Today Facebook announced three mobile enhancements for Facebook Places, including new functionality that developers of mobile applications may incorporate into their products and a powerful new (and free) platform for connecting mobile consumers with relevant ads for nearby businesses. Today's pronouncements demonstrate the ambition and vision Facebook has for itself in mobile computing and socializing over the long term, but in the immediate future Facebook now is poised to bring the wonders of checking in to the masses.
Chances are, you are NOT reporting your location (aka "checking in") to your friends and followers in social networks. According to Forrester data from earlier this year, just 4% of US online adults have ever used location-based social networks on their mobile phones. Simply put, there hasn't been enough WIIFM ("What's In It For Me") to entice and retain the typical consumer. Now, Facebook is set to change that, lowering the bar and improving the WIIFM for a wider range of consumers. Average Facebook users who previously felt "checking in" was better suited for narcissists and techies can now realize benefits from location-based services (LBSes, also known as geolocation) via a larger and richer set of offers and deals.
Twitter watchers have long awaited (and some feared) this moment: Ads are coming to your Twitter timeline. Twitterers thus far have supported and shown little concern over Twitter’s Promoted Tweets program, so long as those paid tweets were easily differentiated from unpaid tweets and stayed within search results or at the top of the Trends list. But now Twitter is taking the next step that many expected and inserting promoted tweets into users’ Twitter streams (see image below), and that means comingling authentic, unpaid tweets with paid, advertising tweets.
This is the riskiest move Twitter has ever made. There is a big difference between displaying paid tweets at the top of search results and inserting them into the timeline — just ask search engines, which for a while in the early days of the Web struggled with their own monetization models. Search engines experimented with comingling paid search ads with organic search results, but the backlash from consumer advocates and users was sufficient to force a different model. Today, paid search ads are not just differentiated with words, colors and fonts but are substantially and consistently separated from organic results into special portions of the screen.
My last blog post generated more heated comments than I anticipated, and ironically, they had nothing to do with the primary theme of the article. Writing about how Facebook is intended for "real" relationships and not as a means to collect virtual ones, I mentioned that Auto Direct Messages (Auto DMs) on Twitter are unwelcome. Some agreed that these pre-programmed messages sent to all new followers are annoying, but others vehemently disagreed. So, this topic seemed worthy of further exploration.
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