Facebook and Google Plus Appropriating Hashtags

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Hashtags are a relatively recent addition to a number of social networking platforms; the website they are most associated with would be Twitter, who have been using them since 2009. Essentially, hashtags are tags using the ‘#’ symbol that are used to more easily group similar messages and topics together. Many social networks have integrated hashtags into their interfaces in order to encourage further connectivity between users.

Though hashtags are most commonly associated with Twitter, there are many other major social networking websites and other websites that also use hashtags frequently. Instagram users often include heavy amounts of hashtags on their pictures, as they are not restricted to 140 characters like they would be with Twitter, allowing for people to use a much larger number of hashtags than would be possible on Twitter posts. Though some people believe that too many hashtags can be excessive, this hasn’t stopped other social networks from hopping on the hashtag bandwagon.

Google Plus has offered the usage of hashtags for quite some time now, though they are evolving into what have been referred to as ‘smart hashtags,’ as they are automatically assigned to posts based on recognition of the words and images that were used in the post. These features have recently been added to the Android and iOS apps for Google Plus and may offer a glimpse towards the future of hashtags.

Of course, Google Plus is not the only major social network hoping to be a part of the future of hashtags. Facebook, not wanting to be left behind, is also rumored to be toying with the inclusion of hashtags on their social network, likely aping the model that has been previously established by networks like Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is looking at hashtags from a marketing standpoint, as they believe that there are additional ways that hashtags can be used to promote business pages on their social network.

‘Facebook Phone’ Not Doing So Well

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In a previous blog post, I discussed the announcement of Facebook Home, a feature that would be used as a custom homescreen for Android smartphones and would be launched on the HTC First, which has since been colloquially known as the ‘Facebook Phone.’ The HTC First was launched on April 12 at a price point of $99.99, which apparently was not a viable option for many consumers looking to purchase a new phone and try out the Facebook Home feature.

The first sign that AT&T and HTC were having problems selling the phone was when the phone’s price dropped from $99.99 to $0.99 (with a two-year AT&T contract) only a month after its release. Though the price drop was referred to as a limited time offer, the media says otherwise, believing that the so-called Facebook Phone has been a complete flop and is not likely to do much better from here on out. It is likely that the price drop is an effort to push out the phone to those who are looking for affordability rather than being jam-packed with useful features.

Some media outlets have cited other issues for why the HTC First has been a flop. In particular, there has been focus on the new phone’s unremarkable hardware in comparison to other recently released phones, as well as the fact that the HTC First was supposed to operate as a showcase for Facebook Home even though there were plans to immediately bring the Facebook Home platform to other Android phones. On top of that, only a select group of individuals are likely to be particularly interested in Facebook Home in the first place, further reducing the potential target market for the HTC First.

Recently, the Facebook Home feature has been released for the much more popular HTC One as well as the Samsung Galaxy S4. With Facebook Home on these smartphones, it’s no surprise that the HTC First is tanking. In fact, AT&T is reportedly planning to discontinue the phone entirely, considering it only sold 15,000 units in the first month it was released. Granted, this was before the price drop, but the fact that they are still reportedly discontinuing it means that lowering the price doesn’t seem to be increasing the sales by enough.

Vine is Coming to Android

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In a blog post I wrote back in January, I mentioned the launch of Vine, which at the time was a new social networking service launched by Twitter that allowed users to share six-second video clips without sound that operated similarly to animated GIFs. Since the video social network was launched in January, it has blown up in popularity, even though it still remains only available for iOS and Apple devices. It has consistently been among the top apps downloaded in Apple’s iTunes store.

In fact, after its launch, Vine’s users grew by 50% in a month and by the end of February, Vine was being used by 2.66% of all iOS devices in the United States. As Vine rose to the top, similar services such as Viddy, Cinemagram, and Socialcam began to rapidly decline in their user bases, even though they had all been launched months before the more popular Vine service.

One thing that has been holding Vine back a bit, at least thus far, is that it is currently only available on iOS and not available on platforms such as Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. Well, that’s about to change, at least for Android, the platform that tends to receive support for major apps like this long before Blackberry or Windows Phone, due to having a much larger user base. According to Twitter, Vine will be coming to Android’s Google Play store soon.

Though the exact release date has not yet been announced, there is still an app that Android users can use in the meantime while they wait for Vine’s official Android launch. Vine Flow is a mobile app that allows users to browse and discover videos posted on Vine, though it does not allow users to upload their own videos like the eventual official Vine app will. Until Vine’s official launch, Vine Flow is about the best that Android-using hopefuls are going to get.

Facebook Charging Money for New Features

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Facebook’s primary source for revenue has generally come from the enormous amounts of ad sales that they have made to countless companies that are looking for the incredible amount of exposure made possible through Facebook’s reported 1.11 billion active users. Though Facebook has certainly never been hurting for money and the majority of their services remain free, they have released a number of paid services over the past few months in order to generate additional revenue.

One of the earliest features that Facebook began to push out is the ability for users to ‘promote’ their Facebook posts. Essentially, promoting a post means that will increase the likelihood that one’s audience (people who like your Page) or Facebook friends will see a post by moving it up higher in their News Feed. The cost is based on one’s geographic location and how many people the post would be reaching. More recently, Facebook also added the ability to promote any of your friends’ posts, even without their permission, though these posts can only be viewed by anyone that your friend shared said post with in the first place.

Another new feature that Facebook is beginning to push through is an update to the social network’s messaging system. In the system’s current state, messages received from people that someone is not Facebook friends with will be filtered rather aggressively into an ‘Other’ folder that is often looked over. Facebook wants to offer the ability to pay to circumvent this filter. In other words, Facebook users will be able to pay a small fee – supposedly somewhere between $1 and $15 – to get messages more easily to people they aren’t Facebook friends with. In order to prevent abuse of this service, Facebook has said they will only be extending this service to people – rather than businesses – and users will only be able to receive one paid message in their inbox per week.red said post with in the first place.

Another much more bizarre feature that Facebook recently added was a similar messaging ability, albeit a much more expensive and specific version of that ability. Essentially, it works in the same way as the aforementioned messaging feature: Facebook users can pay a fee to get a message sent to someone and ensure that it won’t go into the ‘Other’ folder, only in this case, that someone is Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The price to get a message directly to Mark Zuckerberg is a cool $100, which has been mentioned as Facebook as an ‘extreme price point’ that is being used to see what works to filter spam.

How Ads are Evolving on Social Networks

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Those without a depth of knowledge regarding social media may wonder where revenue is generated from for these multi-billion dollar companies, considering the services are free for anyone to use and so many people are taking advantage of these networks. Though there are a number of ways these companies generate revenue, the simplest route is through advertisements that are made on the networks from companies and corporations that are trying to get their own names out there through social media.

With social media becoming as prevalent as it is, companies like Facebook and Twitter are trying to get a little bit more creative with the way that advertisements are targeted to their users. For instance, Facebook has recently incorporated a system known as ‘Facebook Exchange’ to the ads in Facebook’s News Feed, which allows Facebook to pull from other websites that the user has visited in the past. Moving those advertisements from the right side of the page to the News Feed itself was major for business prospects, due to the ability to more easily view these advertisements on Facebook’s ever-growing mobile presence.

More recently, Twitter has chosen to take a page from Facebook, as ads from Twitter will appear based on keywords used in a Twitter user’s tweets. Twitter had initially categorized its users based on tweets, so that someone who tweeted about coffee would be put into a ‘coffee lover’ group, but Twitter will now respond directly to certain words in recent tweets and adapt its advertisements to suit the user’s possible interests. The service will even be using ‘natural language processing’ which will allow them to prevent from offering ads for something that someone is tweeting negatively about.

Certain reports have stated that Facebook is planning for yet another step in regards to updating their advertising options. This summer, they may be releasing auto-playing video advertisements. The videos would be 15-second spots that would come with a mighty price tag, supposedly costing $1 million per day per demographic, a move which could ultimately net billions for Facebook. How users react to auto-playing video ads on their Facebook, however, might be another story entirely.

Recent Twitter Hacks Lead to Real-World Consequences

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It is beginning to be very apparent how much effect Twitter and social media in general is beginning to have on the real world. Twitter has led to many major changes in the real world; people have been fired because of posts on Twitter, diplomatic tensions have become created between the United States embassy in Cairo and the President of Egypt, revolutions have been fueled, and even lives have been saved. With real tweets having this level of power, t

On Tuesday, April 23, the Associated Press became victim to a recent cyberattack when it posted a tweet claiming that there had been explosions in the White House and that the President had been injured. Another Twitter account associated with the Associated Press quickly responded to the tweet to inform followers that the account had been compromised, but the damage had already been done. The Dow Jones industrial average quickly sank by more than 140 points. Generally, Twitter hacks have done little more than featured juvenile obscenities, but this is the first major case where a Twitter hack has led to serious real-world consequences.here can be genuine danger when fake tweets are made, something that has been occurring quite often recently through hacking.

Supposedly, this cyberattack was perpetrated by a group that refers to themselves as the Syrian Electronic Army, who has claimed credit for the Associated Press tweet that led to a plunge in the stock market. The group describes itself as an organization that intends to attack and deface websites in order to combat what they believe to be anti-Syrian media coverage. Personal information regarding the members of this group is currently unknown, so they could simply be activists or pranksters, or perhaps people who are affiliated with Syria’s al-Assad government itself.

Considering this is far from the first hack that a major Twitter account has had in recent months, Twitter has been pressed to respond to these exceeding security issues. It has been reported that Twitter hopes to launch a two-step verification system in the near future that will hopefully prevent future Twitter hacks from occurring, resulting in the same problems that were caused by the hack on the Associated Press’ Twitter account.

Twitter #Music Has Launched!

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In my last blog post, I talked about Twitter’s recent acquisition of We Are Hunted and their eventual plans to launch a music application that would work alongside Twitter. Well, it appears that the time has come already, as today Twitter officially launched and unveiled what they’re referring to as Twitter #Music, its title referencing the usage of hashtags that has become popular in recent years due to Twitter.

Similarly to Twitter’s recently released video app Vine, Twitter #Music is not directly included with the browser or mobile versions of Twitter; it can instead be downloaded via its own dedicated mobile app or accessed directly at the Twitter #Music page. At the moment, the app is only available on iOS and has not yet been announced for Android or Windows Phone, though it is likely that in the weeks to come, there will be formal announcements or releases for those platforms.

What Twitter #Music essentially does is it helps users discover new songs based on Twitter activity. It relies on tweets to detect what songs and artists are popular and also allows users to follow their favorite artists to see what they are listening to and following. The app pulls music from iTunes, Spotify, and Rdio to allow users to listen to previews of the songs that Twitter #Music has determined they might be interested in.

The main interface is separated into three tabs, the first two tabs showing information based on Twitter’s trending data to show off Popular and Emerging artists, respectively, additionally making it easy to immediately access that artist’s Twitter profile in a single click. The third tab is where recommendations are offered based on the artists that you have decided to follow on your Twitter account. Twitter #Music users can also see what their friends are listening to and can easily share with their own followers what music they are currently listening to.

It’s likely that, in the coming months, Twitter #Music will be evolving a lot more, as we will likely see Android and Windows Phone releases for mobile apps, as well as fine-tuning on Twitter #Music itself. As Twitter continues to expand – via Vine and Twitter #Music – it is also likely it will find other areas to delve into, which is likely considering it was recently reported that Twitter is in final negotiations with Viacom and Comcast to distribute TV clips via Twitter as well.  based on the artists that you have decided to follow on your Twitter account. Twitter #Music users can also see what their friends are listening to and can easily share with their own followers what music they are currently listening to.

Twitter Expands: From Vine to Twitter Music

IPicture 4-11-2013n recent months, Twitter has been pushing harder to expand their market and also to expand on the features that Twitter can provide for its users. The first instance of this would be Vine, the video-sharing mobile app that was launched in January. Thanks to a successful marketing campaign, Vine has become the most-used video-sharing application on the market, and Twitter has shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to additional expansions to their company.

Twitter’s most recent acquisition is a software company known as We Are Hunted, which will likely be the first step towards Twitter’s foray into music. We Are Hunted has developed a service that allows users to discover new music and provides a constant stream of music via a simple interface. It is likely the simplicity of We Are Hunted that has attracted Twitter to the company, considering Twitter’s tendency to aim for simplicity, with their 140-character limit on tweets and Vine’s 6-second limit on videos.

No official announcements or release dates have been made, but Twitter Music is likely to be on the horizon. The acquisition may be part of a response to Facebook’s recent overhaul of its own music section, though it is more likely that Twitter is just hoping to expand their horizons and offer even more interesting services to its large user base. The Twitter Music app will allow Twitter users to find songs and artists that are recommended to them based on artists that they are following, as well as artists that people they follow are following. Twitter Music will not require a pre-existing Twitter account to be used, a choice which might ultimately attract new users to the service.

Twitter has long been connected to musicians and artists and many famous musicians use Twitter to announce news about upcoming albums or tour dates, or just to interact with their fans. Some musicians host live-tweet events where their followers can actively interact with the artists that they admire. It’s likely that the Twitter Music app will allow even further connectivity between musicians and their fans, and it will surely be interesting to see how the app evolves upon its release, and as time goes on.

Facebook Home: Integrating Facebook Features with Android Phones

APicture 4-5-2013 couple weeks ago, there began to be rumblings of the possibility of Facebook finally announcing something that has long been rumored to be the next step in the company’s evolution, a Facebook phone. Though there were some blatant denials of this from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it was known that Facebook was sure to be announcing something at the company’s next event, alongside one sentence – ‘Come See Our New Home on Android.’ The event in question wound up taking place on Thursday, April 4, and while Facebook did not announce a Facebook phone as rumored, they did announce something related to that.

What Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook did announce was something called ‘Facebook Home,’ which is a feature that operates as a custom homescreen for Android smartphones. What Facebook Home essentially does is integrates all of the features of Facebook and its various services – including Instagram and Facebook Messenger – fluidly and effortlessly into the homescreen of one’s Android phone. For instance, messages sent via Facebook are combined together alongside text messages, resulting in a single constant conversation.

Facebook notifications can be easily accessed through Facebook Home, even while other applications are running, a feature which most other smartphones cannot currently offer. Zuckerberg stated that launching a program that allowed people to transform their phones into ‘Facebook phones’ rather than launching a Facebook phone itself will allow the company to reach a larger amount of their user base. Zuckerberg stated even a great phone might only sell up to 20 million units, which would only reach 2% of Facebook’s active users. Thus, a program that will work on many different phones became the more viable option.

The first phone that will launch with Facebook Home will be the HTC First, released through HTC and AT&T. The phone will be available on April 12for $99.99. Though this announcement may not have been what people were expecting, it seems like a move in the right direction for Facebook, considering how many mobile users will likely be able to make use of the features offered by Facebook Home.

Could Google Plus Be Making a Comeback?

Recent reports are suggesting Picture 3-28-2013that the previously written-off social network launched by Google in June 2011 might be making a resurgence. A study focused on the December 2012 activity of social network users suggests that Google Plus is in second place to Facebook in terms of active users, with YouTube and Twitter coming in at third and fourth place, respectively. Of course, the leniency in which one defines an ‘active user’ is quite broad and though Google Plus boasts 343 million active users, it is clear that the 693 million active users on Facebook are much, much more active than those on Google Plus.

Regardless, this information is still interesting and could be used as proof that Google Plus might not be as much of a failure as many people believe it to be. One blogger suggested that Google Plus has been ‘playing the long game,’ as it continues to experiment with new functionalities and has cited its video chat function (known as Google Hangouts) as particularly innovative, due to its ability to seamlessly run live chats with up to ten people, taking a large step past other video chat services such as Skype. In addition to this, its connectivity with other Google properties such as Gmail, Google Voice, and Google Chrome is also being praised.

Indeed Google Hangouts have been taken more seriously in the past few months. President Obama has hosted two Google Hangouts after the State of the Union in 2012 and 2013 and other members of the Obama administration have also used this feature of Google Plus. Similarly, NASA recently hosted a Google Hangout from the International Space Station, which was used to allow other users to ask questions to astronauts.

Other recent updates to Google Plus, such as the ability to use animated GIFs as profile pictures, a feature that Facebook lacks, might also be representative of the continued evolution of Google Plus. Though the numbers that have been recently presented regarding Google Plus’ ‘active users’ may be misrepresented, it’s still interesting to note that Google Plus is still being taken seriously by a number of sources, including the White House and NASA.

Perhaps it will only be a matter of time before Google Plus starts to become a genuine competitor to Facebook. In the meantime, however, as someone who doesn’t care much for video chat, I’ll be sticking with Facebook until Google Plus provides me with a function that makes it truly worthwhile to make the switch.