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This Week In Social Media: November 20, 2009

From “what’s happening” with Twitter, to Facebook becoming one of the top video sites, this is what happened this week in the world of social media.

YouTube rolled out some major changes this week.  First, the company unveiled YouTube Direct, a new feature for news organizations to reach out to citizens, while also allowing businesses to connect with their customers.  The new tool is a widget that lets users will be able to submit videos directly to your website.  After approval, you can choose which videos to feature on your site. News organizations can then find them and play them on news programs if desired. The feature is similar to that of CNN’s iReport.com, where users submit news happening around them, and CNN can choose to play it back on air. 

YouTube also announced it will enable two new features to cater to the hearing-impaired.  First, Automatic Captions, which is only currently supported with a few educational channels, and most of Google’s channels.  The feature uses a voice-recognition system and automatically comes up with captions for the video.  Google says this feature will remain on a few channels until it is perfected,  at which point it will be made widely available.  The second new feature is called Automatic Timing; to use it, users must upload a simple script and YouTube will automatically match the script up with the speech patterns in the video.  This feature is currently open to everyone. 

Last week, we told that Google is aiming to make the Internet nearly 55 percent faster than it is now.  Since then, Matt Cutts, a Google software engineer, said in an interview with WebProNews’ Mike McDonald that soon a website’s speed could determine where it shows up in Google searches. “We’re starting to think more and more about should speed be a factor in Google’s rankings. A lot of people within Google think that the web should be fast; it should be a good experience.  And so it’s sort of fair to say if you’re a fast site, maybe you should get a little bit of a bonus. Or maybe if you have a really awfully slow site, users don’t want that as much.” Many say that having Google rank searches based on speed could be more productive because giving fast-loading sites a boost in the rankings improves user experiences for the search engine.  The company also recently released a Site Speed site, which helps webmasters with resources specifically aimed at speeding up their pages.

When you are looking to watch a video online, you most likely turn to YouTube or Hulu, which are the top sites when it comes to watching video on the web.  What about Facebook?  That’s right, according to a Nielsen poll this week, Facebook is currently the third most used video site on the web and brought in more than 217 million video views in the month of October.  Facebook only hit the top 10 in September, and has been climbing the charts faster than anyone.  Some experts say this isn’t really shocking due to the nature of short personal video sharing on Facebook versus that longer form on Hulu. 

Twitter users around the world have a new question to ask themselves:  “What’s happening?”  In a change that seems to reflect a change of course for the site, Twitter began asking its users this new question Thursday. In the past, Twitter users had been prompted to respond to a different question: “What are you doing?”  Twitter’s blog says that “What are you doing?” isn’t the right question anymore.  Since the network has started to appeal to more people in 2009, people started avoiding the question, and the company wanted to ask a more immediate question.  Twitter users around the world were shocked by the change but said that the change was needed and just made sense. 

We use the words “unfriend” and “retweet” every day in the world of social media but now those words along with several others are making their way officially into the English dictionary.  The New Oxford American Dictionary, announced its Words of the Year earlier this week, and unfriend was at the top of the list.  The verb means to remove someone from friend status on a social-networking site, most specifically Facebook.  I can use it in a sentence like “I am going to unfriend you if you don’t finish watching the video!”  Hashtag, defined as a pound sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets based on that topic, also made it onto the list.  Other words include tweetaholic, twitterverse, and about a dozen other social media-specific words.

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