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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.

Facebook Announces Updated News Feed

On Thursday, Picture 3-12-2013March 7, Facebook announced a new version of its News Feed – known as one of the ‘three pillars’ of Facebook alongside Timeline and Graph Search – and the thesis statement of this announcement appears to be that Facebook is looking to cut down on clutter. Essentially, the update to the News Feed will allow Facebook users to easily change what information they are viewing on their News Feed. The company has likened this ability to turning pages on a newspaper.

For instance, Facebook users will start out on the ‘front page,’ which includes all of the information typically seen on their News Feed. However, users will easily be able to ‘turn the page’ to other categories, such as a view that only shows close friends, a view that only shows photos, or a view that only shows game-related information. By filtering out the excess posts, Facebook users will be able to easily find whatever information they might be looking for.

In addition to these ‘pages,’ there will also be other design choices made to the new Facebook. Some sources have suggested that this redesign makes the web version of Facebook look a lot more like the exceedingly popular mobile version of Facebook, which is likely due to the focus on simplicity, considering the mobile version of Facebook is also less cluttered, out of necessity. In the new design, photos have been made larger and navigation options have been slimmed down. These changes sound great for most Facebook users, but the fact that users will be able to more easily filter certain posts out may be a hindrance to companies that rely on Facebook for marketing, similar to how DVRs have affected television commercials.

That’s how it looks at first glance, anyway. In actuality, some are reporting that the very reason that Facebook is receiving a redesign in the first place is to effectively include more advertising, allowing more space for ads and more ability to properly personalize those advertisements. Considering how there is often a bit of backlash every time Facebook chooses to redesign their website, followed by eventual acceptance and forgetting what the previous design looked like, one can only wonder how much backlash there might be to a redesign that’s being done particularly to include additional potentially invasive advertisements.

Twitter and Facebook, Hacked!

On FebrPicture 2-26-2013uary 1, Twitter let its users know in a blog post that the social network had been hacked and around 250,000 user accounts had had their information compromised. The hackers were reportedly able to access user names, passwords, and e-mail addresses, and those who were affected by this incident have been e-mailed by Twitter and instructed to reset their passwords to prevent any further tampering with their Twitter accounts. There had been evidence that there may had been a breach up to a week prior, but the company did not know the extent of the security snafu until the day it posted the announcement that the site had been hacked.

Considering Twitter boasts more than 200 million users, a compromise of 250,000 accounts is relatively a small percentage, but the company made sure to remind users of ways to help ensure that one’s accounts wouldn’t be compromised again in the future, such as using strong passwords, refraining from using the same password for multiple accounts, and disabling Java. The Twitter hack came only a few weeks after the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal were reportedly compromised by Chinese hackers, though Twitter did not suggest that their cyberassault was perpetrated by the same people.

Shocking social network users even further was the announcement on February 15 that stated that Facebook had been the victim of a ‘sophisticated attack’, which apparently had taken place in January when some Facebook employees visited a website that installed harmful malware on their computers. Again, the perpetrators are unknown and are not suggested to necessarily be related to the Chinese hackers that compromised the news websites or the hackers who had gotten through to Twitter. Also, unlike the Twitter hack, Facebook has reported that no user information such as e-mails or passwords was released in its attack.

With this many attacks on major websites and social networks, it’s hard not to wonder how truly secure one’s information is. Many websites have home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card information logged into databases, and clearly even the largest social networks are not immune to the effects of sophisticated hacking. While there haven’t yet been any major incidents where massive amounts of information gathered from hacked websites and social networks were stolen and abused yet, it sure seems to be that things are pointing in that direction.

Considering how much trust is given to these websites and how much potentially damaging information these sites and social networks contain, the fear of being hacked in the future might be something worth worrying about. Facebook and Twitter, however, have made statements that they are working rigorously to prevent further compromises, Facebook stating that they are working with law enforcement officials and other people in the industry to help prevent future attacks.

Facebook Error Shows How Connected to Social Networking We Have Become

Picture 2-18-2013For a short time on Thursday, February 7, Facebook reminded the Internet how connected it has become to social networking and, perhaps, how reliant we as a society have become on social networks such as Facebook. How did Facebook manage to do something so seemingly drastic? This all stems from a minor error that occurred with the Facebook Connect API (application programming interface).

The Facebook Connect API is used on many third-party (non-Facebook) websites to allow people to easily post news articles and other information from websites as links on their Facebook pages, or to easily ‘like’ or comment on these articles and related Facebook pages. Many social networks have connections to major websites like this; so many, in fact, that it has become pretty much commonplace for one to be easily able to post a link to a news article on Facebook or retweet it on Twitter at the simple click of a button.

Essentially, what happened on February 7 was that this API crashed, causing hundreds of websites such as CNN, NBC News, Hulu, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Pinterest, and many other popular websites that feature connectivity to Facebook also crashed alongside the API, causing visitors of those websites to be redirected to a Facebook error page. The error lasted for different amounts of time depending on the website, with NBC News reporting a twelve minute downtime, while Read Write Web reported an hour of downtime caused by Facebook Connect.

Reportedly, users on Twitter have referred to the incident as ‘Facebookmageddon,’ as the amount of websites affected by this problem ultimately affected millions of users on a very widespread scale. It is very interesting to see that something like this could happen and, considering how Twitter was recently hacked itself, where more than 250,000 users were compromised, it makes one wonder whether a skilled hacker abusing Facebook Connect could shut down hundreds of major websites all at once at some time in the near future. Regardless, it certainly is interesting to see how connected the Internet appears to be, simply through the usage of Facebook.

More Facebook Users on Cell Phones than Computers

It doesn’t seem likePicture 2-11-2013 it was that long ago when social networking websites like MySpace hit the scene and began to surge in increasing popularity; in 2006, MySpace was receiving more visits than Google in the United States, and in 2008, Facebook began to take over as the king of the social networks, surpassing MySpace in the amount of unique worldwide visitors. As these social networks have risen and fallen, one commonality between the majority of these networks has been connectivity with mobile phones.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the downfalls of MySpace’s relaunching as ‘Myspace’ was that there was no working mobile app released alongside it. Neglecting the many, many people who primarily use their cell phones to access their favorite social networking websites was a fatal mistake that will likely prevent Myspace from reaching the large audience that it’s hoping for. To prove this point further, one must simply look at Facebook trends regarding mobile users.

Currently, the Facebook mobile application is the most-used mobile app in the world, beating out other widespread mobile apps such as Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail. It’s also the mobile app that people use for the longest; according to recent information, 23% of the time people spend using mobile apps is used with Facebook. Comparatively, second place – Instagram – only uses 3% of that time. Needless to say, mobile apps are very important when it comes to social networking.

In fact, for the first time since the company’s launch, the number of active daily visitors that check Facebook using a mobile app on their cell phones (or tablets or other mobile devices) is higher than the number of people that check their Facebook accounts using a computer connected to the Internet. This is relevant for more reasons other than being displayed as an example of how cell phones and other mobile devices are changing the way we look at the Internet and the world. To Facebook (and presumably other social networks), this is especially relevant because of the potential revenue there is to be made.

Initially, in the months after Facebook’s stock went public in May 2012, the company had claimed that it wasn’t making ‘any meaningful revenue’ from its mobile apps. However, in August, Facebook updated its mobile apps to show ads to mobile users, as well as employing other advertisement methods to encourage users to ‘like’ certain pages for companies on Facebook. Since this change, mobile ad sales have accounted for 23% of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which equals about $306 million. With mobile revenue suddenly becoming very relevant, it should be interesting to see how Facebook and other social networks continue to capitalize on mobile apps in the future.