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 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.

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.

Instagram Reaches 100 Million Monthly Active Users

A recenPicture 3-5-2013t announcement stated that popular social networking site Instagram had recently reached 100 million monthly active users. For those not in the know, Instagram is a photo-sharing social networking website launched in 2010 that allows users to take pictures, apply special digital filters to them, and distribute them through other social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The app has often been lauded as the digital equivalent to using now-extinct Polaroid cameras.

In early 2012, only a year and a half after the initial release of Instagram, the company was purchased by Facebook for a whopping $1 billion. Some suggested that this purchase was made because Instagram was succeeding in the photo-sharing business in a way that Facebook had attempted and ultimately failed at. By making this purchase and allowing Instagram to be an integral part of Facebook (though not fusing the two social networks together), Facebook and Instagram have enjoyed a nominal amount of success together.

Though it may be surprising to some that a social network is able to take off into having 100 million users in a matter of two years, this is simply the fast-paced technological world that we now live in. In fact, looking at previous major social networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook, it usually took roughly two years to report these sorts of numbers in regards to their user base. In fact, Facebook hit its first million users – and this was years before easily-accessible mobile apps and the overall popularity of social networking – in roughly ten months.

With Instagram continuing to grow, and under the wing of Facebook at that, it has clearly made itself a name as one of the most popular and resonant social networking websites of all time. Though there were recently some troubles regarding an update to the website’s terms of service, in that it was mistakenly implied that the company would be able to sell images uploaded to Instagram to outside parties, that trouble does not seem to have majorly hindered the growth of the social network. In years to come, it is likely that Instagram will see an even larger base. Unless some hot new social network knocks it out of the water like Facebook did to Myspace, that is.

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.