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.
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.
If you would, complete the very brief 10-question survey below. It should take less than three or four minutes to complete. And once you've completed the survey, please click the "Retweet" button on the top right corner to invite others to complete the survey. (If the survey does not appear below, you may also click here to take survey.)
Please complete the survey only once. (No personally identifiable information will be requested or collected, although IP addresses will be recorded in order to prevent excessive submissions from a single IP.)
I'll collect data for a week or so and will report all data here on my Forrester blog.
Update: My post below created a great deal of discussion about Twitter Auto DMs and whether they are welcome and worthwhile or unwelcome and damaging to senders' reputations. Because of the diversity of opinion, I created a brief 10-question survey and invite you to complete the survey and then share it with your followers on Twitter. The survey should take less than 3 or 4 minutes to complete, so please visit: http://blogs.forrester.com/augie_ray/10-11-02-please_complete_a_brief_su... or http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CFSTQ3D. I'll share all of the data here on the Forrester blogs in a week or two!
Today’s Bing news is very interesting, not because the new functionality that Microsoft and Facebook announced is terribly powerful, but because it demonstrates how the next great evolution of search will occur. In brief, Bing announced two new ways it is introducing social data into its search results:
Enhancing results with Facebook Likes: If you search on Bing and your Facebook friends have "liked" something related to your search term, you will see those "likes" highlighted within your search results. The idea behind this functionality is that something your friend "likes" will be more interesting to you than other search results.
Facebook profile search: Bing reports that more than 4% of searches are for people. Of course, trying to find a particular Bob Smith can be a challenge, which is why Bing will utilize your Facebook network to help you find the Bob Smith that is most likely the one you seek.
Welcome to the new Facebook. No, I don't mean Facebook the social network, although today's changes do represent some exciting new capabilities for Facebook users. Instead, I mean Facebook the company. The organization that today announced new features seems a different Facebook than the one we’ve seen in the past. Today’s Facebook is one committed to transparency and user control and mindful of its increasingly vital and high-profile position within people's communications and lives.
By now you may have heard of (or seen) the new features Facebook announced at its press event this morning. Here is a brief summary:
Download Your Info: You can download a copy of everything you’ve ever posted to Facebook. Go to “Account: Account Settings” in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook page to access this new feature. As an extra security measure, you will be asked to authenticate yourself before downloading your data as a ZIP file. This file will contain your posts, pictures, list of friends, events, notes and more (see Figure 1).
Applications You Use: To date, once you allowed a third-party application to access your Facebook data, you had no ability to see what personal data was transferred and had few options to manage the application permissions. Facebook is now offering greater transparency and control over this data sharing. Go to “Account: Privacy” in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook page, then click “edit settings” to review the applications you have authorized. You can see the data each application has accessed; if you are unhappy with the amount of personal information provided, you may easily remove optional permissions for an application or deauthorize it completely from accessing your data (see Figure 2).
We're less than a week away from the release of The Social Network. What do you think the film's US box office will be? Are we looking at a $150-million blockbuster? A $100-million success? Or a $50-million disappointment? Post your predictions here or tweet them on Twitter to @augieray with the hashtag #SNBO (for Social Network Box Office), and you could earn not only bragging rights but also receive a free copy of Empowered, signed by best-selling author Josh Bernoff. You must post your prediction before 8 a.m. PDT on Friday, October 1, and we'll declare a winner on Monday, October 25.
It seems everyone in the world (or at least everyone in my world) is buzzing about The Social Network. In case you're living in a cave, The Social Network is the fictionalized story of the founding of Facebook, featuring real-life characters such as Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Sean Parker, and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
On Tuesday, Twitter unveiled a new and improved user interface for its Web site. Twitter’s new Web functionality is a significant evolution that promises to attract more visits to Twitter.com, improve Twitterers’ interactions with content and each other, and ease adoption for Twitter newbies. The changes will roll out over the next few weeks, and there are implications for users and advertisers. (For example, if you have one of those elaborate, custom background images that conveys URLs or contact data, I hope you’re not too attached to it.)
At first glance, the new Twitter.com interface seems to be a minor redesign of the current Web site. The left column containing the tweet stream is largely untouched, but the right column holding Twitter follower counts and trending topics is much wider. The extra width accommodates a new “detail pane” that improves engagement with tweets and discovery of other Twitter users.
Click on a tweet in the left column, and the detail pane permits viewing and interaction with the content of that tweet. What is displayed in the detail pane depends on the nature of the tweet:
Videos: If the tweet contains a link to a video from sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and USTREAM, that video plays in the detail pane.
Maps: If the tweet is a check-in via services such as foursquare, the detail pane displays a map.
Pictures: If the tweet includes a link to a picture posted using services such as Flickr, DailyBooth, Twitpic and DeviantArt, that image appears in the detail pane.
Hashtags: If you click on a hashtag within a tweet, the detail pane conveys up-to-the-moment search results.
Today Facebook revealed its long-anticipated geolocation offering called “Places.” In many respects, Facebook’s offering doesn’t expand on the functionality you can find in current location-based services such as foursquare — you can check in at a place, share your location with friends, see who is nearby, and add a place. In fact, the most important contribution Facebook is making to the geolocation social space is not in form but scale. While foursquare counts around 2.5 million users in its base, Facebook has 500 million. This means that Facebook is positioned to introduce the benefits of location sharing to a new and much wider audience.
Of course, providing users with a new feature is one thing, but getting them to adopt a new sort of social behavior is another. Facebook has done much to ease the adoption process for users, starting with some smart decisions about privacy. It is evident that Facebook has learned from past privacy missteps. By default, when users check into a place, this information will only be shared with friends and not the whole world. This reflects a different and more user-centric approach than Facebook has taken in the past.
Of course, it's nearly impossible to launch any new social feature without some level of privacy concern, and it remains to be seen whether users will like or dislike the fact that they can be checked in by their friends. Facebook says this is intended as an advantage — since not every person has an advanced smartphone, not every Facebook user can check himself or herself into a location for the time being; by allowing people to check in their friends, more Facebook users can participate. People can turn off the ability for friends to check them in, but by default this is permitted.
If you're interested in Facebook's announcement this evening, you can watch the proceedings live here on the Forrester blog at 5 pm PDT.
The social media world is abuzz. Take one hot trend (geolocation) and add one blazing hot social network with a history of privacy missteps (Facebook), and you have the making for an interesting news story.
That's not the only reason curiosity is high about tonight's event--there's also a lot of money involved. While consumer adoption of geolocation check-in via services like foursquare and Gowalla is still nascent, there is little doubt that consumers will increasingly share their location via social networks. They share their profiles (who), their activities (what) and their hopes and wishes (why), so why not the "where"? And this data becomes yet another piece of the puzzle for advertisers wishing to build promotions, loyalty programs and more personalized and targeted advertising.
Then, of course, there's the foursquare vs. Facebook angle, which I expect will disappoint those looking for a battle royale between the heavyweight champ (Facebook with 500 million users) and the young upstart (foursquare with 2.5 million users). Facebook seems less likely to launch a "foursquare killer" and more likely to create a geolocation platform upon which others might build. Think of it this way: Facebook doesn't create social games, but instead creates the platform on which third-party social games thrive. Despite the Facebook vs. foursquare hype, the two are likely to end up more complementary than competitive.
We humans can have all sorts of addictions. Some researchers believe that addictions may be positive -- such as to jogging or meditation -- but of course many addictions are negative.
What about Facebook? There is no doubt that Facebook is addicting -- according to Nielsen, users spend as much time on Facebook as they do Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and eBay combined. But is this a positive addiction or a negative one? Is Facebook jogging, or is it heroin?