By 2014, the ranking of regions by social network users will reflect regional shares of the global population. According to a new eMarketer report, one in four people worldwide use social networks currently. The numer of social network users around the world will rise from 1.47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion this year – at that rate, the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion by 2017. This reflects the expansion of emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern regions of the world, who will necessarily be drivers of innovation. eMarketer expects the fastest national increases to be clocked in countries like India, Indonesia, Mexico, China, and Brazil.
Facebook announced yesterday that it has more than one million businesses actively advertising on the social network. The “vast majority” of those businesses and advertisers are small businesses, according to Dan Levy, Facebook’s director of small business. Much of the feedback from these small businesses is to keep advertising simple on Facebook, and perhaps with that message in mind Facebook announced plans to cut the number of ad products in half in order to streamline the ad experience for those looking to use the network for marketing.
Popular Social Networks are experiencing a bit of a “Mainstreaming” effect these days: baby pictures, couples, and the public airing of private pictures that get likes from that relative you didn’t even know had a Facebook – not to mention more serious information privacy concerns. So “private social networks” have gained traction recently, and ensure that you’ll always have a space to share photos, collaborate on projects, or organize carpools without revealing this information to the rest of the world. Examples include Everyme (organized like Google+, its simple UI coupled with data privacy guarantees security), Notabli (a private photo-sharing network that allows users to share photos and videos of their children with other family members), and Nextdoor (a hyper-local social networks that promises an easy way to keep in touch with neighbors). Whether these online communities gain as much traction as Facebook or Twitter remains to be seen, but it is important to note that privacy concerns are drawing people away from big social communities online, and that these new networks are a result of that.
It’s now increasingly simple to share your Pandora on Facebook. Starting tomorrow, tracks, stations, and songs you give a ‘thumbs up’ to will be shared directly to Facebook. Listening habits are then aggregated and displayed as part of the ‘music’ section on your Facebook profile. The idea is to deeply integrate Facebook with their online identity as they consume content around the Internet, and this partnership with Pandora is probably the first of many across the Internet.
Celebrity social networks had seemed to be a thing of the past, but Upfront is looking to change that with its new app. The new platform looks to grant fans access to exclusive video, text messages, emails, and other perks from artists that they love. Upfront is looking to sign deals with many types of artists, from musicians to authors to chefs to even some brands. Users pay anywhere from $0.99 to $5.99 per month for different levels of access. The lowest access point includes thoughts, communications, and photos, while $3.99 adds exclusive audio and video content. The top level, $5.99 per month per creator, would include perks such as live webcasts and in-person events. Musicians and actors seem like the most obvious fit for Upfront, but the company says that anybody looking to intimately move fans of any brand or product could conceivably be a candidate for the network. The paid aspect is designed to remove spam and provide the services to provide the higher quality video streaming content. Ultimately, the network will live or die by how many ‘influencers’ and fans it has; currently there are just a few but interest appears to be spreading.
Marketers and branders got a new tool to reach thousands of followers on Facebook: ThingLink’s interactive images. The platform hit the social media sphere this morning, and allows fans interact with content embedded inside of a single image – be it photos, video, or text – without leaving the Facebook Timeline. ThingLink allows users to enhance images with links to other pieces of content. So when you hover over a main image, icons pop up to demonstrate the additional content. Users just click on these icons to play YouTube videos, audio clips, open other websites, or really do anything that would have previously had to have been done on other websites. For brands, this offers a way to make a deeper impression in front of fans in one place. Though Stipple also put interactive images on Facebook in January, that Facebook is working with other, more innovative developers indicates that this is a trend that is taking off. Indeed, brands have “commonly seen” more than five times as much engagement on Twitter posts using ThingLink images. So to have the technology on Facebook presents a powerful new tool to social media marketers.
In yet another acquisition, Google has purchased the social prediction startup Behavio. The startup built its short-lived independent product on top of Funf, which is a method to collect data from mobile phone sensors. The goal was to analyze parameters like physical location, contacts, and data about personal activity to monitor trends and make behavioral predictions. Google has acknowledged its purchase but hasn’t made a specific announcement about how it will be used just yet. It’s possible that such technology could provide a much-needed boost to apps like Google Now, but really the advertising-facing algorithm could be welcome in many facets of Google’s vast network of products.
Amazon announced the acquisition of the social reading company Goodreads in a deal that should come to fruition by the end of Q2. The social site has raised $2.75 million in funding since 2007, and currently boasts over 16 million members with more than 360 million books, with 22 million additional books added every month.
By merging with Amazon, Goodreads is directly linked to the Kindle book-buying network and Amazon’s store, and is ostensibly to Kindle and Amazon what Ping tried to be to the iTunes store: Amazon’s book-centric social network. It will allow readers to share, recommend, discuss, and ultimately buy books on a much wider and more elegantly integrated social scale. This will be further facilitated by Goodreads’ recommendation technology, which allows users to follow and interact with writers while simultaneously rating and spreading their favorite books for incentives like free reads and other giveaways. Ultimately, the marriage with Kindle makes perfect sense for both parties, and with users adding more books to their “want to read” sections at a rate of 4 books per second, the purchase power of this 16 million user network seems almost limitless.
Pew research released new statistics today on Americans addictions to social networks as of December 2012, with surprising revelations. 15% of Adult U.S. Internet users now use Pinterest – which is practically identical to the 16% who use Twitter – which has experienced massive growth among white, female users, who use the network in large part for fashion-based research. So although Twitter grabs more headlines for its communicatory potential, in the U.S. the usage data is nearly the same. As well, there is no longer a minority gap in social media use, as almost twice as many African Americans use Twitter as Caucasians. But most importantly, not using social media has become a financially elite phenomenon, as well-educated wealthy Americans who find privacy policies troublesome or think that Facebook is too mainstream are turning away from the social network. In other words, not using social media is, now, a product of more education rather than a lack of access. Ultimately, 2/3 of all American Adults utilize social networks on the whole, with the vast majority on Facebook.
The advertising industry’s AdChoices self-regulatory program is coming to Facebook in the next quarter. The small blue triangles that currently appear in trillions of online ad impressions to allow users to opt-out of behaviorally targeted ads lack a great deal of recognition in spite of their ubiquity, and their adoption on Facebook’s ad platform is lauded as a boost for the icon’s recognition. They will, however appear more subtly within the Facebook interface than they do in most others.