Archive for the ‘Social media news’ Category.

Can Google+ rival Facebook and Twitter? Some initial thoughts

Google+ Google Plus icons for Circles Spark Hangouts

Google+'s features - Home, Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Photos and Huddle

It’s too early to tell whether or not Google+, the company’s challenger to Facebook, will find success. Google’s Documents and Apps have seen widespread use, yet other services have struggled, like Wave. Early feedback suggests that from a user perspective, Google+ is getting some things right, but is not yet a solid package or a true rival to Facebook or Twitter.

The plus

Its real USP is ‘Circles’, which is a way of quickly and easily managing those you follow and then targeting those groups with content. This is a fantastic addition to friend/follower management and is something Facebook users have needed for years. It’s also potentially one of its biggest problems: if Facebook reacts quickly and introduces better peer management and targeting, then Circles ceases to be a differentiator.

Beyond Circles, it’s also promoting group video chat (‘Hangouts’) and topic browsing (‘Sparks’). Personally, I like Sparks. It works for me in the same way Bing does, i.e “let me browse but yes, give me that initial spark”. Hangouts is a great feature for those who like video chats. But I’m not sure it’s enough to take audience from, say, Skype. Google has fantastic voice recognition facilities for its mobile services. It would have been great, for example,  to support Hangouts with automatic voice transcription for the hard of hearing or for business meetings.

…and the minus?

It’s therefore going to be an uphill climb. Google hasn’t done itself any favours with its staggered approach to release. It worked for Gmail because people were looking for a great, free e-mail service and its central features did not rely on who or how many people you knew. Google+, however, requires you to have friends who are also using Google+. I have 300 friends on Facebook who are constantly chatting with me and giving me content to explore. Why should I go to Google+ to interact with 20 people?

If they want to succeed, then from a user perspective they really need to offer more of what the other networks don’t have (and a killer could have been decent cloud storage and streaming) and they need to make it easy for users to aggregate. Something as simple as grabbing contact e-mails from your Facebook friends en masse would have instantly made this more interesting. Why not allow me to connect using Twitter and Facebook to pull in feeds from both? Google could have made Google+ something I want as my homepage, my one-stop shop to the internet. They could have reinvented the internet portal - something Microsoft has been trying for years with MSN but failing because of poor application.

The value for brands?

As for brands, I don’t think there’s anything in this for them in the short term. Longer term I think brand engagement will be in the form of specialised search and content advertising (eg through ‘Sparks’ or interspersed through the stream). There’s a lot of white space that would be perfect for advertising. On top of that, Engadget found references to game sharing in the background code, suggesting that there’s much more to come that users and brands can do.

Perhaps that’s the central benefit Google will try to sell? ‘Come to Google+. We have ads, but it’s not nearly as invasive or pervasive as on Facebook!’

Professional social networks: 2 Facebook apps that challenge LinkedIn

When it comes to using professional social networks, LinkedIn has long been the original and specialist network. Hot on LinkedIn’s heels are two Facebook apps which aim to take advantage of Facebook’s vast user base. Are these apps a sign of the future of professional networking, or should we continue to keep our personal and professional personas separated?

Both of these apps do stress that they allow you complete separation between your ‘regular’, social Facebook presence, and your professional one. They effectively allow you to create a new profile page, and build a separate network that will never see personal material such as your wall and tagged photos. What else do they offer?

BranchOut professional networking logoBranchOut

BranchOut has been on the scene since July 2010, but has recently gained remarkable growth and increased user activity. The app is arguably very self promoting, verging on the side of spam (see this post for a breakdown of its viral techniques) and having tested it myself I was disappointed to see that the default choice for inviting friends was to post on their wall rather than sending a private invitation as a message.

BranchOut aims to gamify professional networking by using badges as incentives for growing your network. The danger in this is that it will perhaps motivate some people to focus on the the volume of their network rather than the quality ot it. It’s also possible to gift badges to other users, making recommendations and endorsements too easy can perhaps diminishing their value.

Monster.com professional networking Facebook app BeKnown logoBeKnown

Recently launched by job-hunting site Monster.com, BeKnown offers a very similar approach to BranchOut, offering a partition between your professional and social spheres.

BeKnown also utilities badges as an incentive for making connections as well as giving and receiving endorsements. It appears that BeKnown uses a less intrusive approach to inviting friends, and the top badge for number of connections is at 500, which places a cap similar to LinkedIn.

As it is early days for BeKnown we may have to wait and see what the uptake is like amongst users. While the link to the jobs listed on Monster.com will surely be an attractive lure to job hunters, it will be interesting to see how BeKnown handles the headstarts gained by LinkedIn and BranchOut.

What are your social media photo rights? Image T&Cs examined

What are your social media photo rights?It’s always an area that has little transparency, who actually owns the rights to our images once we upload them to social networks? Could I end up seeing one of my photos all over the web, in the papers or on TV? It’s a common question that’s asked when we run our social media strategy sessions with clients.

Steps to retaining the copyright of your content

First, determine whether sharing an image is a bad thing. Sometimes, an image being viewed many times can be good for your personal and professional brand image. However, if you want to protect yourself:

  1. Understand the rules of the site you use (they change often)
  2. Avoid posting pictures that you’re particularly ‘protective’ over
  3. Delete or export any content that you don’t want shared if it’s on a network that could distribute it (see a great post by The Next Web for more information on this)
  4. Be selective with your privacy settings and licensing selections
  5. Use sites like TinEye to see if your images are being shared where they shouldn’t be.

Kathy E Gill from Media Shift compiled a great list of the terms and conditions relating to photo usage on most social media sites. It’s a great resource for seeing the relevant information side by side and identifying which platforms could take credit for the photos that you create. (She also wrote a great blog post covering this in more detail)

So who are the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of photography rights?

Retain most rights:

Posterous
“You retain full copyright of any original content that you send us. By posting to Posterous, you’re granting us a license to distribute your content on this site.”

Your images are licensed for use on Posterous but you retain how they are distributed.

flickr (by Yahoo!)
“Photos and/or images found on Yahoo! Images or Flickr are the property of the users that posted them. Yahoo! cannot grant permission to use third party content. Please contact the user directly.”

As long as you control your licensing settings you can limit use to Yahoo! properties.

yFrog (by ImageShack)

“The content that you distribute through the ImageShack Network is owned by you, and you give ImageShack permission to display and distribute said content exclusively on the ImageShack Network.”

After the Twitpic cotroversy, ImageShack have reversed their policy to give you more rights and limit the use to the ImageShack network.

Publicity / partner sharing:

Picasa (by Google)

“You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

This distribution of your content is also extended to the Google Partners, of which there are many!

Instagram

“Instagram does NOT claim ANY ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials.”

However any content that is shared publicly can be used by Instagram for their promotion across any media.

Limited rights / sublicensing:

All of the following services have some form of ‘sub-licensable’ rights:

Facebook:

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”

Twitpic

“However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service.”

Tumblr

“Subscriber shall own all Subscriber Content that Subscriber contributes to the Site, but hereby grants and agrees to grant Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, transferable right and license (with the right to sublicense), to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services.”

Twitter

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)”

All the statements about terms and conditions of the various photo sharing sites in this post are my own interpretation. Please visit the terms and conditions of the relevant site to view the official statements.

Klout coupons for Facebook - will it work?

Audi Facebook content available with Klout score

Score!

A new app for Facebook pages will take a user’s Klout score into account before giving them access to certain content.

While exclusivity is great for generating publicity, could this tool risk leaving some legitimate fans feeling snubbed?

Klout measures activity and influence across Twitter and Facebook, using 25+ metrics, and calculates an overall score on a scale of 1-100. The idea behind the Facebook app is that brands can then offer exclusive content, deals and discounts to users who meet a certain influence threshold. Theoretically, this “gating” should reward and capture the attention of social media users who are more likely to share their experience with their audience.

Audi is the first brand to use the technology, and the first “perk” available is a desktop wallpaper - a relatively minor prize but certainly a gesture that I’m sure Audi fans will appreciate.

Klout, like other influence measurement tools, does have some drawbacks - if you’re not satisfied with your rating you can “game” your way to a higher score  so the accuracy of the number may not really reveal much about how much influence a user genuinely has.

Another difficulty is that the quality and areas of interest for your audience are not indicated. Using Audi as an example, even though I have a score of 38, my involvement with automotive discussions and communities is very low and there are equally likely to be petrolhead types who may already be Facebook fans of Audi but don’t have enough of a social network to be considered worthy of additional content, even if they post in specialist car forums.

As a gatekeeper, using Klout risks letting in the wrong kinds of fans, or worse - it could alienate genuine ones. I’m of the opinion that while rewarding loyal and influential social media users will clearly have benefits for word of mouth, tools such as Klout and others may need to become more refined.

That said, maintaining a user’s interest and engagement requires something in return for their time, so I really do appreciate the direction that this is taking. Brands should always be thinking about what they can offer their fans, friends and followers in return for their interest.

Ocado ‘On The Go’ mobile app increases sales by 600%

Image courtesy of Zen

According to The Grocer magazine, online supermarket delivery service Ocado has just reported that its Ocado ‘On The Go’  mobile app has become a major revenue stream, with sales up 600% to £66 million.

With 10,000 users registering every month and 4,000 checkouts made each day, mobile transactions via Ocado ‘On The Go’  now account for 12% of Ocado purchases.

The app is available across 20 different platforms, including on the iphone and for Android users, and it includes user-friendly options like enabling shoppers to search for products by speaking into their phones or scanning bar codes, as well as helping customers to sync  delivery slots with their mobile calendar.

A new “over the counter” service also means that an Ocado ‘On the Go’  mobile app user can specify how they would like  fresh meat and fish to be prepared, helping to bring the offline experience online.

While the stats speak for themselves, having used the app a few times myself I feel what is lacking is a better way of sorting results - it’s quite difficult to sort results by “best value” but given that the app is meant for users “On The Go” I’m not sure this is a top priority anyway.

What would be useful though is integrating social media into the app,  particularly feeding in customer recommendations and reviews to the results that are fed back from a search. Yes, the app selects products it thinks I would like which are dependant on my purchasing habits, but what it doesn’t do is show products that are recommended by consumers. Given the much quoted Nielsen statistic that 70% of online consumers trust opinions posted online by other consumers, incorporating reviews and recommendations would help to increase sales through Ocado ‘On the Go’ further, particularly since Ocado has launched its own-brand products to rival the Waitrose own branded products they stock.