Welcome to eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing, alarming or odd in the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams. For more social media snippets, follow her on @emodkate – or for general twittery, @KateVWilliams.
This week: Facebook No to IPO; Twitter’s brand ambivalence; and Simon Cowell’s antisocial behaviour.
Read on here ….
The IPO question must be one that makes Mark Zuckerberg cry – just a little, and on the inside – every time he’s asked it. It came up again in a Wall Street Journal interview last week and – again – the answer was “No IPO in 2-Oh-1-Oh.”
Intriguingly, however, the WSJ punted some rough insider estimates of what Facebook might be worth when, as that organ anticipates, the company goes public in 2011. Figures range from a bonny $35-40 billion, right up to an overblown $59 billion – with one analyst suggesting that 2015 could see a market capitalization of $100 billion.
As the WSJ points out, the speculation is already ‘more than a parlor game’: real money is, as we speak, changing hands on private share exchanges, and prices are already topping $30 a share at times. Which fact which might incline Facebook to act sooner rather than later, before expectations run too high.
And investors’ appetite for a flotation may have been sharpened by recent suggestions the company – which like many private enterprises doesn’t care to comment on its revenues – may have harvested between $600 and $700 million last year – with, according to Inside Facebook, a possible $1.1 billion on the cards for 2010. Seems Mark Zuckerberg can look forward to many further iterations of that pesky IPO question.
There was doubtless some foot-stamping – perhaps even drumming of fists on floors – in the development community last week, following the news that The ‘Book had ejected app news from Notifications. Well, here’s something to staunch and soothe those hiccup-y sobs – application invites are being moved to a yet-to-be-revealed part of the Inbox, from where users may well be able to share with their friends.
Is Facebook planning a web-wide payment system? Royal Pingdom speculates that, were they to combine Connect and Facebook Credits effectively, the company could grow an almost unstoppable interface between users, and online retailers and services. It’s certainly the case that, as Ad Age puts it, Facebook is beginning to resemble a ‘giant, global shopping mall’. Last week P&G’s Pampers became the latest e-commerce talking-point – a ‘Shop Now’ tab on their page led, within an hour, to a sell-out stampede on the special packs it was offering to fans.
Meanwhile, Facebook seems prepared to engage with the public sphere on what the Washington Post calls a more ‘grown up’ footing. It’s hiring a further two Washington-based public policy peeps – one to liaise with consumer groups, the other with congressional, non-profit and tech groups – to beef up its policy team. The ‘Book was criticized during a Senate Judiciary hearing last week for failing to take a firm enough stand against global censorship.
Ah, 10 billion tweets! It’s onwards and upwards for Twitter: here, Brian Solis breaks down Hubspot’s recent State of the Twittersphere research, and paints a pretty cheery scene.
Brands, on the other hand, may be feeling rather less chirpy – this week Ad Age found that, when it comes to brand-mentions on Twitter, the haterz may well outnumber the loverz. While sentiment on Twitter is generally positive, brands tend not to do so well – two well-known media brands included in their Top 10 Most Tweeted Brands certainly won’t be crowing about it, since the tweets that got them trending are overwhelmingly negative in sentiment. Social Media Insider further notes that Monday’s trending #fails included big boys Apple, Telstra and American Express – all for customer service issues – and Jeremiah Owyang recently dismissed Twitter’s marketing future as being that of a “utility-like infrastructure, but not a destination”. Finally, The Buzz Bin asks portentously: Is Trust In Twitter Misplaced?
In a decision which will have had socially-minded observers sucking their teeth and sniffing, Simon Cowell’s ‘American Idol’ has executed an abrupt about-turn regarding its social media policy for contestants. The latest series initially gave each of its 24 finalists individual Facebook, Twitter and MySpace accounts – but on Thursday they hastily pulled the plug on that strategy. Commentators speculate that the producers realised – rather tardily – that the contestants’ follower stats might influence voting patterns – and perhaps undermine the shows’ value by enabling the audience to predict the outcome. Now, contestants can only interact with the public through one branded profile across all three sites.
This week YouTube gamely announced a very worthwhile development – the rollout of auto-captioning. The tech makes cunning use of some of Google’s speech-to-text algorithms to provide instant subtitles to videos, thus opening up the service to hearing-impaired users – but unfortunately, it seems there are a still a few glitches to be ironed out: Mashable has some examples of the auto-caption #fails which are currently meme-ing their way around the web.
An ineffably-complex two-and-a-half-year mega-case, in which Universal Music Group alleged that a mother who posted a YouTube video of her toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” had infringed their copyright, has at last been resolved in said mother’s favour. If you desire further details, arstechnica has them – but I warn that your powers of persistence and dogged determination will be sorely tested.
If you have ever endured a fraught journey, pinned to your seat in misery while a fellow passenger raucously and interminably anatomises the previous night’s festivities for the benefit of an unseen mobile-phone partner, then the following piece of news may well provoke tears of gratitude. The Telegraph reports that a German professor has developed a device which will allow mobile phones to read lips – and bring ‘silent conversations’ a step closer to reality.
Those of us who shell out for the first, wireless-only version of the iPad won’t be able to access 3G networks through our iPhones, according to Steve Jobs. He answered a query about whether it would be possible to tether iPhones to iPads with a simple, if curt, “No.”
Research2guidance predicts a mammoth explosion in the numbers of us using smartphones – from 102 million last year, to very nearly a billion in 2013. The survey further notes that only 10% of Fortune 100 companies currently offer a branded smartphone app to users. Elsewhere, however, O2 Media MD Shaun Gregory urged brands to resist app-frenzy, insisting that more traditional mobile messaging is still the most effective way to reach consumers.
Unilever has used social media to successfully test and launch a brand new Marmite product – Marmite XO, which is intriguingly (or alarmingly, depending on the position you take) described as an ‘extra mature, extra strong’ variety of the Love It/Hate It savoury spread.
Wal-Mart have bravely opened up their ambitious eco-strategy to comment – and not only from the public, but from some of its harshest critics. It’s invited some key pressure groups to help create its environmental strategy, and hosted a Q&A on Treehugger.com, a fierce critic thus far. Its YouTube channel and Facebook fan page also invite users to speak their mind.
The COI has launched Guiding Lights, a social media-focused campaign for the DSCF which aims to inspire young people from all social backgrounds to build careers in teaching, the law, local government and health.
Nissan has unveiled a strong UGC element to the latest in its ‘Urbanproof’ series, which promotes its Qushqai marque. Users will be invited to create their own Nissan ads –with the winners getting a cinema and online release late in 2010, just before the launch of the latest model.
Starbucks is offering its Facebook fans (which now number nigh-on 300,000) a free Fairtrade brownie, as part of its latest campaign to promote its Fairtrade offer.
Ford launches Phase 2 of its Fiesta social media campaign this month. 40 ‘agents’, selected via social network nominations – have been released in key markets to fulfill a set of online tasks (for example, creating a Google map of local hotspots) and other local challenges assigned by the car-maker – tweeting all the while.
Amtrak hopes to engage black consumers with a new travel site which spotlights cities with large black populations – including New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Memphis. Consumers are encouraged to sign up to share their own travel photos, and chat with other users.
Nestle’s Skinny Cow, which already has Facebook as its marketing hub, hopes its fans will raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care with a live draw. Fans can win new outfits and generate cash – by tagging their names against items of clothing posted on the brand’s Facebook Page.
The social gaming steamroller shows no sign of braking: BBC Worldwide is currently considering how to translate its top brands – Doctor Who and Top Gear, f’rinstance – into social games, and Bebo has a shiny news gaming section, as well as a dedicated games-chat section called Smack Talk.
Brands are blinking at the huge possibilities offered by this exploding sector, with its apparently inbuilt virality and self-perpetuating content – but many are rightly hesitating over how to get involved. “The first rule is to ensure that companies integrate their brands as seamlessly as possible into the game and don’t hijack the user’s gaming experience,” says New Media Age in its comprehensive rundown of the risks and opportunities. The article is paywalled, but if your brand is teetering on the social-gaming brink, the pennies will be well spent.
Farmville is, of course, the social games giant whose every move is being closely studied by anyone interested in the phenomenon. For a stimulating, if pessimistic, account of social giant Farmville’s appeal, skitter over here to games brainiac A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz’s blog.
Elsewhere in social games: hi5, a leader in the market, has released a set of Facebook-compatible APIs, so that developers can more easily distribute their social games on the site.
Meanwhile, Massively reports that free-to-play kid’s MMO World of Cars Online has entered open beta: good news for small Cars fans who will now be able to design and race their own vehicles to their heart content.
If you can spare a little time this week for community-thinking, a recent and thoughtful post by Matt Rhodes ponders the degree to which anonymity is desirable in an online community.
And our very own Rebecca Fitzgerald poses (and indeed answers) some interesting questions in her recent post on the eModeration blog, entitled Why brands should write Facebook Fan Page Guidelines .
That’s all folks!