Welcome to eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing, alarming or odd in the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams (@emodkate).
In this update: Guns ‘n’ Snowballs; Microsoft’s faux pas ; and Yule 2.0.
This is the last update for 2009 – and all of us at eModeration wish you a very merry holiday. See you in 2010!
THE HEADLINES …
THE LOWDOWN …
A coalititon of privacy groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Facebook’s new privacy changes, which it alleges constitute ‘unfair and deceptive trade practices’. While Facebook harumph that it’s all a lot of fuss and bother about nothing, commentators mainly agree that the ‘Book’s midstream course-switch has been poorly-explained at best; at worst, occlusive. The real question is, as Peter Kafka points out, whether advertisers will start to mutter. He notes that Facebook’s Beacon programme was only pulled once marketers started asking awkward questions, and wonders whether history might repeat itself.
Over in China, Microsoft found itself in a rather awkward spot when it emerged that the resemblance their new platform Juku bore to start-up micro-blogging service Plurk was so heavy as to be what you and I might call ‘the same’. Embarrassingly for Microsoft, it was discovered that one of their Chinese developers had indeed lifted chunks of Plurk’s code, and the service was suspended indefinitely. The speed and directness with which they dealt with the crisis earned them mild praise – but nevertheless Plurk is ominously said to be considering its legal options.
Twitter found itself under attack last week by the mysteriously-named Iranian Cyber Army, who it appears hijacked the site via weak Twitter email security. The group managed to redirect users to their own site – but Twitterers were left confused as to the hackers’ message. In broken English, they appeared to harbour anti-American feeling – but used the image of a green flag, associated with those who oppose the current regime.
Meanwhile RockYou – the third most successful Facebook app, with more than 55 million monthly active users – suffered a serious hack attack which exposed 32 million customer usernames and passwords to identity theft. The breach is all the more serious because Rock You’s usernames and passwords – which were apparently displayed in plain text – are by default the same as the user’s email username and passwords. Worse still, RockYou appears to have taken a full 10 days to let them know of the risk to their online identities.
On Saturday, Washington DC’s Twitterers organized an impromptu street-corner snowball fight – what could be more seasonal or more jolly? Unfortunately, an undercover cop whose Hummer caught a couple of stray snowballs was not yet fully immersed in the festive spirit, and rather pooped the party by getting out of his vehicle and drawing his weapon on the dismayed funsters – inspiring the instantly viral chant of ‘Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight!’
A 15-year-old boy, whose parents took away his Xbox system as punishment for an unspecified misdemeanour, called 911 to check that they were within their rights to do so. Police officers who arrived at his house confirmed that his parents are, in fact, the boss of him.
In what will be the last ‘What Were They Thinking?’ of 2009, three police officers have been disciplined after a group of inebriated young women ran amok in their police station. The officers, presumably perfectly capable of dealing with both fast-footed burglars and angry drunks, found themselves unaccountably unable to control the young women, who took photos of themselves in police uniforms posing in, ahem, a provocative manner – shots which later turned up on Facebook.
A producer from Uruguay who uploaded his short film – made for a total of £186 – onto YouTube has now been offered a £18.6m contract to make a Hollywood film. Just three days after the upload, Fede Alvarez’ inbox was bulging with enquiries from Hollywood; but if you are still clutching to your secret heart the fantasy that it could happen to you, were you only to launch your talent on the YouTube-viewing world – watch this, and let the dream go.
Chris Brown has had what is rapidly becoming known (well, in my head) as a Twissy Fit. You may or may not know that the singer recently released a comeback album, part of his attempt to rebuild his image after his violent assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna. In a series of increasingly bitter tweets, Brown claimed that retailers were blackballing his album – causing widespread mockery in the entertainment press, and the hurried deletion of the account in question.
Last week we had the murky ethics of lawyers ‘friending’ judges – this week it’s jurors whose questionable social media activities are in the dock. Jury-members in the mayor of Baltimore’s trial for gift-card embezzlement made contact with one another on Facebook – and now the mayor’s lawyers are examining whether this could constitute grounds for appeal.
If you wish your kiddywinks to enjoy a Christmas which is both magical and modern, upgrade your traditions to Yule 2.0 with Mashable’s list of ways to interact with Santa. There’s even an iPhone app in which the Big Guy tells them that, unless they shape up in the behaviour department, they can expect nowt but a lump of coal in their stocking.
On Christmas Day, just after lunch, Barnardo’s is launching their hugely innovative Teens’ Speech campaign online. For the last 2 months, Barnardo’s has been encouraging teenagers to upload videos in which they express their hopes – and fears – for the future. The project – which eModeration has been delighted to be part of – involved an open invitation to this much-maligned group to speak out on the issues which are important to them across multiple platforms including YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and the Barnardo’s website. The campaign also hopes to draw attention to the fact that what matters to teens should also matter to the rest of us – and it promises to be touching, insightful, and very honest.
Hot on the heels of last week’s revelation that Facebook’s demographic is increasingly Gran-shaped, comes the launch of a new service for granny-bloggers. The NanaBlogs helps Grans to explore social media, and to start their own blogs. The launch coincides with news that the older generation is embracing texting at last – 14% of those aged 45-plus are sending more than 30 text messages every week.
Two regulatory changes this week: first the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit was extended to include digital marketing – bringing brands’ websites under their control for the first time.
Then the Press Complaints Commission’s reach was extended to cover online-only publications – until recently those which had no offline presence were exempt.
An interesting week for online news content: the Guardian launched an iPhone app, which for a one-off fee of £2.39 allows users to customise Guardian content, making it much easier to view on a mobile device. And over the pond, the Huffington Post is offering sponsored tweets to advertisers, which will feature in the live Twitter feed on its site. It’s also offering ad placements within the comments section of its articles.
Meanwhile, a huge GfK Group study has found that only 13% of people in Europe and the USA would be prepared to pay for online content. Worse still, 42% of European and 21% of US consumers didn’t even want their content to be supported by ads – which would leave content-providers without any visible means of support whatsoever.
Aside from the growing privacy brouhaha detailed above, it’s been an uneventful week for the ‘Book.
They announced the heartening results of its recent demographic study, which show that the percentage of Black and Asian users are now approaching those found in the general US population. But the social giant also faced criticism for pointedly refusing to share the wider data-set with the public, which caused some to wonder whether other, less cheerful cultural trends were contained within.
Facebook also launched a developer consultant programme, to help confuzzled brands decide who to work with when building their Facebook presence. The initial roster of 14 companies include Context Optional and Wildfire, who have worked with brands such as Red Bull, Chase, MTV and Disney on social media launches.
A light news week also for Twitter: they launched in German, which joins Spanish, French and Italian as official Twitter-supported languages.
And, in a possible step towards a full commercial offer, Twitter began testing a new ‘Contributors’ feature. It lets businesses have accounts which can be used by several employees, each of whom would be identified by an individual by-line.
And finally, Twitter announced their top trending topics of the year: the results, which put Michael Jackson and Susan Boyle at number one and two respectively, were entirely predictable – but like too much gin in Auntie Vera’s holiday egg-nog, were no less enjoyable for that.
Like Facebook, Google launched URL shorteners this week – and while Google’s is only available through its Toolbar and Feedburner, there’s nothing to say things will stay that way. Which must, as MediaPost points out, make uncomfortable reading for Bit.ly et al, as they watch Google pull out all stops to keep the traffic flowing through to search.
Elsewhere, ZDNet.com suggests that real-time search is not necessarily going to be the money-spinner that Google might be anticipating. They wonder if ‘real-time search moves too fast and is too unpredictable to monetize … In other words, you need a crystal ball to monetize a real-time stream of information.’
But most Google gossip this week concerned rumours of an imminent launch-date for their own-branded smartphone, based on the Android platform. Unlike other phones, this will be sold directly to consumers, who will themselves contract with a wireless network. Some commentators are urging those of you who initially snubbed the iPhone to view this as a second chance to get in at the off. But others warn that, at $500, the Droid is a risky prospect in a market where “all previous attempts to sell directly to the consumer in the U.S. have thus far have been an abject failure.” Ho hum.
Following reports last month that YouTube was contemplating iTunes-style rentals for their growing offer of long-form TV content, Reuters reports that the video-sharing site is considering monthly subscriptions along a cable-tv provider model. Mashable posits that, one way or another, we’re looking at some kind of paid-content model for YouTube, since providers seem unwilling to settle for an entirely ad-supported model.
Ah, here she is again – Susan Boyle is top of the pops on YouTube’s most popular vids of the year. Pass the egg nog, Auntie!
Marshalls and T.J. Maxx have co-sponsored a festive YouTube Caroling Channel. It’s a contest site where singers can pick one of four customized songs to sing – including ‘Deck Yourself Out’ and “We Wish You a Better Way to Christmas Shop” – in hopes of winning a $5,000 gift-card Grand Prize.
Carl’s Junior has hired Kim Kardashian to front a new multi-faceted digital campaign, the centrepiece of which is an augmented reality lunch date, in which fans can chat with the star over a virtual Carl’s Jr. grilled chicken salad.
NBC is launching a fan-driven campaign to raise the social media profile of its show ‘Chuck’, which revolves around a geek who must save the world after his brain becomes accidentally encoded with government secrets. Fans who ‘share the greatness’ through Facebook and other SocNets have a chance at the Grand Prize of appearing in a Chuck episode.
Samsung is offering 10 teams of bloggers the chance to zip over to the Winter Games in Vancouver this February. The teams will face a selection of challenges, like visiting multiple sites around the city, collecting fan stories and covering the various events – all of which they’ll record on a Samsung Mythic mobile phone.
The number of reviews consulted by online shoppers was up by a mammoth 128% this year, according to a massive survey of UK shoppers carried out on November 30, the date which marks the unofficial start of the online Christmas shopping season.
Meanwhile, social media recommendations from strangers languish at seventh place as a means of discovering online video – verbal word of mouth (41%) and search (32%) are the top two.
Prompt Communications report that Facebook (96%) is now the most popular communication tool, followed by text (93%) and email (91%) – but consumers use text (37%) more frequently, with Facebook and the phone at 28%.
YuMe reports that under-14s have the highest click-through rate on pre-roll video ads, at 3.7%. Their parents – people over 35 – have the next highest at 1.9%, followed by 18 to 24s at 1.5%. More detailed stats on video ads can be found here.
A recent study from SheSpeaks finds that the number of US women who have at least one social networking profile has leapt by nearly half to 86% – up from 58% last year. The number logging in at least once a day is now up to a cracking 72%, from 53% in 2008.
eMarketer says US online ad spend figures will show a 4.6% decrease over last year – a sharp revision of the growth of 4.5% it initially predicted. The good news is that they reckon that the cycle has bottom out – for online advertising at least.
Smartphones are changing the social landscape, with over 450 million of us accessing the mobile internet in 2009. IDC’s research also predicts that this already huge number is set to double to 900 million by the end of 2013.
And Scandinavian operator TeliaSonera is leading the way, by offering the world’s first ‘4G’ mobile broadband to users in Norway and Sweden. They’ll now benefit from mobile download speeds an astonishing 10 times faster than the rest of us 3G slowcoaches.
Finally, here’s news that Sony is launching an MMO on PlayStation Home. The game, called Sodium One, is sci-fi themed, and is free-to-play for the first five levels. Thereafter, additional purchasable items will help you continue to advance.
That’s all till 2010, folks!