Today Facebook announced Timeline for Pages and held an all day conference for marketers to learn the ins and outs of the new features. Facebook also took the opportunity to re-explain how social is core to social media marketing. They spoke of creating stories and not ads as the key to the new Facebook. They showed examples of how social media should be by showcasing brands like Red Bull, Ben and Jerry’s, and Macy’s (I’m guessing they still get perks for Miracle on 34th Street). They talked to industry leaders who all echoed the social media mantra. Still, it’s going to take some time for it all to sink in.
To this end Facebook presented a number of features in order that should empower those that want to embrace to the social of social media marketing. The Timeline is a huge step in showcasing a brands interactions online. It’s literally their social history. Sure, they can remove posts, but how much are you going to trust a brand that’s been online for years and has nothing to show for it. The Timeline will also feature posts from a user’s friend that mention the brand. This may include negative rants, but this is still to be seen. Lastly, the Timeline is a break from the marketing pages of yesterday (literally) which often featured “like-gated” content so the marketing team could brag about the number of Likes they had.
Other features to support the humanization of pages include the ability for a page (read: brand) to have direct correspondence with individual users, limitations of the types of images that can be used in the hero image (no “like us”, “50% off”, or other promotional type images), and highlighting the user’s friend’s brand related activities (mentioned earlier). They also added the ability for brand posts to be apart of the both the desktop and mobile news feeds (paid service, like Twitter’s promoted Tweets), though this one seems to support the old ad model more than socialization.
So the question is, will Facebook’s new tools along with the reminder that social media is a bi-directional conversation help change those clinging to the broadcast mentality? Will these new tools help champion the social among the social marketers or will they be bastardized to support the old regime?
“Sure, Facebook looks massively successful. With a mind-boggling 750 million users, the social site can do no wrong, right?
Look closer, and it looks like Facebook can do nothing right. The company has tried and failed to launch or integrate new services that might thrill users. But users aren’t thrilled. And now its strategy appears to be: Just copy Google+.
Don’t look now, but Facebook is quickly becoming the new Yahoo.”
Well written and catchy but if we all took a time machine back to when Google was announcing that they were killing Google Wave or when they launched Buzz the comments from the tech press focused on how Google lost it’s edge, or was confused as to where it wanted to go or simply Google doesn’t understand social.
Now that Google+ is public (beta) and making waves it seems that Google either learned from their mistakes, gained a sense of vision, everyone forgot all the shit talking that took place last year, or some combination of the three. So now it’s Facebook’s turn to feel the wrath of the tech fueled fads that are nearly as cliquish as what we see in high schools across the country. Let’s face it the popular kid can’t remain popular forever and right now Facebook is feeling the heat regardless of Google+.
With that in mind Mike Elgan makes some solid points regarding Facebook’s recent history. Their fumbled attempts to catch on to the latest trends. Their popularity shift from the wanted élite to being everything to everybody. Their struggle with the weight of their own existence. All of it dead on. Including the remarks regarding Yahoo’s struggle to find its place in the new world order. Still I wouldn’t count Facebook out of the race just yet. Google and Apple are two good examples of companies that were down but clearly not out.
Earlier this week Google launched their new social platform, Google+ and unlike their previous attempts (Wave and Buzz) this one isn’t a beta concept. Currently it’s only in limited release and invites are hard to come by, but beyond that, it’s anything but beta. Instead Google+ is a slick, well designed, full fledged attempt to compete with Facebook. Can they pull it off?
To improve their chances Google has created a clean and attractive UI for both the website and the Android app. Then they add features that people have been asking for from Facebook, like the ability to easily sort your friends into groups (called Circles with in G+); group messaging, think Beluga and GroupMe (called Huddles); group video chat, think iChat or Skype (called Hangouts); content recommendations (called Sparks), though I haven’t seen this is action yet; and this one is for the geeks, you can take your G+ data with you . Also with the Android app they also offer a “local” version of the news feed/stream which shows you the public posts from other G+ users nearby, they don’t even need to be in any one of your circles. Combined it’s a great feature boost, though I don’t doubt Facebook will follow suit with some of these.
So then why switch? Other then it’s new, clean, different, less noisy…at this point not much, as the critical mass hasn’t been reached but when it does it’ll be a force that Facebook will have to deal with. Which is good regardless of your participation with G+. Facebook needs a challenger, clearly MySpace wasn’t up to the task. Speaking of MySpace, think back to when it was the dominant social platform. Then Facebook was the new, clean, different, less noisy new kid on the block…so Google may still have a chance here. And just like MySpace felt back then, Facebook is feeling a backlash of interest from the fickle social masses that have OD’ed on the FB.
Overall, I have to say I’m impressed with Google+. It’s one of the most well thought out, planned and executed tools that Google has ever done. Only now has Google started to improve the design and UX of their search and email services. So I expect big things from Google here. Despite Goggle’s best efforts if the people don’t start using (or getting invites to) it, G+ will die from empty room syndrome and that would be a shame.
Not to defend Twitter’s recent actions, but this is just the next step in the evolution of Twitter from a social service to a becoming a destination. As Twitter’s popularity has grown, they need to change to support their new users. They are no longer targeting the early adopters and the techies that helped Twitter grow during it’s early years. There was hints of this last year during the launch of the “new” Twitter and earlier when they bought/rebranded the most popular 3rd party app as official.
No doubt Twitter is looking at how users experience Facebook through the official sites and apps. There are alternative Facebook clients but no one is using them, so if Facebook killed access to these clients there may be some rumblings from a few developers but overall no one else would care. Based off the numbers provided by Twitter in September this may already be true for Twitter as well. The thinking then was that users of these alternative clients were the power users and creating the lion’s share of the content seen on Twitter so it makes sense that Twitter is still in support of 3rd party apps for adding content.
Overall Twitter can be improved and the third party apps have help fill these voids. I like some of the idea posted and it’d be great for either Twitter or other service to bring these to the forefront. At the end of the day most users may not be directly effected by this latest change, at least not immediately. In the long-term this will change how and what Twitter is and how it gets used. In the short-term this seems to be about Twitter trying to take control of their service and finally make some money off it, which they have every right to do. I don’t agree with their tactics and it does make me wonder: if the 3rd party apps were such a small percentage of the users, what does Twitter gain by cutting them out of the equation?
Email is dead or so they said, well it seems like Facebook has another idea. A few weeks ago Facebook announced their plan for merging all your communication to be found in one place, and including a @facebook address as a way to be reached. Though they’re suggesting it’s not email and calling it a conversation hub, since they’re removing the subject line as part of the message. Regardless of what they want to call it makes a good case that email is in fact not dead, just due for an upgrade.
Despite it’s failure, Google Wave had some solid ideas on bringing email inline with modern technology. The good parts of Wave will resurface in Gmail and other services. For example earlier this week Posterous launched Groups which has number of the things I liked about Wave with simpler and prettier UI. Been testing is over the last few days and thought there are still a few odd UI issues, the overall UI is simple enough for non-geeks to use and that’s key for mass adoption. In the sample at left (from Posterous) you can see the basic layout and support for photos/video etc. Not as pretty as some of the standard Posterous themes but I’m sure that will come with time. The big question is whether the masses start adopting it, especially with competitors like Facebook Groups; though they are different offerings, Facebook already has the masses using their services everyday.
AOL is also giving email another try with their recently launched Project Phoenix. I love the paper cut-out animation they used to announce the project (see below) and for the users of Aol Mail this will be a welcome addition. They’ve simplified the UI, added the ability to import your other email services and now lets you send text messages. Another plus is I didn’t notice any ads cluttering up the interface. I assume they’ll be there sooner or later and if not, this is an even bigger plus for the consumer. I also like their “quick bar” access to multiple communication tools. Despite these improvements I’m not sure it’s enough to attract new users, though it may help keep their current customer base.
Personally, I still use email for some things, but for many things email’s formality and permanence isn’t needed. If I just want to share a link, or something else temporal email is overkill. At the same time having an archive for things is still needed at times. It’s good to see some progress in allowing us to have our cake and eat it too. Only time will tell how this will shake out but for now these are a step in the right direction.
In yesterday’s weekly recap I reported on Zynga out doing EA in their financial worth. Just a bit shocking as Zynga has been around for around 4 years and produce simple albeit social games. While EA has been around since the early years of computer gaming, and now own the rights to just about every sports franchise there is. Clearly EA has more overhead but who would’ve thought selling virtual goods could be worth so much.
This week Facebook added a new feature, called Friendships, that allows you to see the activity between friends. For many this will be a great way to reminisce, and be a nice addition to Facebook’s features. On the other hand it’s a privacy nightmare scarier then a Halloween horror flick. How can this feature be bad…think of jealous partner, this feature could easily be miss used to stalk their mate and easily read into any/all cross communications they’ve had with others. To make matters worse, it shows you activity between someone you know and people they are friends with, even when you are not. I wouldn’t have such a complaint if it was just me and one of my friends, but the friend to friend and especially the friend to stranger friendships cross the (privacy) line for me. If it does for you, check out Opt Out of the FB Friendship Feature.
Personally I don’t participate in Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook’s Places as they give me nothing I value in return for my participation. Though there are a number of crossover (online to local) services I do use like Groupon (and similar services), Yelp (for reviews) and Google’s mobile search. I also post my photos to Flickr and Pegshot with their location data turned on as location seems to be a vital part in the story that picture has to tell. More an more this cross over between the real world (local) our online one is going to become seamless. David Marcus’s editorial on TechCrunch talks about how these services need come together to really provide something useful in our day-to-day lives.
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Another buzz word these days is HTML5, this time it’s Microsoft that’s doing the talking. Seems as though Microsoft has decided to back off on the development of their Silverlight platform and focus on using HTML5 for creating online apps. This is a genius move on their part. HTML5 is the only cross platform supported technology. For those developing native mobile apps you’re now looking at supporting a growing number of iOS devices, all the flavors of Android (see more here), Symbian OS and now WinMo7. With WinMo7 being the newest of the group the quickest way to get developers to support your platform is for them to support all platforms. Joe Wilcox goes into greater detail about Microsoft’s David and Goliath strategy.
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We use our smartphones for just about everything filling it with tons of personal data but how often do we think about all that data and how secure it is. Last week there were postings on how simple it was to gain access to one’s contact list on a locked iPhone. So far Apple hasn’t acknowledged it but the method works and is simple enough for just about anyone to do. Sorry, intentionally not providing link.
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Zynga, the creators of FarmVille etc., are now worth more then EA, the second largest game publisher and makers of every sports franchise game there is. The reasons…virtual goods, lower overhead, and of course social networking. Still, both are smaller then Activision Blizzard but Zynga has only been around for four years, so who knows how long that will last. Get more of the details at Bloomberg Businessweek.
The battle for the mobile space is fierce as ever and according to Adobe’s recent survey users prefer a the mobile web for shopping and media rather then downloading apps. Though the same survey showed for single goal oriented tasks (social media, games, etc.) apps were preferred. Hopefully this will help guide companies into making decisions on where and how best to reach their customer’s needs. See the press release for more stats from the survey.
If you looking to get out there an promote your product/site you have a few options for building up the buzz, and SocialTwist’s new report on viral stats may be a good place to start. According to the report 55% of referrals come via email, 24% from social media and 18% through IM. Though that’s not the whole story, when it comes to click-throughs Social is king with 60%, followed by email’s 31%. Twitter is earning around 19 clicks per link, to Facebook’s 2.9 clicks per link. Lastly sharing is dominated by Facebook at 78%. What does all this mean? Each service has it’s strengths and to maximize your viral potential you’ll need to work them all.
Want more numbers…well Tweetdeck’s got you covered. They looked at the Android ecosystem to see product penetrations and found over 500 different phone models and around 120 different OS versions. On one side it shows how fragmented the Android market is, on the other it shows how well Android handles that fragmentation. Feels like history repeating itself (Windows/Mac).
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Search gets social as Facebook goes with Bing as it’s search partner. According to Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president for online business at Microsoft, Bing’s results will soon be biased by the number of “likes” a link has received from your Facebook friends. It’s not a surprise that Facebook didn’t team up with Google as they are reportedly working on their own social platform. Though Mark Zuckerberg points out that with Bing being the underdog they are going to work harder, innovate more. He expands on this point in the Q&A event post the announcement. The New York Times also points out that Places uses Bing’s maps rather then Google’s as well.
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Cupertino must be celebrating after winning a patent on the “pinch-to-zoom” gesture. Though the patent is very specific and doesn’t pertain to all pinch-to-zoom gestures only those that are followed by an additional gesture to continue the zooming (figure 4A in the patent application). Still this is one more weapon in Apple’s legal arsenal…along with the 17 other patents they were awarded on Oct 12.
Apple is already suing HTC over 20 patents that according to Apple the manufacturer is infringing upon. As of this week, HTC is no longer alone in this fight. Motorola has decided to back HTC in this fight and is pushing for the entire suit to be thrown out of court on the basis that they are invalid. Separately, Motorola is suing Apple over patent infringements of their own.
Aside from the patent wars there is a growing number of designers/developers questioning the app craze in favor of web-based solutions that work across all the platforms. Zeldman, a constant advocate for standards, offers a succinct argument that the iPad has become the new Flash. Personally, I don’t think he’s too far off the mark but not only from the coding aspect but as far as UI’s. Just like with Flash there are many iPad designs based solely on showing off this, that or the other thing rather then providing a good, easy to use UI. Ultimately, it was the show-off designs and poor user experience that became the poster boy for the anti-Flash community. Sure it’s not a open standard, but it is a standard that is supported by 96+% of the users out there. Every tool has it’s purpose just like the iPad and platform specific apps have there place.
Who doesn’t like to play games now every once and a while? Since everyone likes games adding game elements to your site is the latest/greatest way to build synergies with your customer/user and solves just about every business ask. So next time you’re solutioning a business problem think about tossing a progress bar in there.
What is BLADE? It’s a new anti-maleware app that blocks websites from launching their services just by you visiting their page. BLADE will be a must have for any Windows user (once it’s released). I know once it’s available I’ll be installing it on my mom’s computer ASAP.
Calling themselves the Internet DVR is a bit of a stretch, but if you like YouTube videos enough to want to keep them Dirpy maybe for you.
The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.
The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.
The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy. Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future. I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.
In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.
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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.
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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS. So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.
On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.
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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.
One of the big events of last week was Y Cominator‘s Demo Day where 30+ companies showed of their technology in hopes for securing additional funding. Last week’s Demo Day was so big it took 2 days, if you couldn’t be there TechCrunch gives a run down of a few of the presenters.
If you have Gmail, then you might want to check out Rapportive‘s browser plug-in. While viewing your email it’ll provide a sidebar full of the contact’s profile including various social services and CrunchBase. At the bottom of the sidebar is an area to add personal notes for the contact. It’s a simple addition but could be priceless once you start using it. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
As a UX lead finding out how users are interacting with a design is invaluable. There are a number of new solutions out there providing inexpensive remote testing options. But eye tracking has required use of specialty equipment. Even though we have one where I work it’s a huge hassle and the whole process makes for a very artificial environment. GazeHawk‘s offering may change all that as it uses standard webcams. Additionally, offer a service to use their network of participants to test your work. For more see TechCrunch’s write up.
There was even stuff for the couch potato in all of us, Teevox showed off their iPhone app. It’s a remote control for watching Hulu and Netflix videos on your PC. The app’s UI is simple and straight forward and even better is there is nothing to install on your PC in order for it to work. I encountered a few crashes on my 3G, but that seems like standard behavior with iOS4, so I can’t fault them on that. Fore more see TechCrunch’s write up.
The merger of TV and PC is getting closer everyday. Working in the industry it’s all to clear where things are going so it was interesting to read TechCrunch’s somewhat harsh editorial on the full-on assault being staged against the cable companies. In the TechCrunch editorial they get the gist right but fails to keep in mind that not everyone is as technically inclined as the TechCrunch audience. With that in mind cable TV’s convenience, flexibility and overall simplicity (despite the poor UI of their set-top boxes) will keep it alive for years. They followed up the editorial with some put things into perspective for anyone outside the industry.
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Ok, this one’s title alone made me laugh last week, Twitter’s not stupid – you just have boring friends. Andrew succinctly states for those that think “Twitter is inane, pointless, time-wasting or just narcissistic bleating only means either a) the people you’ve chosen to follow are the wrong ones; or b) you’re expecting something from Twitter it’s not offering: passive entertainment.” Still, Twitter isn’t for everyone.
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The patent war continues. With the Oracle’s suit against Google people hypothesized that it was the patent war to end all patent wars…well last week Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen (via Interval Licensing) launched his own patent lawsuit. The list of patent violators named in his company’s lawsuit covers just about every major web player out there sans Microsoft and Amazon, as noted in FastCompany’s coverage. On first blush the patents in dispute seem horribly vague and undeserved as Amazon’s “one-click” patent.
Other news that doesn’t include Google being sued for patent violations include their addition of Google Voice into Gmail. Though I’ve read that due to high demand there has been some issues with Voice, but I’m sure that will be address shortly. In the meantime, enjoy Google’s little promo video.
Speaking of too little, too late, MySpace is finally getting on the Facebook bandwagon with their new Facebook status syncing feature. Even though this is only the first version, it’s kind of funny that it only goes from MySpace to Facebook, which would require you to actually go to MySpace in the first place. Ironically, I went to MySpace for the first time in over 18 months in order to watch this video promoting their new profile editor. It features Steven Slater, JetBlue flight attendant that went off in a rage on a customer. It’s actually entertaining, smart and even makes a self deprecating reference to being dominated by the FB.