Social media experts lead interactive online event

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Beginning February 18th, experts in the social media space will share their insight through a series of webcasts and interactive online sessions. Taking place over the course of six weeks, Social Media 201 will help those who are familiar with social media boost their personal or business-related online presence with easy-to-follow sessions.

Each week registrants will be invited to tune into a live webcast, taught by experienced marketing professionals including Geoffrey Colon, Group Marketing Manager, Social Media at Microsoft/Bing Ads, and Kayla Green, Digital Strategy Director at Saatchi & Saatchi. Webcast topics include “10 Habits of Highly Successful Twitter Users”, “Harnessing the Power of Image Driven Platforms” and “Social Media and Mobile”.

For a limited time, Mediabistro is offering 25% OFF the online event with code LOVEMB. Register before 2/14/14 to redeem this offer!

Class credit for hacking? Facebook expands Open Academy

OpenAcademy650

Facebook launched its Open Academy — an opportunity for college students to learn how to hack and develop software — last spring and has already seen great success. Now, as the program calls for winter 2014 applicants, the site’s engineers gave people a look at what students do and what they’ve accomplished.

(more…)

Facebook roundup: Home privacy, stock price, hackathon and open source project

privacyFacebook addresses privacy questions about Home – Facebook today shared its answers to common privacy questions users might have about Home, the social network’s latest development for Android. Home is optional software that makes Facebook features more integrated into a user’s device. The company says it does not have any of a user’s privacy settings and that all data collected by the service is covered by Facebook’s existing Data Use Policy. Home collects information about how people use the service, such as whether they Like a photo, send a message or launch an app. That information is stored for 90 days in order for Facebook to understand how people are responding to the app and how it could be improved. Facebook says Home does not treat location information any differently than the existing Facebook app. Users can also turn off location services completely. More about Home and privacy is available here.

facebookappsFacebook stock up after Home announcement – Facebook shares closed at $27.39 this week, up 7 percent since Monday. The stock hasn’t been above $27 per share since March 14. Shares fell beneath $26 earlier in the week as rumors swirled about whether Facebook was launching its own phone or developing a modified version of Android. Wall Street seemed pleased with the company’s decision to release software that could run on a number of devices to make them more social, while also partnering with HTC, AT&T and others to ensure that Home comes preloaded on some new phones.

university studentsFacebook, Gates Foundation to sponsor hackathon - Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are partnering to organize HackEd, two hackathon events this month to address problems in education. Developers will build Facebook-integrated tools for “social learning,” “out-of-school study” and “college-going.” One event will be at Facebook HQ in California April 9. The other will be its London offices April 24. Winners could take home up to $5,000. This is the second year Facebook and the Gates Foundation have put on this event. Last year it was in California only.

buildFacebook open sources benchmarking tool – Facebook this week released LinkBench, an open source tool for benchmarking graph databases. LinkBench allows developers to replicate the data model, graph structure and request mix of Facebook’s own MySQL workload, while being customizable and extensible for their specific needs. Tim Armstrong, computer science PhD candidate who led the project during an internship at Facebook, said, “We also believe that the broader community working on databases and social applications can benefit from a realistic benchmark for storage and retrieval of social network and other graph-structured data. These applications place many unique demands on database infrastructure due to rapid growth, large volumes of data, and rich data models, yet there are few benchmarks that test performance for these workloads.” LinkBench is available on GitHub.

Facebook gets out the vote, this time with mobile prompts and a real-time map

Once again, Facebook is prompting users to share that they voted, though this year the social network has introduced a mobile component and a real-time map of voters.

Most voting-age Facebook users in the U.S. were met with a module atop their News Feed highlighting friends who have voted and including a button to share “I’m voting” or “I’m a voter.” This was available on mobile and desktop.

Some users were prompted with a notification rather than a News Feed module. Users could then say they voted or search for their polling place.

Facebook also created a map that updates in real-time showing where users are voting. The map lives on the new Facebook Stories website, along with a breakdown of age and gender of who is saying they’re voting.

Facebook has been active in promoting participation in U.S. national elections since 2008, when 5.4 million people clicked an “I voted” button. More than 12 million people did the same during the 2010 midterm election. That year Facebook introduced a polling place locator as well. A recent study found that 340,000 additional people showed up at the ballot box in the U.S. in 2010 because of a voting message in their feed.

Some users might not see the prompt to share that they voted today because they are part of a control group for a new study, but they can still view the real-time map or use a separate I’m Voting application created in partnership with CNN. Users can share who they’re voting for and thoughts on various issues. The Open Graph-enabled app displays users’ answers and pledges in Ticker, Timeline and News Feed.

Additionally, Facebook has provided CNN with metrics about the discussion of each presidential and vice presidential candidate on the social network. The companies also surveyed voting-age users around the time of the national conventions, presidential debates, election day and any other significant dates. This was similar to the partnership Facebook had with Politico during the Republican primaries. Facebook also previously worked with NBC News to implement research polls leading up to the primaries.

The social network co-sponsored the GOP presidential debate before the New Hampshire Republican primary with NBC’s “Meet The Press” and partnered with R/GA to produce a political polling app, 2012 Matters: What Matters Most. Through the app, users could indicate which issues were most important to them and have their answers appear on the Nasdaq digital billboard in Times Square.

Facebook Roundup: fellowship, Africa, shareholders, Windows Phone, more

Facebook announces 2012 fellows - Facebook announced 12 picks for its Fellowship Program this week. The company had about 300 applicants for the positions which include a year’s worth of tuition, a $30,000 stipend, $5,000 for travel and $2,500 for a computer.

Fellows have specialties including mobile computing, computer networking and cloud computing, machine learning, storage systems, search, distributed systems, programming language technology, computer security, programming languages, computer security, distributed data storage and programming languages and computer security.

Mobile coverage in Africa could mean growth for Facebook – French mobile carrier Orange announced a new service for low-end mobile phones in Africa, meaning that about 70 million subscribers may now be able to access Facebook.

ISS criticizes Facebook’s shareholder rights – Institutional Shareholder Services analysts wrote this week that Facebook’s dual-class share structure may cause problems if the structure ever changes. Analysts wrote that this dual structure potentially divides owners into opposing groups, creating potential for future conflict.

Microsoft’s Windows phone Facebook app upgraded - A new version the Facebook app for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, was introduced this week and includes a new profile design, banner images, access to pages, groups, the ability to view Likes and more.

Australian film simultaneously released in theaters, Facebook - “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is an Australian film that is set to be released into U.S. theaters, Facebook and VOD at the same time, on Feb. 24. The film is being distributed by Milyoni’s Social Cinema technology. [Image via Facebook]

Paul Ceglia owes Facebook $76K – The man who claims to own part of Facebook, Paul Ceglia, owes the company a hefty sum of legal fees, according to U.S. Magistrate Judges Leslie Foschio. The judge ordered Ceglia to pay about $76,000 in legal fees to the company.

Vitrue’s SRM livestreams Coldplay across 240 pages – iHeartRadio used Vitrue’s SRM technology to livestream a Coldplay concert across 240 Clear Channel-affiliated pages last week.

Facebook Expands Marketer Outreach With Official, Free “Facebook Marketing Bootcamp”

Facebook this evening announced that it will hold a free “Facebook Marketing Bootcamp” series of webinars and live question-and-answer session. A tab app on the Facebook Marketing Solutions Page posted “All Marketing Managers are invited to become a Facebook marketing expert in just 3 weeks… learn how to use Facebook’s social technology to grow your business”.

Facebook Marketing Bootcamp is Facebook’s biggest effort to date to educate marketers, entering a space otherwise handled by third-parties including this blog and our Facebook Marketing Bible. Facebook is recognizing that many marketers lack of understanding of the site’s value to business, and are therefore spending less on marketing and advertising than they could be. The program could boost confidence and get more people creating Pages, publishing content, and buying ads.

Marketers can register for Facebook Marketing Bootcamp for free, and the 6 webinars, live Q&A session, and weekly tips will run from November 1st to November 16th. The first 5,000 people to sign up may receive a $125 Facebook ad credit. As the course is held online and not in person, there does not appear to be a cap on how many people can join the sessions.

In June, I analyzed a MerchantCircle report indicating that despite high awareness, only 22% of small businesses use Facebook ads, and of those 35% say they wouldn’t use them again, mainly because of poor performance. This lack of adoption and negative experience is in part due to a lack of knowledge of how to use the ads tool or run effective campaigns that tie in with other Facebook marketing products.

Since then, I’ve been recommending Facebook expand its business education and outreach. Facebook frequently makes changes to its marketing products and creates new opportunities but doesn’t always follow up with instructions for how to best take advantage of them.

For example, it released new ways to target ads by broad category, launched the Recommendations feature for Places, and dispensed free ad credits, but guide marketers how to use them beyond dispensing the occasional .PDF instruction manual. This can lead marketers to have bad or confusing first experiences that makes them less likely to devote resources to Facebook in the future.

In the last month, though, Facebook has stepped its educational efforts, announcing partnerships with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business where it would send representatives to advise members on Facebook marketing. The company has also been running more one-off marketing education sessions on its streaming channel Facebook Live. At the same time it’s stepped up outreach to developers, holding mini-f8 Open Technology Days in four US cities as well as abroad and planning a Mobile Hack day at its headquarters this week.

Through the Facebook Marketing Bootcamp, educational resources will be formatted into a coherent curriculum and offered free to anyone interested. Rather than allowing unofficial outlets to be the only source of this intensive training, Facebook will be able to promote responsible marketing strategies that don’t endanger the experience of users with spam or overly aggressive tactics.

Facebook should continue to explore different mediums for distributing marketing education. With a combination of white papers, live conferences, and webinars Facebook can push towards its goal of getting all businesses, even less savvy late adopters, using Facebook marketing.

Facebook Could Boost Ad Revenue Through New Marketing Education Partnerships With Business Lobbies

Facebook’s advertising solutions haven’t reached their full potential in part because advertisers don’t understand them well enough to achieve peak results. The system is complicated, and the concept of social advertising is new, yet outside of some webinars and .PDFs, Facebook has done little educate advertisers on how to use its Ads products.

That’s about to change, as Facebook is establishing partnerships with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business, the Wall Street Journal reports. Facebook will send representatives to local and regional offices of the two business lobbies to educate members on how best to promote themselves on the social network through its marketing and advertising products.

This education could increase understanding and trust in Facebook Ads, leading more businesses to increase their Facebook marketing spend. Such adoption could help Facebook grow the advertising revenues that fuel the company.

Next month’s initiative with the Chamber of Commerce and NFIB will coincide with Facebook giving away $10 million in $50 ad credits to small business. When the ad credit promotion was revealed earlier month, we discussed how it could lure in small businesses to experiment with Facebook ads. However, we noted the promotion would only produce long-term advertisers if Facebook paired the ad credits with the education necessary for businesses to run successful advertising campaigns.

Facebook has recently released several new advertising options that can be especially helpful to small businesses, including Broad Category Interest targeting and zip code targeting. It will also soon make a wealth of new marketing opportunities available as advertisers will soon be able to target users based on their media consumption habits in addition to their listed interests thanks to new Open Graph app protocols launched at the f8 developer conference.

While veteran Facebook advertisers will appreciate these new tools, they may make Facebook’s marketing solutions even more complicated for those without experience. Facebook seems to have recognized this, and will now be augmenting its online resources with in-person education sessions.

Google has been offering free “Seminars for Success” and other in-person education events since at least 2008 to help marketers understand its AdWords and analytics products. Some see this outreach as an important component of Google’s rise to power in the advertising world.

Employing a similar strategy, Facebook could get advertisers more comfortable targeting by interest and behavior rather than just keywords. By choosing to run its education series through two powerful lobbies, Facebook can also advance its political interests.

The choice of partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and NFIB matches with the recent news that Facebook has started its own political action committee. Keeping regulators through the PAC and lobby relationships will help keep regulators at bay so Facebook can continue to monetize user data through ad targeting.

RoomSync Leverages Facebook Data to Help Colleges Match Roommates

RoomSync has been quietly building a business around helping college students find the right roommate, through a service that integrates Facebook profile data. Enabled by a growing number of universities for on-campus housing, it accesses very particular portions of a user’s profile information, then allows students to enter their own information into the app, and lets them browse and locate their own roommate matches.

Robert J. Castellucci, one of four co-founders of RoomSync, tells us the idea for the company started when he was tasked with roommate matching in a previous job. This type of work is always tedious, he said, largely because it’s done by third parties. What RoomSync does is allows students to determine their own types of preferences for roommates, throwing Facebook profile information into the mix, something the company currently does for 21 institutions across the United States.

Thus far the company has a total of 27,000 users, with many coming in just the last few months. RoomSync offers as a subscription to which institutions subscribe, which includes an initial setup fee and an annual fee, but is free to students, the users.

Castellucci adds that RoomSync has managed not only to match roommates, but to build community and help students make friends before they start school at some of the company’s participating institutions. One school’s reported roommate conflicts went down, as did the severity of the conflicts, and that diversity was unaffected between roommates by use of the app.

First, students receive an email from the institution with an access code. On Facebook, the app culls Likes, such as music and TV and books, and then places students into matching networks. Users can share their use of the app to the stream as a feed story, too. There are five default questions asked by the app and the institution may add up to five more for matching purposes; these questions include their smoking preference or to describe their ideal roommate, for example. There’s a box where they can fill in additional information (that’s moderated for inappropriate content), too.

Then users search the app via academic majors, residence halls where they would like to live, they can view suggested roommates (based on Likes) and then communicate with them over Facebook before selecting their roommates via the Request Roommate option. The recipient of this invitation must confirm, and all dual confirmations are sent to the university for final assignations; once these are made, the app closes for users.

[Courtesy Images]

“Facebook for Business” Resource Center Eases Onboarding for Marketers and Advertisers

Yesterday, Facebook launched its “Facebook for Business” resource center, which collects instructions and guides for using Pages, ads, Sponsored Stories, and Platform applications. It walks business owners, marketers, and advertisers through the purpose and functionality of Facebook’s core products in simple, straightforward language, and links to .PDFs where they can learn more.

With Google preparing to allow businesses onto Google+, this seems like an opportune time for Facebook to showcase the depth of its existing business offering and make it easier to start marketing to its 750 million users.

Previously, the resources found on Facebook for Business were scattered across several other official Pages and introduction sites, including Facebook Marketing Solutions, Guide to Facebook Ads, and Facebook Platform. Now businesses can find all this information in one place, and with a more intuitive flow for those unfamiliar with Facebook.

The section on Pages gives step-by-step instructions for creating a Page, executing a strategy, gaining fans, and using Page Insights. One new recommendation it includes is that Page admins should create a “conversation calendar” to organize what kind of posts their Page will publish each day of the week.

For ads, Facebook outlines how to create and target ads, manage a budget, and optimize performance by analyzing metrics. It links to a Facebook Ads Optimization Guide (.PDF), which recommends a strategy of testing ad variants for two to three days.

The Sponsored Stories section is the first dedicated site for learning about the social ad unit. It does a good job of clearly explaining a complex subject. Lack of understanding of how Sponsored Stories work has likely been a deterrent to adoption. These instructions, combined with recent reports of the high efficiency of the ad unit, should lead more advertisers to integrate Sponsored Stories into their mix.

Canvas Apps, Page tab apps social plugins, mobile single-sign on, and Facebook Credits are all addressed on in the Platform section. This part of Facebook for Business is the least fleshed out, often just directing users to the developer documentation, which may be too advanced for those new to the Platform.

Google+ has run into a few snags in its program for businesses. Many brands created personal profiles only to have them deleted. While it first said that official brand pages would be available within weeks of the launch of the new social network, Google has revised that time table to say businesses may have to wait months before they can set up a presence on Google+.

Facebook may be purposefully taking advantage of the the current discontent with its new competitor by launching Facebook for Business this week. It may be able to gain extra ground on Google if it can remind both existing Facebook-integrated businesses and those new to the site of all the marketing channels it already offers.

“Understand the Apps You Use” Sidebar Link Attempts to Educate Facebook Users on App Security

Facebook is using a “Quick Tips” right sidebar module to educate users on the extended permissions system and direct them to the App settings dashboard where they can manage the permissions they’ve granted to apps. With the title “Understand the Apps You Use”, the module may be designed to reduce the occurrence of users granting permissions to unscrupulous developers in the wake of a small data leak that gave access to unauthorized third-parties.

Last week, a threat was revealed that caused user data access authentication tokens to be transmitted in unsecure HTTP Referrer Headers. This could allow ad networks and other unauthorized partners of authorized developers to steal user data.

Facebook responded by accelerating its app security roadmap such that all apps would be required to use the secure transfer protocol OAuth 2.0 by September 1st, and attain an SSL certificate by October 1st. It also notified developers suspected of leaking data to improve security of their apps or risk suspension. This caused some confusion, as not all developers who received the email warning exhibited data leaks.

To round out this pursuit of  improved security, Facebook now looks to be expanding its user education efforts. The Quick Tips sidebar module appears occasionally to users while they surf the site, similar to established social modules such as People You May Know, as well as newer modules such as Previous Status Updates (formerly titled Memorable Stories) and Discover New Games.

The module reads “Apps on Facebook ask for permission to access your information before you use them. Take the time to understand them.” This addresses the issue that users have become conditioned to clicking through the app permissions without properly reading them or vetting the app.

Clicking within the module takes users to the Apps You Use section of the App, Games, and Websites Settings dashboard that Facebook launched in October to improve management of given permissions. There users can see which apps they’ve authorized, when an app last accessed their data, what permissions they’ve granted each app, and options to revoke permissions or remove apps. However, little user-facing outreach for the dashboard has been done to date, so some app users may not even realize they have these options.

While the dashboard explains its functionality, there’s little explanation about why careful assessment of an app’s reputation and requested permissions is important. Facebook’s recently launched cross-site scripting and clickjacking prevention security measures do a much better job of informing users how to take security into their own hands.

This Quick Tips module points users in the right direction, but Facebook novices that are most vulnerable to the few malicious developers on the Platform may need deeper instruction on why critical thinking about installing an app can protect them, their friends, and the Facebook community at large.

[Thanks to Brittany Darwell for the tip]

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