Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Facebook Likes Just Officially Became More Important to Search

                Face book Likes Just Officially Became More Important to Search 

Facebook announced a few Platform updates, including updates to the Live Stream Plugin, "liked" articles appearing in search results, and improvements to real-time updates.

The second one is in line with a feature the company was testing that we mentioned recently. "Consistent with how we treat other Open Graph object types, we’ve introduced the ability to see articles shared by your friends in the search typeahead," says Facebook's Namita Gupta.  "For instance, if your friend clicks 'Like' on an article at a news site, the article will appear in your News Feed and can now also surface in the search typeahead."

The results, as AllFacebook described upon finding the feature being tested, showed content based on the number of likes and the number of friends who liked the particular object. "The search results have now become dramatically more relevant with the inclusion of recent news articles, something that previously wasn't accessible via Facebook's open graph search results," AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill had said. "Currently, the search results only appear within the drop down from Facebook’s search box, however I’d assume that this will eventually shift to Facebook's search area, which has yet to undergo a significant overhaul."

Either way, there is clearly a direct connection between likes and search now. It's essentially Facebook's version of PageRank.
Search Marketing Implications
The most important thing to keep in mind here is something that has always been true about doing well in search: create good content. If you create compelling content, people will like it and if they use Facebook, they will "like" it. Considering Facebook has over half a billion users, that has pretty big implications.

Facebook has one major thing going for it that search engines don't - the ability to make content go viral. The more people "like" a piece of content, the more people will share it with others, and the more potential "likes" it can get. The more "likes" it gets, the more it will be exposed through Facebook search.

I can tell you that "likes" are a lot easier to get than links. If for no other reason, it is just much easier to hit a button to "like" a piece of content than it is to reference it in a blog post - and the majority of people probably aren't bloggers. This has huge potential as long as people continue to use Facebook, and those people actually use the Facebook search box.
The biggest obstacle here as far as Facebook-based search marketing, is that people generally don't think of Facebook as a place to search for content. However, the more relevant content they see in those times they do use the search box, the more likely they are to use that search box more in the future. Facebook has already been growing in terms of search market share. This is going to be a very important thing to keep an eye on.

If you haven't spent much time on a Facebook strategy, now's probably a good time to start thinking a little harder about it. Don't have a blog? You may want to reconsider.

Things get even more interesting when you consider Facebook Places as part of the equation, as well as examples of "liking" physical objects (products). Facebook has big plans for Facebook Credits, which could conceivably become a PayPal-like option used for online purchases all over the web. How attractive do you think it will be for consumers to simply have to log-in via Facebook to make a purchase rather than complete some long form with their credit card info every time they want to make a purchase? How critical will a Facebook strategy be at that point?

Remember, Facebook also just released that Page discovery tool, which should prove great for Page "likes".
As far as the other updates...
"We recently began supporting real-time updates for page updates and the following object property types: relationship status, significant other, timezone and locale," adds Gupta. "To support developers building with users' location data, we've also introduced the ability to subscribe to check-ins. Like all objects available via subscriptions, developers can only retrieve updates to check-in data after a user has the granted permission."

Facebook is rolling out the Live Stream plugin for all new and existing apps, as a way "to be more consistent with users’ expectations and other social plugins." All posts can now be seen in real-time by other people viewing the Live Stream. Facebook is also adding the option for users not to share their comments on Facebook. In addition, it now supports multiple Live Streams on one site by specifying a URL, which will link status updates to their respective pages.

Is Facebook becoming more of a factor in search? Share your thoughts.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is Google's Transparency Sufficient?

Is Google's Transparency Sufficient?

Google has released what it is calling the Transparency Report, which shows the number of government inquiries for information about users and requests for Google to take down or censor content, as well as interactive traffic graphs that show information about traffic to Google around the world.

Is Google transparent enough for you? Let us know.

"Like all companies, Google's services occasionally experience traffic disruptions," writes David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer. "Our new traffic tracking tool helps us and others track whether these interruptions are related to mechanical outages or are government-induced. Each traffic graph shows historic traffic patterns for a given country and service. Graphs are updated as data is collected, then normalized and scaled in units of 0 to 100."

"This new tool—which is global and includes China—will replace the Mainland China service availability chart, which showed product access for China alone," adds Drummond. "By showing outages, the traffic graphs visualize disruptions in the free flow of information, whether it's a government blocking information or a cable being cut. For example, the graphs show that YouTube has been inaccessible in Iran since June 12, 2009, following the disputed presidential election."

Google actually created a site for government inquiries about users and requests for the company to take down or censor content back in April. The data is now updated for the first six months of the year. It also now includes the number of individual items asked to be removed, per country.

The United States, by far, has made the largest number of data requests, with Brazil coming in second. The countries were flipped in terms of removal requests. According to Google's numbers, from July 2009 to June 2010, the United States made 7,867 data requests and 251 removal requests. Brazil made 6,098 data requests and 689 removal requests. After these two countries, there is a pretty big drop off in the numbers.
Without getting too specific, here is the info Google provides about the requests for the U.S.

Google acknowledges that the data is not comprehensive. In an FAQ about the data, the company says, "While we have tried to report as accurate a number as possible, the statistics are not 100% comprehensive or accurate. For example, we have not included statistics for countries where we've received fewer than 30 requests for user data in criminal cases during the 6-month period. Where the numbers of requests are relatively low from a particular country, revealing the statistics could place important investigations at risk and interfere with public safety efforts of the authorities. For content removals requested by government agencies, we haven’t released specific numbers for those countries in which we received fewer than 10 requests. Many of those one-off requests may coincide with our own content policies, so when the numbers get small enough, they don’t necessarily reflect anything about the level of censorship in that country. Similarly, if a governmental agency used a web form to demand removal of content, we generally have no way of including those reports in our statistics."
The company also says that the stats don't cover all categories of content removals. It doesn't count child pornography removals, because Google does this on its own. It also doesn't count government requests for removal of copyrighted content on YouTube.
The stats also don't cover all categories of data requests from governments. Google says they primarily cover requests in criminal matters. "We can’t always be sure that a request necessarily relates to a criminal investigation, however, so there are likely a small number of requests that fall outside of this category," the company says. "For example, we would include in the statistics an emergency request from a government public safety agency seeking information to save the life of a person who is in peril even though there is not necessarily a criminal investigation involved. As we improve our tracking, we may add more categories."
The content removal numbers also don't include any data on government-mandated service blockages, but its traffic graphs do show when Google services have been inaccessible.

Google says it would like to be able to share more data, but "it's not an easy matter." You can read the FAQ for more explanation on how Google does things.
Are you pleased with Google's level of transparency? Should they be doing more? Share your commentes. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why the New Twitter May Benefit Businesses and Marketers Greatly....

Why the New Twitter May Benefit Businesses and Marketers Greatly

This week, Twitter introduced a new redesign of with a two-pane format aimed at providing a richer user experience, and you can easily tell by looking at it that it does just that.

Do you think the redesign will get more people using Twitter? Share your thoughts. By commentes.
"Twitter has always been about getting a lot in a little," writes CEO Evan Williams. "The constraint of 140 characters drives conciseness and lets you quickly discover and share what's happening. Yet, we've learned something since starting Twitter—life doesn't always fit into 140 characters or less."

Twitter has partnered with Dailybooth, DeviantArt, Etsy, Flickr, Justin.TV, Kickstarter, Kiva, Photozou, Plixi, Twitgoo, TwitPic, Twitvid, USTREAM, Vimeo, Yfrog, and YouTube to make tweeted content more useful directly from itself. Users will have less reason to click away from the site. 

The first pane is essentially the single pane from today's Twitter - the timeline. In the second pane, referred to as the "details pane", users will see additional info related to the author or subject of a tweet, when clicked. This pane will also display things like @replies, other tweets from that user, maps, videos, photos, etc. Users can click the @username to see profiles from the same page. 

Making Twitter more appealing to the mainstream means greater value for businesses and marketers.

Ex-Twitter engineer Alex Payne, who parted ways with the company after failing to see eye to eye with executives on the direction Twitter needed to go in, had some interesting things to say about the redesign. 

"While Twitter has been growing in mainstream significance and popularity, it hasn't managed to adopt a strategy that clearly aims the company towards mass market success," he writes. "I think #newtwitter changes that, turning the site into a rich information discovery platform, if you’ll excuse the buzzword bingo. The new design is a pleasure to use, and encourages a kind of deep exploration of the data within Twitter that has previously only been exposed in bits and pieces by third-party applications. Browsing Twitter is now as rewarding as communicating with it."

"One of the striking things about #newtwitter is how clearly it's designed to allow room for advertisements and promotions," adds Payne. "As an early employee who heard a lot of internal discussion about monetization strategies that eschewed the typical Silicon Valley ad play, Twitter's accelerating turn towards that business model is, on some level, a little disappointing. But as a stockholder and someone who wants to see the company survive and succeed, it's clearly the most pragmatic way for Twitter to capitalize on its substantial and growing network. Ads have their role in the wheel of commerce, and just as Google's text ads are more palatable than most forms of advertising, Twitter’s approach could end up being eminently tolerable, even useful."

Search and the New Twitter
Danny Sullivan has a great article about the impact the Twitter redesign could have on search. This is obviously a key element for businesses to consider. Among his points:

1. The search box becomes more prominent. 
2. More filtering options
3. "Save this search" becomes more prominent
4. Infinite scrolling on search results
5. People and company results more clearly separated
6. Tweets Near You feature
7. Tweets with Links feature
8. Searches for retweets by others, retweets by you, and your tweets, retweeted

Danny provides a detailed analysis of all of these items.

How Will Users React Once its Rolled Out?

The changes will be rolling out over the next several weeks as a preview. During this period, users will be able to switch back and forth between the new design and the old one, though frankly I can't see any advantage to using the old one. 

Redesigns typically get some amount of user backlash, and this will be probably fall in line with that tradition, but this particular redesign has some advantages. For one, many Twitter users are already using apps rather than anyway. Secondly, Twitter has left a lot of people wondering what the point of the service is. This has been a problem since it launched. This will help people understand its value more.

Now, if Twitter could just get those Fail Whales under control...
What do you think of the new Twitter? Tell us what you think.By Commentes

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Google Plans To Launch New Music Service

Google is planning to launch a mobile music download service that would allow users to access songs wherever they have access to an Internet connection. 
According to Reuters, Google has been in discussions with the major labels about reaching licensing agreements.  Google has not yet signed any licensing deals but the major labels are reportedly interested in seeing a competitor to Apple’s iTunes launch.

"Finally here's an entity with the reach, resources and wherewithal to take on iTunes as a formidable competitor by tying it into search and Android mobile platform," said a label executive who asked not to be identified.

"What you'll have is a very powerful player in the market that's good for the music business."
Andy Rubin, Google vice president of engineering hopes to have the music service launched by Christmas, according to “people familiar with the matter.”

“We're cautiously optimistic because Google has great scale and reach but doesn't have a track record in selling stuff," said another label executive who declined to be named as the talks are still ongoing.

Google Updates Privacy Policies

Google announced that it is updating its privacy policies to make them simpler. They don't appear to have any changes involving CEO Eric Schmidt driving around neighborhoods in an ice cream truck, luckily.Google isn't actually changing any of its privacy practices. It's just trying to make the language more understandable. Google Associate General Counsel Mike Yang outlines the updates:

1. Most of our products and services are covered by our main Google Privacy Policy. Some, however, also have their own supplementary individual policies. Since there is a lot of repetition, we are deleting 12 of these product-specific policies. These changes are also in line with the way information is used between certain products—for example, since contacts are shared between services like Gmail, Talk, Calendar and Docs, it makes sense for those services to be governed by one privacy policy as well.
 2. We’re also simplifying our main Google Privacy Policy to make it more user-friendly by cutting down the parts that are redundant and rewriting the more legalistic bits so people can understand them more easily. For example, we’re deleting a sentence that reads, “The affiliated sites through which our services are offered may have different privacy practices and we encourage you to read their privacy policies,” since it seems obvious that sites not owned by Google might have their own privacy policies.
      In addition, we’re adding:

* More content to some of our product Help Centers so people will be able to find information about protecting their privacy more easily; and
* A new privacy tools page to the Google Privacy Center. This will mean that our most popular privacy tools are now all in one place.
Google says the updates will take effect on October 3. The company's main privacy policy can be found here. There is also an FAQ here. We'll see what Consumer Watchdog, who is running the above satircal video in Times Square, has to say about it.