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More Competition in the World of Live-Streaming

Picture 8-6-2015Live-streaming is something that I have discussed before. Applications like Periscope and Meerkat, which allow users to live-stream video on Twitter, are more popular than ever. Thus, it shouldn’t be incredibly surprising that there are other groups that are interested in getting in on the live-streaming magic. A number of other applications and updates are being released that will allow live-streaming to become available to an even broader audience, with a variety of different nuances and options that make them stand out from their potential competitors.

It’s probably least surprising that Facebook has decided to jump into the business of live-streaming, although they are handling it quite a bit differently than the options that have been available on Twitter. Facebook has added live-streaming as a feature called ‘Live’ to Facebook Mentions, which is the app that allows celebrities to connect with their fans. Thus, the live-streaming function is not available to all Facebook users and is instead only offered to those who have Facebook Mentions accounts. Anyone following these celebrities on Facebook is able to like, comment on, or share these live-streaming videos. The ‘Live’ product manager has stated that this feature may be rolled out to other users in the future, once the company has received feedback from public figures and viewers.

Another type of live-streaming has appeared that’s more accessible for the average person. With Blab, a new app currently in beta, users sign in with their Twitter information and can join a live-streaming video chat of up to four people. Effectively, the app manages to operate as Meerkat or Periscope, only for groups of people. Users can watch the video chat and can mute any of the windows at their leisure. Blab is expected to make waves, in that it could be used for interviews, debates, and other purposes.

Twitter Cracking Down on Joke Thievery

Picture 7-30-2015With its 140-character limit and far-reaching user base, it’s no surprise that many comedians have utilized Twitter to share jokes, quips, and puns with their followers, helping to develop their brand, bring in new fans, and make people laugh. However, there are plenty of people out there who aren’t particularly funny but still want to share jokes through Twitter, which is why uncredited joke thievery has become such a major problem on Twitter. It seems that finally Twitter is taking a stand against joke thieves.

Based on Twitter’s copyright rules, the social network is now allowing users to report tweets as stolen. When this occurs, the company will treat the report just like any other copyright infringement requests (which were previously mostly limited to images and videos). After determining if the tweet has indeed been stolen, the tweet will be removed from the thief’s page and marked as ‘withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder’.

This seems to all be part of Twitter’s recent decision to take a tougher stance against spam, abuse, and other problematic speech being shared on Twitter. Many of the joke thieves are spambots that simply repost things that are found on Twitter without credit. Of course, now that Twitter’s stance on this is out in the open, there are many people testing the waters of Twitter’s limits by tweeting out en masse the specific joke that was first recognized as an example of copyright infringement. It remains to be seen what will be done about things like this.

Twitter Searches for CEO, Begins to Make Changes

ieplexus blog 1-18-16Earlier this month, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, announced that he would be resigning as CEO at the beginning of July, at which time he will be replaced by another CEO, chosen by Twitter’s board of directors. Having split his time between Twitter and Square, a platform for accepting debit and credit card payments, it is likely that he will be aiming to focus primarily on Square. Twitter’s board of directors has said in response that they are hoping to ensure that Dorsey’s replacement is focused entirely on Twitter. They want someone “in a position to make a full-time commitment.”

A shift behind the scenes isn’t the only thing changing for Twitter. There have been some major changes in the past weeks since Dorsey announced that he was stepping down. Last week, for instance, they announced that product pages would be creatable on Twitter, featuring tweets, supplementary information about certain products, as well as the ability for users to easily purchase that product through Twitter. Additionally, users will be able to view ‘top tweets’ about a product, effectively allowing Twitter to operate as a reviewing service.

In another interesting move, Twitter has announced something called Project Lightning, which is a feature that will allow users to browse tweets based on live events, from music festivals to protests. These experiences will be curated by a team of editors, rather than automatically swept in via hashtag. Overall, Project Lightning sounds somewhat similar to Snapchat Stories and its approach to handling live events. Project Lightning is expected to be released later this year. In the meantime, Twitter’s search for a new CEO might lead them down other interesting avenues. It’s not impossible that they wind up picking Snoop Dogg, who has put himself into the running.

New Touches to Twitter This Year

Picture 5-28-2015Just like any other social network, Twitter has been trudging along and updating its features to ensure that it remains competitive and provides its users with the best experience that they can possibly offer. Over the course of this year, Twitter has launched a number of features and services to enhance the overall Twitter experience. Earlier this year, Twitter launched a service for brands and celebrity users called TweetDeck Teams, which is intended to allow multiple people to tweet from a singular account. This service is intended to make it easier for team members to work together on Twitter.

Another service that Twitter launched back in February was an official WordPress plug-in that would allow Twitter to interact smoothly with the popular website and blog development tool. Although many Twitter-related plug-ins had been developed over the years for WordPress, this was the first official one released, intended to make it easier for visitors to tweet WordPress posts, embed tweets, and track ads for those running Twitter Ad campaigns on their WordPress blogs.

Updates to the interface of Twitter itself have also come up from time to time over the course of the year thus far. For instance, Twitter gave users the ability to easily embed Twitter videos on other websites back in March. Then, in April, Twitter began testing targeted advertisements that would appear directly on user profiles, with a ‘Suggested by Twitter’ tag. This is an effort to continue monetizing Twitter and making it profitable, while still being able to provide it to users as a free service.

Meerkat vs. Periscope: The Battle for Twitter

Picture 5-14-2015Back in March, I discussed how Twitter was entering the world of live-streaming with a third-party video app called Meerkat. With the popularity of live-streaming video already on the rise, Meerkat immediately exploded in popularity. However, the fact remained that Meerkat was launched by a third party and Twitter already had other plans for live-streaming video. Mere weeks after the launch of Meerkat, it was revealed that Twitter was already planning to launch their own live-streaming app called Periscope.

Twitter actually acquired Periscope in January, so live-streaming is something that has long been on their mind. Periscope launched at the end of March for iOS, giving Meerkat only a brief head-start in the Twitter live-streaming business. Upon the launch of Periscope, most news sources had only positive things to say. The interface was cleaner than Meerkat, there’s more interaction available between users, and most importantly, Periscope allows users to save streams and replay them later.

In response, Meerkat has been doing what it can to differentiate itself from Periscope and ensure that it’s still got a horse in the race. The people behind Meerkat have opened up Meerkat to other developers, transforming it into a platform that can be enhanced in various ways. Developed have already changed the Meerkat experience by adding automatic uploads of streams to YouTube, analytics tools, and better discovery for other users’ streams, among other updates. Periscope is currently in the top ten US social apps, while Meerkat is around #70, but these enhancements may help to give Meerkat a push.

Bringing Live Streaming to Twitter

Picture 3-12-2015Over the past few years, live-streaming has become immensely popular. This is largely thanks to the popularity of Twitch, which is a live streaming video platform that initially focused on streaming video game playthroughs and e-sports, though its brand has continued to expand. Amazon’s purchase of Twitch in September 2014 only helped to expand the brand’s popularity. Thus, it’s unsurprising that live-streaming has been on the brains of many people since Twitch’s surge in viewership, which has turned it into one of the top 200 visited websites on the Internet.

A couple weeks ago, Meerkat was launched as a live-streaming video app that works directly in conjunction with Twitter. Though Meerkat is an independent app with no official connections to Twitter, it uses Twitter to allow people to live-stream video or record video to be scheduled for a later tweet. As Meerkat runs live-streaming video, other users are able to engage the user’s Twitter account with replies, which appear at the bottom of the video feed. When the live-stream is completed, its default setting is to be ephemeral and disappear, although the streamer has the option of saving the video to their phone’s memory.

In the weeks since its launch, Meerkat has become extremely popular, though only time will tell if it will merely be a passing fad or if it will reach the same level of popularity as Twitch. In any case, Twitter has reportedly been in talks to purchase another live-stream app known as Periscope. Periscope has not yet launched, but beta testers have described the app as similar to Meerkat. If Twitter purchases Periscope and launches it, they could potentially be burying Meerkat before it has a chance to truly shine. At any rate, it’s definitely likely that live-streaming is going to be the next big thing for Twitter.

How Do Social Networks Seem Like They’re Psychic?

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.

Post-Mortem Posting: Death and Social Media

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.

Additional Video Support for Social Networks

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.

Twitter Finds New Ways to Interact with Search Engines

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.