Facebook announces full-screen photo viewer

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Today Facebook announced that they have made improvements to their photo viewer so that users will see the best photos possible.

Changes such as high-resolution photos and full screen viewing will means that high quality photos could be viewed up to 4 times bigger than previously.

Facebook photo viewer

In order to view photos full screen, users simply have to click on the arrows in the top right-hand corner of the photo to expand it to the maximum size, so photos which are large enough could fill the entire screen.

Facebook photos full screen

Obviously, this is big news for brands, who can now share really high quality images which could fill their fans’ screens, removing any other distractions. Brands with lots of visual content such as our client Park Bench are sure to enjoy these changes.

The changes also mean that Facebook will likely allow applications to upload larger images and potentially update the image presets offered by the Graph API.

Interestingly Facebook’s introduction of a full-screen photo viewer is also another indicator of its move away from side bar advertising. When images are viewed full-screen, they block out the adverts which usually appear on the right hand side.

This suggests that Facebook may be intending to take an approach more in line with Twitter’s sponsored stories.

What F8 and the changes to Facebook mean for brands and marketers

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Timeline beta available nowThe announcements at yesterday’s F8 conference included a few of the changes we expected to Facebook (the music service was a very poorly kept secret) and a few more radical changes that went further than we might have guessed. For brands and for social media agencies working with Facebook, now is the time to begin to digest and understand what this means about how people will use the social network in different ways and what this means for them.

Here are three initial trends that I see having an impact on brands and organisations that use Facebook and suggestions about how to capitalise on them:

1. The Timeline becomes the centre of the Facebook experience

To date, Facebook has worked by showing the latest things people have said in a single long stream of activity. If you went away on holiday for a week or two, when you returned you would see the latest things people had Liked or commented on or said. Everything else that had happened would be buried. The introduction of the Timeline changes this. It replaces a users profile with a timeline of events (status updates, photos, things they have done in apps) and then this is shared in Newsfeeds. It allows others to explore updates from friends this week, or last week, or last month. And (perhaps critically) it means that only certain actions will be highlighted here.

The Timeline will no longer show actions like ‘Liking’ a brand page. Instead your friends will see that in their Ticker, a fast-moving set of updates of every action your friends do. This means it will be buried and and brands that rely on friends if friends seeing that somebody has Liked your page to drive traffic will need to think again. This should be nothing new anyway, we all know it’s really about creating an engaging Facebook page.

Secondarily it looks like only apps that use the new Open Graph will appear in Timelines and Newsfeeds. So whilst you can now post messages based on things people do in your apps (and only need to ask their permission once to do this), you may need to rewrite part of them for this to work.

2) A new vocabulary (and new area for creativity)

Let’s be honest, ‘Like’ is not the most versatile of words. I might not want to say that I ‘Liked’ a movie, but would rather say I ‘Watched’ it. And now I can [verb] any [noun]. This is a great development and is one brands should start to think really creatively about.

There is an opportunity for some brands to start to ‘own’ verbs by getting users to take actions on them. There is also a chance to be more creative in how people interact with content. Rather than ‘Liking’ items that you want to buy, how about a more emotive ‘Want’. Then maybe Facebook could gather together all your ‘Wants’ in one place as a gift list of things that you would like people to buy you from around the web. Could Facebook be the new place for your wedding gift list rather than having it tied to one store?

3) A shift from numbers to engagement

A real focus for Facebook to date has always seemed to be getting more and more Members; we were even told proudly yesterday that they now have 800 million members globally (about 12% of the global population). Whilst this drive won’t become less important the real impact of the changes announced at F8 is to make engagement as important. The introduction of music, movies, news and the Timeline feature is really about social discovery (letting me find our even more things about my friends) and adding a social layer to my life.

Facebook is no longer somewhere I come to update my friends through a status. It is now a scrapbook of the things I do, the things I like, the places I’ve been and the people I know. I can explore this through shared interests, through music and film, through maps through photos. I can also record important events in my life (everything from a death in the family to breaking a leg!)

This is done to make Facebook more engaging, to make people spend more time using it and get greater reward from this investment. For brands this should be a positive trend. The best have known for some time that social media is about engagement. And with people spending more quality time on Facebook the brands that get Facebook right should find this means people spending more quality time with them.

Is Hugo Chávez really running his country by Twitter?

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Hugo Chavez world leader and twitter user

Courtesy of guapacho.net

The Guardian today wrote that Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, is using “Twitter as a tool to govern remotely while he undergoes cancer treatment in Cuba”.

This is the sort of headline that should have us social media agency types  delighted at how significant and revolutionary this is. Or should it?

As the host of  his own talk show, Chávez is no stranger to amplifying his voice via the media, but this story in itself feels a bit over-hyped. Is he really “running the country”?

It looks like he is merely using Twitter to talk about things that are happening in the real world, from his own meetings and decisions to his reactions to Venezuela’s football matches.

This is not insignificant - the reality is that a world leader is using social media to give his citizens (and the rest of the world) an insight into his life, and bringing us closer to him. Not only that, he can demonstrate that even while hospitalised, he remains involved and relevant.

The truth of the matter is that Twitter makes a great hook for news stories, and the hype that surrounds it is displacing the reality, which is extraordinary enough as it is.

It’s more than significant to think that world leaders are tweeting about their lives, and we shouldn’t de-value that with exaggerated claims.This is something amazing in itself -  a real change in behaviour and an opportunity to see a side of people we could not before. We don’t need to over-hype that.

Can Google+ rival Facebook and Twitter? Some initial thoughts

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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!’

Two thirds of FTSE 100 companies prefer Twitter to Facebook

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A recent research report from Threepipe Communications revealed that two thirds of the FTSE 100 prefer Twitter to Facebook.

63 FTSE 100 firms are now actively tweeting, while just 33 have their own Facebook page.

Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline was the first FTSE 100 company to send a tweet back in April 2007, whilst Tesco is the most recent convert, having joined Facebook in March of this year, just two weeks before they started using Twitter.

The study also reveals that just 11 of the companies in the FTSE 100 use  social media channels as a helpline or for customer service, whilst just six of them use social media to raise brand awareness through their corporate and social responsibility activities.

These results seem to suggest that while FTSE 100 companies are aware of the need to engage with their customers, it’s still very much about marketing and pr rather than using social media across their business.

The infographic below provides a useful summary of the key points in the report.

Image courtesy of Threepipe communication