This Week in Social (Week of September 9)

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 Updates User Privacy Documentation (Read more at The New York Times)

Facebook updated its data use policy and statement of rights and responsibilities to more clearly explain how Facebook uses the data of its users, including likes, activities, demographics and interactions with ads.  The update also includes information that it may soon use profile photos to help people tag photos of them.

Some of the changes have angered privacy groups, six of which sent a letter to the FTC expressing concern. The controversy surrounds the fact that the updated terms grant Facebook rights to users’ information for the purposes of including them in ads unless they opt-out. Plus,  users’ Facebook profiles can be used to endorse products they may not use or like.

Following the letter, Facebook has delayed the new privacy policy to “ensure that user comments are reviewed and taken into consideration to determine whether further updates are necessary and we expect to finalize the process in the coming week.”

Now, for anyone interested you can opt out of this by going to your privacy settings, selecting “Ads” and disabling “Ads & Friends.”

It’s no surprise that Facebook’s changes have led to controversy. Facebook privacy changes typically do, and this is an example of opt-out vs. opt-in. Facebook probably wouldn’t have any problems if people were invited to opt-into the feature. However, Facebook has not done a good job of explaining why a user would want this feature activated, which explains the route they attempted to take.

Path Adds ‘Inner Circle’ and Private Sharing Features (Read more at Mashable)

Path, the private social network focused on maintaining connections with those you’re closest to, is adding new features.

Users are currently limited to 150 connections on Path. But now users can enable Private Sharing, which sets up a specific, pre-selected group of people you can share more private moments with. The feature is enabled via a padlock icon above the keyboard. Users can also set-up email and push notifications for updates from people within the group. The feature is akin to Google+ circles, except you can only have one.

The other feature is Path Premium. To date, the network has relied on selling sticker packs and camera filters to generate revenue, but now users can get unlimited access to the online shop and early access to new items for $14.99.

Path does not allow ads, so they’ve been very careful about how they monetize, and premium subscriptions seems to make sense. If you’re an avid Path user, it’s a good value.

Private Sharing is a bit more confusing because Path was built to limit the number of connections you have. The need to share with a private subset, in a way, speaks to the idea that users may have too many connections on the network and a need to filter, which defeats the point of the platform.

Topsy Builds the Google of Twitter (Read more at The New York Times)

Twitter’s data partner Topsy has now indexed every tweet ever posted, a feat even Twitter hasn’t accomplished because of costs and infrastrucuture limitations. Twitter search only goes back a few days, but Topsy goes all the way back to the beginning of Twitter.

Topsy has enabled a Twitter search engine and has made it free for anyone to use, which it is using as a way to bring in potential customers for its more premium features.

Topsy plans to continue to index tweets to “eventually be able to scale that to trillions of documents,” according to Topsy CTO Vipul Ved Prakash.

Topsy’s effort raises more awareness of the immense amount of data Twitter has that neither Facebook nor Google have access to. The potential for Twitter’s social data is big, and as one of three data partners with Twitter, Topsy has the potential do a lot with this data. For example, it can look at online mentions and make that data actionable for investors and businesses looking to make decisions.

LinkedIn to Sell $1 Billion in Stock (Read more at AllThingsD)

News broke this week that LinkedIn has filed to sell off $1 billion worth of shares to bring in some additional funds to support business initiatives, including product development, international expansion, improve field sales organization, make acquisitions and address infrastructure needs. LinkedIn and leadership will still retain the majority of the company.

The news comes after a positive second quarter earnings report with increases in revenue and users.

This is exciting news because LinkedIn is not doing this to fund existing operations but to expand its efforts to include more. With Facebook, Yahoo, Google and other tech companies making acquisitions left and right, LinkedIn’s additional funds will likely be used to compete in this new landscape.

Twitter Laying Groundwork for IPO (Read more at The New York Times)

According to some reports, Twitter is preparing for a $15 billion IPO that will take place as early as the first quarter of 2014. The news is reportedly coming from senior banking sources and follows other activity pointing toward the same revelation. Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo has met with advisers from Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

This isn’t the first rumor of its kind, but given the recent resignation of Twitter’s chief lawyer Alex Macgillivray, it may have legs. He fought for free speech on Twitter, but as Twitter becomes a more multinational country, complying with government requests is becoming more and more of a reality for the social networking platform. This would only increase as Twitter becomes a publicly traded company. In addition, he may not have been up to taking the company through an IPO.

Twitter has rapidly been expanding and gaining greater control over its platform in recent months, and an IPO would make sense at this point. It’s developed a fairly robust ad platform and has positioned itself as the premier social TV companion.

Instagram Acquires Luma (Read more at Mashable)

Instagram made its first acquisition, the technology and team from Luma. The team at Luma created a video capture, stabilization and sharing app, which will be shut down on December 31, 2013. In the meantime, existing users can download their videos.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Luma’s video stabilization technology has already been integrated into Instagram. Another feature Instagram is likely looking into is Luma’s “non-disruptive” video filtering, which allows filters to be turned on, changed or removed as a video is being recorded. The platform also allows users to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and exposure.

It’s always exciting to see an acquisition made to make an existing product better, and that’s exactly what we have here. Instagram’s acquisition of talent and technology shows that the platform is very healthy. It also shows how it’s differentiating itself from Vine. Vine focuses on simplicity, much like its owner Twitter. Instagram is focusing on features, quality, power and flexibility, which already includes the ability to upload previously recorded videos from outside of Instagram.

Facebook Gifts Shifts to Gift Cards (Read more at VentureBeat)

Facebook is scrapping physical gifts from its Gifts platform and is shifting its focus to the Facebook Card, which is a gift card that can be used with one of Facebook’s merchant partners. The card allows users to pick a retail partner, select the amount and then send the cards in the mail to a Facebook friend.

The move follows the discovery that about 80% of Gifts on Facebook were digital. This shift is also easier to maintain than physical gifts.

There was something very ‘Facebook’ about the ability to send a physical gift to someone. However, the feature was clearly underused, and this shift makes sense for the long-term future of Facebook

Facebook Removes Third-Party App Requirement for Promotions (Read more at eConsultancy)

Facebook has removed the requirement for brand pages to use third-party applications created on their own or through third-party providers like Wildfire or Vitrue when launching promotions. Brands can now collect entries by having users post, like or comment on the Page, collect entries by having users send a message and use likes a voting mechanism.

In addition to that update, Facebook has now prohibited tagging people in irrelevant content. This means you cannot tag people or ask them to tag themselves in a photo of a new product for a chance to win a prize.

This is a huge benefit for small businesses that had many hoops to jump through, making promotions either impossible to do or forcing the brand to execute a promotion without following the guidelines. Those brands now have more freedom for efforts like ticket giveaways.

This could be a blow for third-party Facebook management platforms like Wildfire, but third-party apps will still play a critical role, especially for larger brands. It’s still necessary to manage entries fairly and according to standard rules and regulations. Those things haven’t gone a way, and for a brand with a large following, managing a promotion without an app could prove cumbersome. It does, however, open a door that had previously been closed.

Twitter Acquires Trendrr (Read more at AdAge)

Twitter acquired Trendrr, a social TV tracking service and the last competitor Twitter had for its own in-house web analytics product. Twitter previously acquired Bluefin Labs, and Nielsen, the measurement service Twitter has partnered with, acquired SocialGuide. Trendrr will shut down as soon as its contracts are wrapped up.

The acquisition comes amid moves by Facebook to enter the social TV game, so this may have been a precautionary move. Trendrr also brings a feature Twitter didn’t previously have, which surfaces and discovers tweets around certain events.

Tech Companies Eying Foursquare for Strategic Investments (Read more at TechCrunch)

Foursquare is being evaluated for potential investment by a number of companies including Microsoft and American Express. Foursquare has started to show its potential for advertising by allowing brands to target users based on their check-in behaviors.

Investment in the company would give the companies greater access to social and location data, an area Microsoft has worked to compete. American Express could use the investment to evolve its loyalty programs, something it already does to a degree using Foursquare.

Foursquare is on track to meet its sales goals for the year, and its location data has attracted a great deal of attention from tech companies, including Yahoo. The partnership would give Microsoft valuable data that it could incorporate into Bing. American Express could absolutely put this to work from a loyalty perspective. The biggest takeaway is Foursquare has recently become an investment darling after being on the end of a great deal of scrutiny in the past.

News Quick Hits

  • Facebook is in the process of testing a trending topics module with select users. The test includes a Twitter-like section of the website showing popular hashtags and topics generating conversation. (Read more at The Wall Street Journal)
  • Facebook has announced that it will be pushing back its October launch of video ads to an undisclosed date. The 15-second spots going for at least $1 million and targeted by demographic were originally supposed to launch at the beginning of this year. The ads’ effect on user experience is still in question, and advertisers have reportedly been “gun-shy” to sign on. (Read more at AdAge)
  • LinkedIn will be phasing out publisher pages on LinkedIn Today and will instead move users to follow company pages. Publisher pages served as a place for trending news by certain publishers and users, but the system was automatic and gave no control over what was shown. (Read more The Next Web)
  • Viggle, an app that listens to what users watch on TV and then rewards them for it, is launching the Viggle Audience Network. Advertisers will be able to access specific segments out of the 10 million-person network and push messages to users of the app as an extension of their TV buys. (Read more at LostRemote)
  • Facebook has been ordered to pay $9 million to 614,000 users as part of a settlement to compensate users for using their photos in Sponsored Stories without permission. The payout to each user who responded to a class action notice sent to them will be $15. (Read more at GIGAOM)
  • Yahoo users who applied for their ideal user name were sent a link to claim their usernames. Users who did not apply for the program can now use a feature called Watchlist, which monitors unclaimed names and sends a notification if a name you want becomes available. The cost is $1.99. (Read more at The Next Web)
  • Feedly has launched a Pro version for $5 per month or $45 per year. The feature was seeded with 5,000 users last month who were able to pay $99 for lifetime access to Pro features. Now, that’s available to everyone. It includes features like search. (Read more at VentureBeat)
  • Twitter has now simplified reporting abuse by adding a single button on people’s accounts that takes them right to a section where they can report abuse. In addition to the button, Twitter plans to increase the number of people on staff to vet submissions. (Read more at CNET)
  • Twitter has updated its website and mobile applications to show tweets that are part of a conversation in chronological order with users able click to see more if they would like to. The idea is to make it easier to decipher what others are talking about and what spurred the conversation. (Read more at Twitter’s Blog)
  • Yahoo updated seven of its Web properties and unleashed a new mobile look across many properties, including Mail, Search and News. The redesign is part of an effort to unify the UI across devices. (Read more at The Next Web)
  • Foursquare has launched an update for Android phones that pushes recommendations for nearby locations to visit proactively. This means users can receive recommendations on where to go even if they don’t check-in. (Read more at GIGAOM)