On Monday night Facebook revealed the new Messages, amid fierce protests that it’s not e-mail. Even they have to admit that it does seem a bit like e-mail, especially as you get an @Facebook.com e-mail address. But on closer inspection it feels like e-mail evolved. It’s a bigger beast that’s gobbled e-mail and other communication channels up, and spat them out as a digested whole.
The premise is combining four methods of contact – Facebook messaging, text message, Facebook Chat and e-mail – into one system to give you a Social Inbox. Whereas previously you’d need to use a variety of channels to communicate with all the different people in your life, and one conversation could be dispersed across all four with no consistent record, now the conversation can be contained in Facebook.
If someone writes to you in Chat, the same message appears in your inbox so you can read and reply in either place, and it’s not lost once the chat window is closed.
Anyone on Facebook, friend or not, can send you a message. But not everyone is on Facebook. Enter the Facebook e-mail address. Now anyone can send you a message.
And if you provide your phone number you can get text messages in the messaging system. This is the cloudiest element for me – does it apply when sending a text from and to a mobile if both people’s mobiles are registered with Facebook? Can I read my text messages in messaging or only read my messages in text? Or does it simply notify me by text when I receive a new message. Remains to be seen when it’s rolled out.
Your Social Inbox prioritises your friends – by default messages from Facebook friends and friends of friends are automatically sent to the Inbox. Everything else goes to the ‘Other’ folder, even if it is sent directly to your Facebook e-mail address. If you bring a message from your ‘Other’ folder into your inbox all future messages from that person will go straight to the inbox so you can prioritise who you want to hear form.
Facebook Places was speculated to be the end of other location-based social services such as Foursquare and Gowalla due to the massive user base of more than 500 million that Facebook has access to. But, unlike their competitors, Facebook Places gave users little incentive to check-in to a local business, until yesterday when Facebook formally announced an extension to their Places feature: location-based deals.
So what does this look like for businesses?
Much like on Foursquare, businesses can now entice customers to check-in to their physical store locations by offering some form of deal or discount.
With the huge potential audience reach that Facebook provides and the creation of deals being completely free, both small and large businesses are sure to be drawn to experiment with the power of Facebook Places. Although The Zuck (Mark Zuckerberg) declined to comment on the amount of check-ins Places has seen since its August launch, he did say “We know that it’s multiples larger than any other location service.” This gives potential partners an indicator of the reach Places has to offer despite only being active for three months.
Deals can be created by any business with a Places page, using a self-service tool, and fall into four distinct categories:
- Individual Deal: An individual deal rewards, as you might have guessed, individual customers. These types of deals will often be in the form of a discount, free merchandise or, to quote Facebook, ‘some other cool reward’. An example of this would be the deal that Gap is running where the first 10,000 check-ins at any Gap store receive a free pair of jeans and subsequent check-ins will be offered a 40% discount on one item of clothing.
- Friends Deal: A friend deal is the equivalent of the ‘Super Swarm’ badge on Foursquare, whereby a group of customers that check-in together are offered a group reward. For example, a group of friends at a gig could be offered a free t-shirt each if they all check-in together.
- Loyalty Deal: The loyalty deal will work much like a mayorship on Foursquare, whereby the most loyal customer is given special deals that others are not entitled to. Though Facebook’s implementation of this slightly differs from Foursquare as the reward is offered to those that check-in a certain amount of times, rather than to one person who check-ins the most times overall. For example, a bar could offer the user a free drink for checking in five times.
- Charity Deal: A charity deal is where a business can incentivise check-ins by pledging to donate money to a charity every time users check-in to their business.
Blog science: the numbers that matter
I get lots of reports, data and analysis to read through each week, but there’s one report that, year after year, I anticipate more than any other: Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere.
This year’s survey, taken by over seven thousand bloggers, highlights a few things I found particularly interesting.
Still a tension between bloggers and traditional media?
Thanks to Andrew Marr dissing bloggers as “inadequate, pimpled and single” and grousing that blogging is “not going to replace journalism”, the war of words wages on.
At a gut level, this just feels irrelevant and very out-dated to me, so it’s good to see the survey data backs me up.
Far from being the enemy of traditional media, 33% of all respondents and 49% of corporate bloggers have a traditional media background and 27% of bloggers are still employed in traditional media. These numbers are fairly consistent with last year.
High volumes required for authority
Reports from previous years have shown a correlation between post frequency and Technorati’s own authority ranking. This year, those blogs in the top 100 posted an average of 14.5 times per day. That’s unfeasible for all but highly organised multi-author blogs.
Some people are blogging less this year than they did last year. 30% of this group said they scaled back to devote more time to Twitter and 28% to devote more time to social networks – so less content, but more engagement.
So Google has announced the release of Google Instant Previews – “a new search feature that helps people find information faster by showing a visual preview of each result”
This means that Google SERPs will start to look like:
These previews are activated when you click on the magnifying glass icons at the end of each listing.; if you use your cursors to navigate listings – with the blue arrow – then using the right key turns the preview on, and the left key turns it off.
You can read our full write up of the new Google Instant Preview feature from Natural Search Analyst Jake Hawkins, as well as some details from Google below about how to make good use of the feature:
Google Ad formats
The last 12 months has been a busy time for the Ad Format team at Google HQ in Mountain View. Google has introduced a number of innovations to spruce up their paid listings making for a very different search engine results page (SERP). Up until this point there had been very little change to the format of the eleven sponsored links we see on our SERP. Lets take a look at some of these changes:
The most commonly implemented innovation or Ad Extension has been Site Links. Originally introduced in two line format in November 2009; this was extended to cover one-line site links in June of this year.
Two-line Sitelinks would only be eligible to show for “exceptionally high quality Ads – where one Ad provides the best answer”. This is measured by Google via an Ads CTR and essentially rendered this format available only to brand owners.
An increasing number of companies, especially retailers, are adopting mobile applications or in some other instances mobile web as part of their digital strategy. Here at iCrossing we conducted some analysis to find out how different demographics use their mobile devices depending on their needs.
The use of mobile internet by women is quickly catching up with men. According to Opera research between May 2008 and July 2010, the number of female users using Opera Mini increased by 575%, while male users increased by only 233%.
Our latest Research and Insight report, Understanding Women’s Digital Behaviour, shows that women prefer to use their smart phones when they look for advice compared with when they are performing a transactional query. Of the volume of mobile search queries analysed, most were advice-related. Search categories in the yellow circle below were more likely to be performed using a mobile rather than a desktop browser, meaning that women are interested in getting advice using their mobiles: from hair styles or recipes to sex tips or career advice.
For instance, mobile search for ‘sex tips/advice’ (figure below – left column in pink) showed 53% of total searches compared to only 4% using normal desktops. For ‘handbags‘, women are more likely to use desktop search – 23% of the total volume compared to only 3% with mobile.
As mentioned by my colleague, Jake Hawkins, Google recently tested a significant new layout for their search results. This new system provided a preview of the target page when the searcher hovered over the link, with the relevant section of the preview highlighted in orange.
Were this interface to be adopted by Google, what are the key things that we should be considering for our current search strategy?
1. Well targeted creative
Google preview brings more choice to the user faster than before, giving a website with well-targeted content and design more chance to be clicked on. A website in position 4 is going to be clicked on much more than 1, 2 or 3 if the user has hovered over those sites and hasn’t liked what they’ve seen. This wouldn’t work with Google’s current set-up, because at the moment the user has to physically click through and visit the website to get a view of it.
I was fortunate enough to see the latest Google test of previewing website pages within the browser this morning.
Initial analysis of the results highlights some pretty major issues with Flash, splash pages and landing pages designed for snapping up traffic (low on content, high on optimisation).
Hovering your mouse over the listings will display a blue box – this means you are able to view previews of web pages! Sweet! Clicking on the little magnifying glass will bring up the preview page to the right side of the screen, and yes this does cover up some or all of the paid ads depending on how big the preview is. What does this mean for paid search?
Research published last week by Omniture studied 1,200 people in the U.S. looking at their mobile preferences across four key consumer categories: shopping, financial services, media & entertainment and travel.
A key finding in this study has been that in reference to the mobile user experience, respondents tend to favour the mobile web over downloadable mobile apps across all four consumer categories.
Mobile apps are generally preferred when consumers approach music or social media or when they experience games and maps. When focussing on shopping and media & entertainment 66% of the people surveyed expressed a preference for mobile web browsers compared to 34% preferring mobile apps.
Mobile apps are popular but the browser experience cannot continue to be overlooked, brands need to consider engaging with mobile strategies that optimise the experience across both web and app.
In amongst all this, Windows Phone 7 has hit the shelf, perhaps better late than never. Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android have been squeezing other players, Blackberry and Nokia, out of the space and both will now have to wait to see if Microsoft will start devouring their market share. On the surface it should do just that – a user interface that looks good and is simple to use (like the iPhone) but one that is also capable of customisation (like the Android). So potentially Windows Phone 7 could disrupt the two major players. All of us like Apple’s design finish but not everyone likes it when Apple locks us into its environments – Windows Phone 7 may find a great deal of traction with certain user groups.
No, this isn’t the brand new piece of software which will identify the closest place to eat the best Boeuf Bourguignon in town. It’s actually a rather easy blog title. However, not as easy as apps progression to invaded our everyday life; apps for Androids, apps for iPhones/iPads, apps to locate your train platform or apps to boil your eggs. You still own a Cretaceous Nokia 3310 and think you’ve never used an app? I presume you must be part of that 500 million users social network and once played that popular game about harvesting virtual crops and raising livestock… Well this game is…an app!
How do we know that apps aren’t hype ?
This can be done in 3 steps :
- By reading that Mobile apps will worth $17.5 bln by 2012
- By having a look at Google trends stats
- By finding out the first ever mobile application exhibition is taking place next month in London
According to GetJar, an independent mobile phone application store, 50 billion downloads will occur in 2012. Nevertheless how can I ensure my app will be part of the that figure knowing that everyone is screaming for attention ?
How To Market Your Mobile Application
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