Led by Facebook, social network sites enjoyed a huge increase in traffic over the last year, according to recent figures from Nielsen covering global Internet usage -- but the new data also underlines just how far social media has to go before it can turn its huge popularity into profits.
It's no surprise gay men have been at the forefront of social media, readily adopting new technologies that allow them to connect with each other -- something which can be a bit challenging, considering homosexuals constitute no more than 10% of the general population. The latest development -- a smartphone app called Grindr -- integrates the big gay online social network with mobile, GPS location-based updates to create a real-world version of "gaydar." The data for user engagement are incredible: roughly 180,000 users log in daily, and the average user spends 1.5 hours per day on the site, logging in …
The last couple months have brought a growing chorus of complaint about the aggressive, cavalier attitude displayed by the dominant Web companies -- especially Facebook and Google -- regarding member information and privacy. Today I just came across another needless transgression presented as a "helpful new feature": it seems sometime in the last few weeks Google began providing information about my geographic location to various Web sites, leaving it up to me to discover that this was happening and "opt out." I won't argue that Google did something illegal, because I think I know how this happened.
This week brings more news from the Freaked-Out-Parents file, wherein the Parent Teacher Association's national convention announces a new partnership with Facebook to teach children, parents, and teachers about how to avoid doing Bad Things, or having Bad Things done to you, online. The national PTA says it will reach out to 24,000 local PTAs with a goal of reaching every American public school to promote Internet safety, with a focus on cyber-bullying, online citizenship, and privacy issues.
In a remarkable testament to the rapid growth (approaching ubiquity) of social media, last month social networks received more hits than search engines in the UK, according to the latest data from Experian Hitwise. In the past, online behaviors across the pond have foreshadowed or mirrored similar changes in the U.S., suggesting a similar shift may be coming here.
The last couple months have brought a wave of data suggesting that a substantial proportion of online social network members use their profiles to engage with brands in some way -- including recommending or criticizing a product or service to other people, and engaging with the brand itself for customer service issues. In addition to confirming many of these earlier findings, the latest study, sponsored by Performics and performed by ROI Research, also found that a good number of social net users want more online offers and information from brands.
Political candidates who use social media in the state of Maryland must disclose their connection to content on social media sites created or maintained by their campaigns, according to one of a number of new rules adopted by a unanimous 4-0 vote by the Maryland State Board of Elections last week. While they are focused on political ads, the new rules in Maryland -- just the fourth state to adopt such rules, after Florida, Wisconsin, and California -- are food for thought for brand and product advertisers.
If anyone ever doubted that marketers must come to grips with social media, that doubt should be removed by the findings of the latest Harris Poll, released earlier this week. In addition to documenting the ubiquity of social media, Harris found that a significant proportion of U.S. adults use social media to complain about or pay compliments to brands.
Journeying back through the mists of time, I remember a period when some people thought every brand and product should have its own, proprietary social network. This idea never quite panned out, because it was very silly: people are unlikely to want to join literally thousands of different social networks, and it's a lot easier to just create a profile for your brand on an existing social network like Facebook. However, the proprietary social network idea is back, and gaining ground, as a business application.
I'm actually kind of surprised this hasn't come up before: according to CNN, divorce lawyers are now mining social media for evidence of misdoings by errant spouses -- joining the ranks of employers snooping on recent college grads and burglars looking for easy marks on vacation. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
found 80% of respondents said they'd seen an increase in cases involving social media over the last year. Many divorce attorneys have begun using a site, Flowtown, more commonly used by marketers, to uncover social media profiles by searching for an …
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