How Do Social Networks Seem Like They’re Psychic?

February 26, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-26-2015Occasionally, when you glance at the sidebar on Facebook, you might wonder how exactly it is that Facebook seems to know exactly how to cater to what you’re interested in. What you might not know is that Facebook has algorithms intended to help find the ads that suit you best. Since mid-2014, Facebook began using app and website data from your browsing habits, effectively going through your search history in order to determine which ads to target to you. While Facebook provides the ability to opt out of this, the default setting allows this sort of ad targeting to occur.

More recently, Facebook revealed that they were rolling out a new advertisement option called Product Ads, which are dynamically optimized to ensure that the products you see in the advertisements are based specifically on your interests and activities, as well as your location and whether or not you have already visited the advertiser’s website or used their application. These will be particularly useful for showing different types of products that come from the same company, such as Target and Shutterfly.

You may not realize how much information social networks can gather just from the things you have ‘liked’, the things you have posted and shared, and your general search history. One long-term study had subjects take personality tests and then used an algorithm based on their Facebook profile to see how closely their personality could be predicted alongside the test. The algorithm was able to produce a more accurate description of their personality than that subject’s friends and family.

Facebook is not the only social network that has been used to predict things. One study took a look at the emotional language used on Twitter, comparing the amount of angry tweets to mortality rates for atherosclerotic heart disease in particular counties. The researchers in this study determined that Twitter was actually a more effective means of predicting heart disease than conventional methods that look at smoking, diet, or obesity. This is evidence that a lot can be learned from social networks and these sorts of studies could wind up serving greater purposes than just targeting advertisements.

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Post-Mortem Posting: Death and Social Media

February 19, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-19-2015As everyone knows, death is an inevitable part of life. However, life has been changing quite a bit thanks to social media and because of that, death is changing too. Facebook recently announced a ‘legacy contact’ feature, which allows you to choose someone to manage your Facebook account after you die. Your legacy contact will have the ability to add a memorial post to the top of your Facebook page, as well as respond to friend requests and change your profile picture.

Who you choose as your legacy contact does not get a sudden window into all of your private messages and discussions, of course. Your legacy contact cannot check your personal messages and they cannot post as you, nor can they delete anything that you have posted on your Facebook page. While many people may be interested in having their Facebook page essentially memorialized, you can also opt in to have Facebook delete your page entirely when you die, if you would rather have your social media profile removed after you’re gone.

The legacy contact feature may be Facebook’s first foray into the realm of the social media afterlife, but they’re not the first to consider this sort of thing. There are a number of services that cater to those who wish to have post-mortem posts on their social media profiles. DeadSocial can send out public Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media posts after you have died, as well as sending out scheduled messages for anniversaries or birthdays of loved ones. Another service called If I Die can send out private messages over Facebook or email to your loved ones after you pass on. In any case, there are many ways for your social media memory to live on once you’ve left this world.

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Additional Video Support for Social Networks

February 12, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-12-2015Videos have been a major part of many social networks for quite some time now. At this point, Facebook is reaching over 3 billion video views a day. Over 50% of people in the United States that visit Facebook on a daily basis watch at least one video per day. Social networks that are focused purely on video, such as Vine, have continued to expand. Vine has recently launched Vine Kids, which is a kid-friendly version of the social network, which will allow children to share amusing videos with one another without running into potentially inappropriate content.

However, not every social network has excelled when it comes to videos. Surprisingly enough, Twitter has never had any direct video support, despite (or perhaps, because of) the fact that Vine is a Twitter acquisition. Recently though, Twitter finally got around to adding video support in the app itself. Not surprisingly, the interface looks quite similar to Vine, but videos that are shared can be up to 30 seconds long, instead of limited to 7 seconds, which is the case on Vine. It is likely that part of Twitter’s decision to add video support is to allow video ads to be shared on Twitter, to help generate income for the social network.

Not every social network is adding videos for the sake of advertisements though. The social network Ello was notoriously founded in response to Facebook, as a social network that vowed to never have any ads, instead generating money through paid-for features. Ello had a small surge in popularity when Facebook was under fire for cracking down on users that went by alternative names in their Facebook profiles. However, Ello’s time in the sun may have passed. Regardless, they recently added video support to the social network, in an effort to continue finding ways to make it better.

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Twitter Finds New Ways to Interact with Search Engines

February 5, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 2-5-2015One of the best ways for social networks to move up in the world is to pair themselves with the major search engines. Many of the larger social networks have some kind of history working with Google or Bing in different capacities. This is something that Twitter has recently been doing, as new features have been announced that directly implement aspects of these search engines. When it comes to Bing, Twitter has paired up with the search engine for translation reasons.

On the Twitter website, as well as in the mobile apps, users can now easily translate any tweet in a foreign language to the user’s default language. Though the translation tool is not perfect, it’s still a step up from not being able to read foreign tweets at all. Bing is not the only search engine that Twitter has found themselves recently pairing with, however. There has also been a deal made between Twitter and Google, which will ultimately allow tweets to appear in Google searches.

Yahoo and Bing already offer the ability to show tweets in their searches, but this will allow Google to have the same benefits. Twitter and Google had an agreement that was similar to this in 2009, but it was discontinued in 2011, around the same time that Google Plus launched. Google pairing themselves up with Twitter again may be yet another sign that they’re gradually removing support from Google Plus, which has been circling the drain for a while now.

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Snapchat Discover Offers Content from Major Brands

January 29, 2015 · Written by Andrew S

Picture 1-29-2015Snapchat has known for a long time that their platform could be monetized. That’s why they turned down billions of dollars that were offered when Facebook attempted to purchase them. However, we hadn’t seen many ways that Snapchat was actually pursuing these sorts of endeavors, apart from some occasional ads that have made their way into users’ Snapchat apps. This week, however, things changed with the launch of Snapchat Discover, which will be offering content from brands such as CNN, ESPN, Comedy Central, and more.

Snapchat Discover will allow all sorts of different brands to deliver content to users and users can pick which brands they hope to see information from. These brands will be able to regularly launch their own ephemeral content for users to check out and Snapchat Discover will be regularly refreshed with new options for users to browse through. The featured brands will change from day to day. Snapchat Discover launched with CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News, and Warner Music Group, but these will change daily.

Snapchat is not requiring companies to pay to feature content on their app. The way that Snapchat Discover will work to generate money will be by selling ad space that runs alongside the content that is viewed through Snapchat Discover. For instance, CNN content appears alongside BMW ads, while Vice content shows up with ads for GrubHub. Snapchat Discover could be a real game-changer for the way different companies will be spreading information to their user base. Furthermore, being on Snapchat will allow these brands to expand their user base by offering content to a younger demographic, the group that most frequently uses Snapchat.

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