This Week in Social (Week of July 22)

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.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates on Users’ Feeds (Read more at AdWeek)

LinkedIn announced Sponsored Updates this week. The brand messages appear right within user feeds along with updates, job change announcements and other information that appears on a users’ LinkedIn home page. The updates look similar to other updates and can take the form of articles, videos, slideshows or white papers. They are, however, identified with a “Sponsored” mark. Users can like, comment, share or hide a post.

The feature has been in testing with some brands, including Xerox and Nissan, for six months but will be available to all Company Pages by the end of July through a self-serve ad product.

These ad units provide a straightforward way for LinkedIn to monetize its mobile users. Facebook took the same approach with ads that display in user News Feeds. We’ve seen LinkedIn make some major investments in mobile, so the introduction of Sponsored Updates allows them to make that investment pay off.

There’s nothing revolutionary here as this is a standard play by any social network, but it does offer a way for recruiters, B2B organizations and even consumer-focused brands to leverage the platform further via message distribution. Many businesses invest a great deal in content creation. LinkedIn is now offering another method to give that content, which may take the form of presentations or whitepapers, more reach.

Twitter Expands TV Targeting to All National Advertisers (Read more at Bloomberg)

Twitter has made it no secret that TV will play a big part in the network’s future, and part of making that a reality included a new TV ad targeting program that allows advertisers to retarget Twitter users after they’ve seen a TV commercial. The product has been in testing since May, and it boasted a 58% higher purchase intent than people who just saw the TV ad. That ad unit is now available to all marketers, not just a select few.

Twitter has become synonymous with social TV, and after its acquisition of social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs, this move is not surprising.

In order for this to be successful, brands will need to be integrated. Media teams will need to speak with social teams to make sure everyone is on the same page. The results to date have been impressive, but that’s only because the brands testing the product were able to coordinate their TV and social media marketing efforts.           

Flipboard Launches Web Version (Read more at GIGAOM)

Flipboard has become synonymous with lean back mobile content consumption only available through an app. Well, Flipboard changed that this week with a new web version for its custom magazines.

Custom magazines are the creations of users who curate content found through Flipboard and around the web. These user-generated magazines are now available through web browsers.

There are a few caveats with the web version. Users have to go to a Flipboard app to create an account, personalize their magazines, connect social accounts and access the content guide.

According to Flipboard, this should increase their reach and make the platform available when users aren’t with their tablets and able to kickback.

This move is a logical evolution for Flipboard. If the platform wants to expand its user base, the logical option is to become available on more ubiquitous devices—computers. This should improve Flipboard’s reach in markets with lower smart phone and tablet proliferation, which will in turn make the platform more attractive for publishers looking to reach more readers.

Facebook Reports Strong Growth in Q2 Earnings (Read more at The Wall Street Journal)

Facebook had a pretty solid week. During its Q2 financial results report, Facebook said it reached 1.15 billion monthly active users, 699 million daily active users and a 51% increase over last year’s monthly active mobile users to reach 819 million. 469 million users are daily active mobile users.

Revenue was also up coming in at $1.81 billion, 53% higher than last year. Advertising made up $1.6 billion of total revenue with mobile ad revenue making up 41% of total ad revenue.

One of the big stars for Facebook is the ads that appear in user news feeds. Currently, 1 in 20 posts in the news feed is an ad.

In addition to those numbers, the second quarter has been busy for Facebook:

  • Facebook now has more than 1 million active advertisers.
  • Video came to Instagram.
  • Verfied pages, hashtags and embedded posts launched.

Investors were impressed by what they heard with shares going up 17% in aftermarket trading, reaching $31 per share. That’s still less than it’s $38 IPO price, but it’s getting closer.

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were also quick to point out that Facebook is still popular among younger users, something that’s been questioned in the past. It also sees high use during prime time TV viewing hours, which has been a big focus for Twitter.

The biggest win for Facebook was that it showed that it’s successfully started to shift to mobile. Soon mobile revenue will surpass desktop ad revenue. If there were any doubts as to whether or not Facbeook could successfully pivot, they seem to have allayed fears for the moment.

Facebook is, however, very reliant on advertising. This could annoy users. As more ads come in, users will have to decide how much they’ll tolerate.

One thing is clear. Facebook is laser focused on mobile. Marketers have responded that they want to rely on Facebook. Things look good for them.

Zynga Ends Plans for Real-Money Gambling (Read more at Inside Social Games)

David Ko, Zynga’s COO, announced that the company is discontinuing its plans to bring real-money online gambling to the U.S. and will instead focus on social gaming and the casual audience its built up through games like Farmville. Part of the reason for the change in plans is more competitors coming onto the scene with social casino games and a rise in what Ko called “illegitimate credit card activity.”

The announcement came among news that users are still declining, which sent stocks down 12% to $3.05 per share.

This is the first big announcement since former head of Xbox Don Mattrick took over as Zynga CEO at the beginning of July.

Zynga also announced that revenues were down 31% since last year to $231 million, daily active users declined from 72 million last year to 39 million in Q2 2013 and monthly active users were down from 306 million last year to 187 million.

Zynga is in refocus mode, and as Mattrick takes the helm, these announcements show that Mattrick will emphasis Zynga’s core capabilities, while emphasizing mobile. The poor performance was not unexpected. The next year will say a lot about whether or not Zynga can make a turn.

News Quick Hits

  • Netflix has had a great year by the numbers. The video streaming and DVD-by-mail rental service gained 630,000 U.S. subscribers in the spring, partially because of exclusive content in the form of new Arrested Development episodes. Some investors expected more, which sent the stock price down 8% in after-hours trading before rebounding this week. The news, however, follows big news for Netflix which saw its original show, House of Cards, receive nine Emmy nominations. (Read more at The New York Times)
  • YouTube is giving users the ability to subscribe to channels off of YouTube.com. Publishers can now embed subscribe buttons on their own websites, allowing users to subscribe without being taken offsite. This is part of a concerted effort to encourage people to subscribe to more channels. (Read more at GIGAOM)
  • Trendrr reported that Facebook “outpaces all other social networks combined by a 5-to-1-margin with social TV activity.” The big takeaway from the study is that Facebook, despite Twitter’s push for social TV, is the dominant platform for TV conversations. It is worth noting, however, that the findings were taken only over a one-month period. (Read more at LostRemote)
  • Foursquare has opened up its self-serve ad platform to “a few thousand local businesses” before expanding to others in the coming months. The feature allows marketers to target ads by proximity, search or previous check-in behavior. (Read more at MediaPost)
  • Google launched Chromecast, a $35 device that plugs into HDTVs to give them the ability to stream from the cloud and be controlled via phone, tablet or computer. The product offers an affordable way to view a video on a tablet or phone and toss it over to the TV, a feature the $99 Apple TV is also capable of. (Read more at AdAge)
  • Twitter was caught in what appears to be an inadvertent mistake but still a serious one. The network showed people tweeting about products they’d never tweeted to help sell Twitter ad products. Twitter was quick to apologize, but one user has said he may sue for unauthorized use of his likeness. (Read more at SFGate)
  • Google+ Local for iOS, a mobile search and discovery app, will no longer be available for iPhones and iPads on August 7. Instead, the features from Google+ Local will be rolled up into the Explore feature of Google Maps. The app brought Yelp-like features, allowing users to search for businesses, view ratings, leave reviews and save content. (Read more at Apple Insider)