This Week in Social (Week of January 13)

Twitter Web Redesign Resembles Mobile Experience (Read more at The Verge)

Twitter’s web presence was given an update to more closely resemble Twitter’s iOS and Android apps. The rollout is taking place gradually for users, but users with the update are noticing that their profile and header images are now in the left sidebar. Instead of a short bio, a user just sees their name, number of tweets, number of followers and number of people the user is following. Below that is an area to compose a tweet.

As for a Twitter stream, it’s largely the same with inline photos and updates from people you follow. The black bar at the top has been replaced by a white bar with the sections: Home, Connect, Discover and Me. In addition, users can easily get to Direct Messages and their settings.

Twitter’s changes aren’t groundbreaking, but they do show how it is working to make the Twitter experience across devices. Perhaps, the most important update is the compose box that now sits on the left-hand sidebar, eliminating the need for a pop-up box to compose a tweet. This update may be intended to encourage more content creation from users.

Facebook Acquires Branch and Potluck (Read more at TechCrunch)

Facebook acquired Branch and its sister service, Potluck, this week for an estimated $15 million. The acquisition adds nine people from the Branch team to Facebook. The group will form what Facebook calls its Conversations Group.

Branch was invited by Facebook to “build Branch at Facebook scale.” Their existing products will still continue to operate for the time being. Facebook’s Conversations Group will have the goal of “helping people connect with others around their interests.”

Branch was built to allow people to dive into deeper discussions on topics, something platforms like Twitter are limited in offering Potluck is a link sharing service.

Clearly, the biggest question is what Facebook’s Conversations Group will do, and we’ll have to wait to see what indeed that is. However, based off of Branch and Potluck, it may be involved in helping users to have deeper conversations on the Facebook platform as it looks to evolve to be a news destination as well as a social network.

Tumblr Adds Mention Alerts (Read more at CNET)

Tumblr has added a feature Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have had for awhile, but it’s better late than never. Several months ago, Tumblr started allowing users to tag friends on their platform and automatically link to their blogs. The latest update alerts users when they are mentioned within the Activity page. This is in addition to alerts for post likes, reblogs or when someone sends a user an “ask.”

Tumblr often lags behind other social networks when it comes to adding certain features, but as a platform it’s very different. This feature is by no means groundbreaking. However, Tumblr has seen a decline in unique visitors, so this may be a way to notify users to come back to the platform from time to time to see who is mentioning them and how.

Twitter Allows Ad Targeting by Email and User ID (Read more at TechCrunch)

Twitter introduced an update to Tailored Audiences that allows advertisers to upload their CRM databases (in a way that protects user identities) or lists of Twitter usernames or user IDs and target users. Tailored Audiences started out as a way for advertisers to retarget ads to people who visited their websites on Twitter. 

This is a feature Facebook started offering in September of 2012 through their Custom Audiences program. 

This is a nice step for Twitter, which is allowing advertisers to take another data source and plug it into the platform. Twitter is often a place in which brands share their latest news. Advertisers can use this tool to, for example, promote a new product release to their loyalty members. In addition, a brand could monitor for online conversations about their products, collect user IDs, segment them and target ads based on what those users are saying.

The potential here is big for brands with a Twitter presence and want to deliver highly targeted messages to people who may be more receptive than others.

Facebook Launches Trending Topics (Read more at TechCrunch)

Facebook continued its approach to follow Twitter with its approach to adding features with the addition of Trending. Trending adds a list of topics to the right hand of user News Feeds that have seen a spike in discussion and popularity. The feature is similar to Twitter’s Trending Topics. However, Facebook does say that the list each user sees will be personalized based on individual interests. Each topic will have a headline with a description on why the topic is trending. Right now, it will only be available on desktop and cannot be sponsored at this time.

The update allows Facebook to bring in relevant content for users, no matter who their friends are or brands they follow. This could encourage more serendipitous content discovery, encouraging users to spend more time on the site, share their thoughts on a trending topic and generate conversation

One thing Facebook adds that makes its Trending feature more approachable than Twitter’s is the brief description it gives users. People can see at a glance why something is trending and then decide to participate. The barrier to dive into tweets to see why something is trending is removed from Facebook’s approach. The challenge Facebook will have is that its user’s do not share as much publicly as Twitter’s users.

News Quick Hits

  • YouTube has added a comment management page for channel admins to more easily manage user comments. From the page admins can view, respond to and mange comments on their videos. This update follows Google’s latest moves to change its commenting system by prioritizing posts individually for users based on their Google+ circles. (Read more at CNET)
  • Google has acquired the smart home technology company, Nest, for $3.2 billion. Nest became known for its wi-fi connected thermostat and smoke detector. It will continue to operate as a separate brand. Google has not disclosed its plans, but it will likely leverage Nest for data collection, especially while users are away from their computers. This may be Google’s biggest step toward pushing forward with the Internet of Things. Google has also shown interest in creating more connected hardware. Google Glass is just one example. (Read more at John Battelle’s Search Blog)
  • Buffers has upgraded its Buffer for Business platform by adding Google Analytics, so marketers can now match performance to marketing campaigns, track follower growth across networks and analyze post performance. (Read more at SocialTImes)
  • Twitter is reportedly working with Stripe to develop a way to add e-commerce to Twitter. The vision would be for Stripe to allow Twitter users to make purchases without having to redirect to a retailer’s website. (Read more at The Wall Street Journal)