Facebook Highlighting More Early Results for Social News Apps

Facebook posted early results from new integrations with news outlets launched during f8, showing a significant increase in traffic to news stories posted via social news applications.

Facebook yesterday highlighted set of partner news organizations including Yahoo! News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily and The Huffington Post. Each outlet is exploring different social news application possibilities; some are integrating apps on their own sites, while others are integrating directly into Facebook or using Facebook Connect. Applications use Open Graph to share what people are reading on the various networks on the Timeline – stories which, as The Wall Street Journal notes, often date back to the 1990s.

Our AppData traffic tracking service shows most of the applications have at least doubled readership in the last month. The Independent has increased its DAU by 130,000 in the last seven days. Its MAU has increased by 1.1 million this month, now reaching 1.5 million. The Guardian grew its MAU from 1.4 million to 3.4 million this month. According to Facebook, Yahoo! News has seen a 600% increase in traffic. The Daily is the only partner not specifically mentioned in Facebook’s blog post, likely due to its decrease in MAU from 6,000 to 4,000.

The Washington Posts Social Reader app now has over 3.5 million monthly active users, 83% of which are younger than 35 years old according to Facebook. By automatically posting who is reading what to the Timeline — a sign to users that friends are indeed actively reading the news — Facebook encourages friend-endorsed consumption without any extra clicks or user interface.

 

 

We generally expect to see more news organizations building similar social news apps in the coming months to take advantage of the opportunities to integrate with the Timeline and Ticker.

Facebook Buys WhoGlue, But Not Its Talent

Facebook acquired Baltimore-based social networking software firm WhoGlue Inc. early this month for an undisclosed amount, according to a report from the Baltimore Business Journal.

WhoGlue’s founder, Jason Hardebeck, appears happy to be bought by the company that sued him for patent infringement two years ago over “distributed personal relationship information management system and methods.” Hardebeck will maintain his position at the renamed WhoGlue LLC, which will continue to develop private social networks for its clients.

Facebook did not bring over any WhoGlue team members in the acquisition, according to The Baltimore Sun. This is a contrast to its most recent acquisitions, where talent was brought over to Facebook. The social network giant instead will maintain a relationship with Hardeback, should he come up up with any new social networking software that Facebook might like to buy. Given that his last big development was more than 10 years ago and that the team at WhoGlue only had two full time employees at the point of acquisition, this seems like a low-risk arrangement.

There are additional reports that Facebook bought out stakes of several WhoGlue shareholders, including http://bizjournals.com and Seimens AG, but Facebook has only confirmed its technology acquisition and nothing else to TechCrunch.

Facebook Adds “Related Posts” with Questions and Comments to Sponsored Stories

Facebook experimented with a new “Related Post” Sponsored Story format that leverages comments and questions over the Thanksgiving holiday to encourage more interaction between consumers and respective brands.

This is an improvement on Facebook’s “Comment” Sponsored Story ad unit, which draws posts from a brand’s Facebook Page to create a display ad with a text question beneath the Sponsored Ad content. Now, the ads don’t have to connect to a previous post, and comment activity on the ad is solely kept within the ad, not connected to the News Feed.

Brands using the new feature receive direct feedback on their ads and products. As brands go through the holiday season, they can adjust their strategies accordingly. Walmart was one of the first brands to apply comments to its sponsored advertising, asking Fans to Like and Comment on its Christmas Price Guarantee, an offer for in-store only purchases. At the time the following screenshot was taken, the ad had accumulated 852 Comments and 19,806 Likes. Note the ad does not appear on Walmart’s Facebook Page, so the number of Likes and comments support the viability of the feature.

For users, the addition of Questions and Comments makes brands more approachable and provides an immediate review mechanism. Comments and answers to Questions become a product review tool, which can influence a user’s brand opinion or purchasing decision. If a user views the Comments of Walmart’s ad only to see users complaining about the deal, that user is more likely to stay away from the offer.

[Thanks to Eti Suruzon for the tip and screenshot]

‘Tis the Season: Facebook Planning Political and Social Gaming Hackathons in 2 Weeks

Facebook is hosting two hackthons in early December to raise awareness of legislative public data and drive interest in social game development. The White House one-day hackathon, detailed by the New York Times, is set for December 7 with a Social Games Hack event in Palo Alto the following day.

The White House hackathon features a series of breakout sessions “designed to explore the innovative role that the social media should play in the public’s relationship with their legislature.” It will be co-hosted by Democratic Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Republican Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia. Hoyer has 4,932 Likes on Facebook according to our Election Tracker, while Cantor comes in at 126,064. Admission is free. We’re interested to see what comes out of this hackathon, which is the first of its type that Facebook has organized with members of Congress.

Facebook’s Social Games Hack costs $25 and will feature prizes for the “best apps” chosen at the end of the day. Facebook says the event will focus on sharing best practices for social discovery and implementing Open Graph features. In general, game developers are just starting to adopt some new features, like high score achievements, that surface game activity in the site-wide Ticker.

Facebook Adds More Activity and Sponsored Stories to Ticker

Facebook updated its Ticker over the weekend to allow posts from more types of user activity and Sponsored Stories. These additions turn Ticker’s automatic-content stream feature into a more lively activity hub on the home page.

It seemed that Sponsored Stories would eventually appear in the site-wide Ticker after Facebook mixed condensed Sponsored Sponsored stories into the games App Ticker in August. The activity update (like the addition of Open Graph Likes to the Ticker), meanwhile, seems a bit surprising as users could already see the Likes and Comments on Stories in the News Feed and could view them on Ticker stories by mousing over the Story to generate a popover window (see screenshot below).

Both changes come as a boon to advertisers looking increase the story activity related to their brands. Sponsored Stories have already been working well for them, with a 46% higher click-through rate, according to one Facebook Ads API service provider. The Open Graph actions also make conversations around a brand appear more lively, if all a user can see in the Ticker is that their friend Liked a particular brand while another user commented on it. So, from an advertising perspective, these two additions to the Ticker improve existing strategies.

As far as Facebook users go, changes to the Ticker could be seen as a risky move if Sponsored Stories and excessive Likes clutter up the Ticker or News Feed.

TrustedID Acquires Unsubscribe.com and its Social Monitor Application

Palo Alto-based TrustedID has acquired Santa Monica-based Unsubscribe.com and its Social Monitor application this week. With the acquisition, TrustedID hopes to expand its identity protection product offerings on social networks like Facebook.

The goal of Unsubscribe’s Social Monitor is to track and rate the security risk of personal information social applications are collecting from an individual. Unsubscribe’s Social Monitor uses several factors to determine an application’s risk, and therefore, rating. Its analysis is based on the amount of information accessed by the app, the reputation of the app’s developer and community feedback.

It then provides the option to uninstall applications in a single click through a browser plugin. To date, TrustedID says Social Monitor has rated more than 100,000 social apps across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Facebook currently allows users to edit their Privacy Settings for Posts (past and present), Tags, and Apps and Websites. The Apps and Websites Privacy Controls allow Facebook users to determine which categories of information apps have access to. Most apps have access to a user’s friends list and all information marked as Public by default. A user’s name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id (account number) are always Public. Before installing any app, a Permissions screen shows users the pieces of data to which the app is requesting access.

TBG Digital Study: High Conversion Performance in Facebook’s Social Context Ads

TBG Digital, a Facebook advertising and social media specialist company, has released data based on a recent client study that indicates social context ads perform more effectively than non-social context ads, according to certain metrics. The findings support a 2010 Nielsen study published when social context ads were introduced, which indicated these ad campaigns impacted brand recall by 10% with 2% improvement on purchasing intent.

TBG Digital analyzed the difference in cost-per-click conversion rates between social context ads and non-social context ads, finding ample reasons to side with social context advertising. The analysis was based on a single client, a popular entertainment brand showcased at f8. The advertiser spent $60,000 across a 14-day period, using on eight different advertisements on Facebook. The campaign accumulated 436 million impressions.

The company claims it saw a 32% improvement in purchasing intent when using social context ads. While cost-per-click remained constant between non-social context and social context ads, click-through rates were lower for social context ads. In this specific study, non-social context ads took 132 clicks to achieve a conversion, while it only took 99 clicks for social context ads to achieve a conversion. The client paid $1.37 per click, so the difference in cost per acquisition equated to 44 dollars when using social context ads.

TBG Digital indicates there are limitations to the campaigns, primarily due to the URL structure in the Ads API: traffic can only be sent to the advertiser’s home page. For example, “www.company.com” would link properly, but “www.company.com/offer” would not. Most companies use the social context ads to advertise a particular event, new product or place, and sending traffic to the homepage is a tedious sidestep. Facebook campaigns ultimately don’t take users to their intended landing page. Customers may get lost and divert attention, or at the very least, consume more time than necessary to get to the right destination.

Social context ads are built with a text and image box, standard to Facebook ads, with the addition of visible endorsements beneath the ad. The endorsements note the number of friends associated with a user who Like the Page, group, event or application. These ads are designed to leverage the social interactions that users are comfortable seeing in their News Feeds. The similar aesthetics and language between social context ads and adjacent News Feed bridges these two major Facebook components. For example, users are accustomed to seeing “John Smith likes Company” in news feeds, so the similar aesthetics in social context ads seems to make them more approachable and inviting. As we’ve written previously, advertisers can access social metric reports on the impact of the ads.

Facebook Adds User Subscription Recommendations Based on Page Likes

Facebook is now promoting its new Subscriptions feature by recommending people to follow based on the Pages users have Liked. For example, the screenshot below shows recommendations for a user “because you like [the Page] ‘Facebook + Journalists.’” The people being recommended are high-profile journalists for The New York Times, former managing editor and current opinion columnist Bill Keller, and social media editor Liz Heron.

Facebook launched the Subscribe button in early September as an asymmetrical feature encouraging users to receive updates published by non-friends (who have enabled their personal profiles to receive subscriptions). It has already introduced subscription recommendations, showing “People to Subscribe to” based on who a user’s friends already subscribe to. Those recommendations, and the new Page-based ones, appear in the sidebar module on the right side of a user’s active page — a conspicuous channel for subscription discovery.

The difference here is that Facebook is using Page context to target recommendations, rather than purely social context. Heron’s profile shows the total number of subscribers but no information about friends, presumably because the user has no friends who currently subscribe; Keller’s profile instead shows that one friend is subscribed but not the total.

[Thanks to Dan Birdwhistell for the tip and screenshot]

Facebook Opens Preferred Developer Consultant Fall 2011 Submissions

Facebook has just begun the application process for selecting the next batch of Preferred Developer Consultants. It began accepting permissions yesterday and will close at 5 p.m. PST December 6.

Facebook created the PDC to list trusted providers for Facebook-related services in application development, Pages, campaigns and other social experiences for companies, brands and celebrities. PDCs have a long history of providing Facebook development tools, most from the early days of Facebook. The initial list started in December 2009, and there are currently 90 PDCs with about 170 offices worldwide, 67 outside the United States. The last round of submissions was in May, when Facebook added 25 developers to the PDC Directory.

Facebook also says that organizationally PDCs will be brought together with Ads API partners to form a single Facebook Marketing API Program. It is actively encouraging all service provider companies to broaden their range of offerings for the various needs of those using the platform. “Our long-term goal is to support development companies that can provide integrated and holistic Platform, Pages, and Ads solutions to Facebook marketing and business operations,” program manager Matt Trainer says in the blog post about the new round.

PDCs can be found based on location and expertise, and Facebook provides a mapping application on its Platform page, PDC Lookup, added in 2010.

Walmart Goes Local on Facebook, Seeking Shopper Adoption

Just in time for coveted Black Friday discounts, Walmart and Facebook have partnered release My Local Walmart, a move to connect Fans of the world’s largest retailer with neighborhood deals, product rollbacks and in-store events through the News Feed.

“A national message is not always relevant,” Stephen Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told several news sources. “We can now say we have sunscreen in the south and snow boots in the north.”

With more than 10 million fans, according to PageData, Walmart’s move to store-level messaging gives shoppers the information that’s most useful—nearby deals. Earlier this week, we noted that Walmart had gained 51,460 followers, moving the Page to one of the most popular of the week, according to our Top 20 report on PageData. More than 3,500 Wal-Mart local pages have already launched on Facebook, through the My Local Walmart application. Users type in their zip code, and a populated screen of local stores shows up, with the option to like any number of them. Already equipped with the Black Friday discount previews to help families organize their holiday shopping and find nearby discounts. ‘Liking’ a local Walmart store also enables users to check out a downloadable map pinpointing the location of the store and key special deals.

While there is significant buzz, don’t expect Walmart shoppers to use Facebook as the go-to place for its retail information yet. When we roamed for local listings near San Francisco, none of the options had yet to receive more than 50 ‘likes.’ As Henry Kim of sneakpeeqtold Forbes, “they have to put a lot of resources into it and continue to figure out what works and iterate just like any other social commerce player.” While Walmart is a behemoth brand, that doesn’t mean it’ll get immediate success out of its its locally-powered app. Since Walmart no longer will be speaking from just one major megaphone, we’ll see how often local Walmart chains update deals, and events. According to Quinn, Walmart expects the local Walmart Pages to send two updates per day.

For Walmart, it’s a move to get to know the shoppers better as well, gain key information on what items to stock, and of course, start monetizing on those Page ‘Likes.’ Walmart’s overall margins have been down, although it reported a 5.7 percent second-quarter earnings, reported The Wall Street Journal. This new partnership is also a move to compete with Amazon in e-commerce and social networking. Amazon launched several partnership components with Facebook in 2010. And like Amazon, Walmart still has a significant amount of testing to do.

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