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Facebook Enters the World of Mobile Gaming

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Facebook has offered games for a long time, with popular games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars becoming worldwide phenomena. It’s no surprise – especially with Facebook’s recent pushes towards mobile advertising and the steady rise of mobile Facebook users – that Facebook has recently announced that they will be delving deeper into the mobile gaming industry. Mobile gaming on iOS and Android has also been increasingly popular in recent years and Facebook stands to potentially gain a great deal of revenue this way.

There were rumblings about a month ago that Facebook was looking into mobile gaming, and it seems that those rumors are true. Much of the revenue generated from Facebook comes from virtual currency transactions in their aforementioned social network games, so it’s definitely a financially viable idea for Facebook to get more involved when it comes to gaming.

Essentially, what Facebook will be doing is acting as a publisher to smaller game development companies. In return for a portion of the overall revenue of the game, Facebook will focus on the marketing and distribution of these games. Many of these smaller developers have difficulty competing with larger companies such as Zynga and Kabam, which is why partnering with Facebook will be beneficial to all: to developers looking for a better way to market their games, to Facebook looking for new sources of revenue, and hopefully to gamers who are looking for new, interesting mobile games.

Facebook made the formal announcement that they are getting into mobile game publishing at the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco on July 30. They have partnered themselves with roughly ten developers including Brainbow, Kiwi, and Space Ape, among others. Though traditional games publishers tend to have a hand in the development process, Facebook will stay out of funding and overseeing development and will put the majority of their focus into marketing and analytics tools.

Facebook Launches Video for Instagram

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There was quite a bit of speculation going on back in June, where a number of reports were stating that Facebook was working on launching something big. In particular, all signs were pointing to a massive update to Facebook’s subsidiary photo-sharing social network Instagram: this update would allow for video sharing on top of photo sharing, likely in response to Twitter’s exceedingly popular Vine mobile application.

The speculation turned out to be correct when Video on Instagram was launched on June 20. Instagram’s new video app allows for video clips from three to fifteen seconds long, a variety of video filters, and the ability to arrange clips together to create videos with more focus. Some media sources are saying that it’s very similar to Twitter’s Vine app, only with more features and a more intuitive interface. The application was launched simultaneously on iOS and Android, following shortly after Vine’s recent release on Android.

Knowing that Video on Instagram was on the horizon, it is unsurprising that Twitter teased new Vine features on the day that Facebook’s competing application was launched. The co-founders of Vine released some videos that showed off new features and enhancements to the user interface that will be coming soon to Vine. They intend to bring the ability to create and save drafts of videos before sharing them as well as standardized categories for videos instead of a primary focus on hashtags.

Regardless of Vine’s new and improved interface, it is likely that Video on Instagram will give them a run for their money. At the very least, it is likely that the two competing social networks will be pushed to innovate more and introduce new, interesting features that separate themselves from one another and force users to make a choice about which they think is best when it comes to instantly sharing miniature videos.

Be Careful What You Put on Your Social Profiles

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Internet privacy has been a huge issue in the news lately, and for good reason. With the massive amount of information we all offer on the Internet, through social networks, blogs, personal websites, and other venues, it’s no surprise our privacy has become a bit muddled. We oftentimes trust that no one other than our ‘friends’ (thanks to the language used by many of these social networks) will be able to see our information, but this is not always the case. When you look at your ‘friend’ list on Facebook, you may forget that some of the people on there are not your friends at all.

Furthermore, there are ways that information can be accessed without even being friends with someone. If it’s on the Internet, there are often ways to get to it. A few months back, this was something that came under some scrutiny when a ‘super search engine’ known as RIOT was uncovered. The purpose of RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) was to search through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social networks in order to get information on terrorism suspects, particularly in regards to their recent locations and activities.

Many people believed that the RIOT software went too far and was a violation of American constitutional rights to privacy. There have been similar complaints, albeit to a much grander scale, upon the recent information regarding the NSA surveillance program known as PRISM. The controversy behind PRISM similarly stems from the government being able to monitor people’s actions on the Internet. Supposedly, PRISM allows the United States government to dig into e-mails, social networking details, photos, videos, and much more.

While the PRISM controversy still builds, social networking privacy has long been an issue on a smaller scale. While websites like Facebook and Twitter provide a number of customizable privacy options, it is still recommended that one double-checks the things they say before one posts those things on the Internet. These days, people are regularly fired for the things that they post on Facebook and Twitter and it is becoming a well-known fact that companies tend to snoop on potential employees’ social networking pages during the hiring process. With all this being said, be careful what you post on the Internet, because once it’s out there, there’s no getting it back.

Waze: The Billion-Dollar GPS Social Network

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If you haven’t heard of it already, Waze is a recent up-and-coming social GPS application that has been the talk of the town in recent months. Essentially, Waze combines the traditional interface of a GPS navigation system with social networking features that allow users to share information with one another. For instance, Waze users can alert each other about speed traps, traffic jams, and other landmarks; it also helps users find the nearest, cheapest gas and can be used to locate fellow friends who also use Waze.

The reason that Waze has recently hit the spotlight is thanks to Facebook, who announced that they were planning to purchase Waze for up to $1 billion; many sources were confirming last month that the deal was essentially done and had been in the works for nearly six months as the two companies negotiated. The main issue was whether to keep Waze in Israel, where the company is primarily located, or to relocate them to the United States.

Eventually, however, the location issue became more than Facebook could handle. Reportedly, Facebook has pulled out of negotiations after Waze’s management repeatedly refused to move from Israel to the United States. Facebook has purchased two previous companies from Israel that were then moved to the United States – Snaptu and Face.com – but both of those were deals of only $50-70 million, nowhere near the billion-dollar value of Waze.

All is not necessary lost for Waze though, even after Facebook has decided to end their negotiations. Before Facebook’s billion-dollar offer, Apple had initially offered the company $400 million, though Waze declined it, believing their company to be worth more than that. It has also been said that upon the announcement that Facebook was going after Waze, Google began trying to outbid them. In any case, it likely won’t be long before this Israeli startup is snatched up and integrated into a larger corporation.

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.

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.

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.

Social Media and the Job Market

CPicture 3-21-2013onsidering how prevalent social media and social networks now are in the average American’s day-to-day life, it is fairly unsurprising that their presence has bled over into the job market in a number of ways. For starters, social media is now a dominant way that people can seek out new jobs, through useful social networks such as LinkedIn, which focuses on building one’s professional network in the same way that Facebook is generally used to build one’s personal network. There are many ways that LinkedIn can help connect people to new jobs, as employers are encouraged to feature new job postings on the social network as well.

LinkedIn is no longer the only social network that can claim to help its users get jobs, however. Though Facebook’s purpose has never been to assist its users to seek out jobs in the way that LinkedIn does, a study recently determined that people who regularly engaged on Facebook found jobs much faster than those who did not. Additionally, this study also suggested that stress levels were increased by people who talked about a recent job loss on Facebook, due to receiving comments from friends and family members asking how the job search was going or offering unwanted advice.

The study specifically suggested that, after losing one’s job, those who spoke more than average with their ‘strong ties’ (close friends and family) were twice as likely to find a new job within three months than the average user. Comparatively, those who talked more to their ‘weak ties’ (acquaintances) were half as likely to find a new job as the average user. This is perhaps because people do not reveal their lack of employment to those they do not feel close to or instead that job openings are not mentioned by mere acquaintances the way they might be by close friends.

But using social networking websites themselves are not the only way that social media is affecting the job market. Now that social networks like Facebook and Twitter are being used by companies and corporations for advertising purposes, many jobs revolving around social media are being developed on a regular basis. It has gotten to the point where certain universities such as Newberry College in South Carolina are even beginning to develop undergraduate majors for social media. People taking these courses will learn marketing and branding techniques regarding the modern usage of social networks. Though at first glance, this may seem a little silly, the fact is that there are thousands of social media jobs out there and the industry is only growing as social networking websites continue to become more popular.