective, there’s potential in targeting people by location and check-in behavior to bring them in-store.

Vine Coming to Android (Read more at The Guardian)

Twitter’s six-second looping video app Vine has come to Android users after being exclusively available to iOS users since January. Android users have been given a bonus feature for being so patient—a zoom tool. Vine developers plan to bring both iOS and Android versions closer from a feature perspective soon.

Vine currently has 13 million users and receives five videos per second.

Instagram took a similar approach to its release being first available for iOS users and then expanding to Android. If that’s any indication, Vine’s user numbers may increase dramatically as Instagram was downloaded one million times in 24 hours after expanding to Android.

Vine is following a natural evolution of building a user base, gaining some traction and then expanding. Some brands have already embraced it as a way to communicate with consumers. Lowe’s has proven to be the most cited case. As Vine’s users expand, brands will probably give Vine more consideration to see if and how it fits into marketing initiatives from both a community engagement and content creation standpoint.

Pinterest Lets Users Search for their Pins (Read more at All Things D)

Pinterest implemented a new feature that lets users search for pins, overcoming the major headache of going through all of your pins to find the one you’re looking for. Whether it’s a recipe or a DIY project, you can now search for it.

Users can use a search bar and set a filter for “just my pins,” which limits results to only content the user has added to a board. This will likely encourage users to add more specific tags, keywords and descriptions to their pins, which helps Pinterest develop a better data set and helps users find what they’re looking for faster.

When you think about how Pinterest is used by people, it’s clear that this is a feature that was sorely missing. People use Pinterest to curate ideas and content that they love and may want to implement in their own lives to one degree or another.

The real potential here though is that Pinterest can gather additional data on user intent. It can already glean information on what someone is interested in by what they pin and repin, but if it can get an idea of what you’re looking for, it can determine what you’re about to do. Understanding that kind of behavior could be a big deal and could lead Pinterest to introduce search advertising. If you’re searching for a pizza recipe, Whole Foods would love to put some fresh ingredients in front of you as well.

Facebook Simplifies Ads (Read more at The New York Times)

Facebook is taking steps to make its advertising offerings simpler. It announced plans to cut its ad offerings, which currently sits at 27, by half. In addition, it will discontinue Offers for online deals and only let them be used for offline deals. Questions are also being removed from brand Pages. Instead, Facebook recommends marketers simply ask their questions in a post.

Finally, Sponsored Stories will be more generalized and make social info like comments and likes more commonplace in other ad units. The number of Sponsored Stories ads stands at 13 right now. This means the “Sponsored Story” ad offering is going away, but its features will be condensed and integrated into most ad units.

The changes also include a simplified process for purchasing ads by first asking what the goal of the ad buy is: building brand image or getting customers in the store. From there, Facebook suggests which units would be most effective. The simplification starts in a few weeks but won’t wrap up until the end of Q3.

Director of monetization product marketing Brian Boland commented, “An advertiser's going be an expert on how they think about mobile. Advertisers can still target who they want to target but be able to do that in a way that's easier, more aligned to their objectives and more measurable."

There are a couple things here that are good. Facebook is simplifying. The platform has grown overly complicated and incredibly cumbersome. Marketers almost need to specialize in Facebook to be able to keep up with everything, and even then it’s a struggle. This change makes Facebook more approachable and puts it more in the realm of consideration when developing a marketing plan.

The other piece is that Facebook is focusing on what marketers want to accomplish. The value of Facebook has come into question. Now, Facebook asks what success means to the brand and delivers recommendations based on that.

News Quick Hits

  • Yahoo is discontinuing Mail Classic, and it started this week by requiring Mail Classic users to switch to the new version. This means users either need to find a new email service or accept the terms of service and privacy policy allowing Yahoo to scan emails to deliver ads, deliver product features and provide abuse protection. While this has raised some controversy over privacy, many argue that Gmail and other services already scanning email messages. (Read more at TechCrunch)
  • Zynga has announced that it will lay off 18% of its workforce and will be closing offices in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Layoffs will occur across all functions by August. The company has struggled since its IPO to maintain its initial momentum when social gaming got started. (Read more at AllFacebook)
  • Twitter Music had a great launch but has struggled to remain relevant. Twitter’s updated its landing page with alternating images of cover art, but questions remain whether or not it can get back into the conversation.  (Read more at AllTwitter)
  • Google has merged its Wildfire technology with its DoubleClick online display ad system, allowing marketers to measure the social media performance with other digital marketing efforts, including search, display and mobile. All of this will be viewable in a single platform. (Read more at AdAge)
  • Twitter launched a TweetDeck refresh that includes what Twitter calls a “lighter and simpler” design. The top toolbar has moved to the left side of the screen along with the button to create a new tweet, the search feature and other navigation. Users can drag-and-drop columns to reorder them and easily add new columns. This comes shortly after Twitter announced that mobile TweetDeck applications will shut down, so Twitter can focus on the web version. (Read more at CNET)
  • Facebook wrapped up converting Facebook Credits to local currencies, a process that started in March by launching a local currency payments API, which developers have 90 days to migrate to. Facebook Credits will not be supported after September 12. Facebook touts benefits for developers, which include the ability to set prices by market, cache static prices with Facebook and remove the blocking server request to collect item information at the time of purchase and realize additional reduced latency as a result of fewer server requests for payment completion. (Read more at AllFacebook)
  • Twitter signed another big agency deal with a partnership with WPP. The deal gives WPP access to more Twitter data to be used in campaigns and user targeting. In exchange, WPP will increase spending on Twitter. The deal is similar to another Twitter-agency deal with Starcom. (Read more at AdAge)