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It’s only been a few years since a handful of social media websites have evolved into multi-billion dollar businesses. With every passing year, their importance and penetration among netizens increases. For many the year 2010 was a definitive one with respect to social media for various reasons. Here is a glimpse of this year’s major social media developments and their social, economic and technological impact.

The Brand New Twitter

It would not be an exaggeration to say that 2010 was the year of change for Twitter. With a new revenue model, a revamped user interface (UI) and a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Silicon Valley-based organization has been on a roll

Given that Twitter grew into a company of 300 employees, with 165 million users, and a billion-dollar evaluation under his command, it was quite surprising to see Twitter’s co-founder, Evan Williams, step down from his position as the CEO.

   
 

However, according to Williams, growing big is not success; it is meeting one’s “potential as a profitable company that can retain its culture and user focus, while having a position impact”. Also worth mentioning is that Williams was also the man behind the blogging platform, Blogger, which he co-founded and managed until its acquisition by Google in 2003. in his own words, Williams is now the product CEO at Twitter; while the company’s new CEO is Dick Costolo – someone who has helped companies like Accenture and FeedBurner generate some serious revenue, in the past. Hence, it is only natural to expect that the company’s “new directions” will influence the balance sheets.

The biggest example of this trend would be the launch of three major products by Twitter’s advertising team over the span of six months. The products included Promoted Trends, Promoted Tweets and Promoted Twitter Accounts. The new advertising platform was the much-anticipated business model that aimed at facilitating advertisers not only on Twitter, but also with third party apps, including desktop clients like TweetDeck. Twitter, with its new advertisement model, has introduced a new concept, which it likes to call Resonance Score.
   
 

Based on cost per impression, a Promoted Tweet’s Resonance Score is based on factor such as: retweets, impressions, favourites and clicks. According to Twitter’s official statement, Promoted Tweets will be presented by combining text with pictures and video; all this would not have been possible without the platform that the new Twitter provides.

We have seen that with every makeover the resemblance between Twitter’s timeline and Facebook’s Wall seems to grow. However, when it came to Twitter’s own user interface, it was not everyone’s favourite; many users preferred to use Twitter clients based on Silver light or Adobe Air that offered better user experience, this year, however, Twitter swept us off our feet by revamping its Web UI. Twitter partnered with online services such as deviantART, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube and many others, to bring the rich media experience to its users and introduced a new two pane Web design to view embedded photos and videos, and a details pane for the additional content related to a particular tweet.

I “Like” Facebook

The Facebook “Like” button, which was launched at the f8 developers’ conference in April 2010, has evolved into a social media metric to measure traffic, user preferences, time on-site, click-through rates and other useful demographics. Installed on more than two million websites, the “Like” button is fast becoming the most preferred traffic referral after Twitter. More recently, Facebook and Microsoft penned a deal that allowed the integration of Facebook’s “Like” data into Bing’s search results (Bing Social). So essentially, what would happened is that if a person searched for a particular book on Bing, the search results would show how many of his/her friends “Like(d)” the book; this would make it easier for him/her to make a purchase decision. Similarly, if you’ve left your privacy settings open, your Facebook status updates would also appear in Bing’s search results. Oops!

Then, Facebook – with its Facebook Places service – started to allow its users to check-in, share, and tag friends/groups to the different places that they had visited. According to Facebook, users have full control on what they share, and with whom they share the information. Since a lot of third party applications based on Facebook places’ API are already out, they create a huge opportunity for advertisers, game developers and social marketers.

The year 2010 was intense for Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who made headlines with the evergreen privacy issues, a couple of other controversies, and a film based on the book about Facebook. To end it al on a positive note, however, mark Zuckerberg made an uncharacteristic public appearance at the Oprah Winfrey Show and announced establishing a 100-million dollar project, Startup: Education, to bring educational reforms in various parts of the United States.

Foursquare, the next big thing?

The location-based social networking website, Foursquare, turned one this year, and what a year it has been for the rapidly growing network that boasts almost four million users. Foursquare API also went live and helped developers, social media entrepreneurs and advertisers come up with new and exciting applications and games for smartphone devices. The year 2010 was particularly important for the company as it experimented with its strategy, game rewards, badges etcetera. An example is Foursquare’s collaboration with CNN during the FIFA World Cup 2010, where it launched two special badges for football fans – one for those who went to South Africa to watch the World Cup matches, and the other for those who attended special match-viewing parties at pubs and clubs in other places. A similar collaboration was established with the famous coffee brand, Starbucks, with the introduction of special Barista badge.

The question, however, is what does the future hold for Facebook Places? According to Foursquare Co-founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley, Foursquare is here “to reinvent what happens after the check in. he believes that there is no comparison between the two networking websites. Also, Foursquare intends to provide its users with instant check-ins and better deals, making the whole experience a lot more fun.

YouTube – Live!

Social media is all about instant updates and real-time data, so why is the world’s biggest video portal out of the picture so far? This year YouTube took its new, live-streaming platform for a test drive, bringing its audience a TV-like video watching experience. Though it was just a trial run, something big in the near future is expected.

What Lies Ahead

Talking into consideration the relatively inexpensive and faster internet connection these days, billions of interconnected desktops and mobile devices, and a social media grid that is defined by applications, it would not be completely hypothetical to predict a future where every aspect of our social lives will be governed by some form of social networking services.


 
 
 
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