eModeration’s Social Media Update #19

Welcome to eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing,
alarming or odd in the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams
(@emodkate).

In this update: Guns ‘n’ Snowballs; Microsoft’s faux pas ;
and Yule 2.0.

This super-size bumper edition is the last update for 2009 – and all of us at
eModeration wish you a very merry holiday. See you in
2010!

THE HEADLINES

A coalititon of privacy groups have filed
a complaint
with the Federal Trade Commission against Facebook’s new privacy
changes, which it alleges constitute ‘unfair and deceptive trade practices’.
While Facebook harumph that it’s all a lot of fuss and bother about nothing,
commentators mainly agree that the ‘Book’s midstream course-switch has been
poorly-explained at best; at worst, occlusive. The real question is, as Peter
Kafka points out, whether advertisers will start to mutter. He notes that
Facebook’s Beacon programme was only pulled once marketers started asking
awkward questions, and wonders whether history might repeat itself.

Over
in China, Microsoft found itself in a rather awkward spot when it emerged that
the resemblance their new platform Juku bore to start-up micro-blogging service
Plurk was so heavy as to be what you and I might call ‘the same’. Embarrassingly
for Microsoft, it was discovered that one of their Chinese developers had indeed
lifted
chunks of Plurk’s code
, and the service was suspended indefinitely. The
speed and directness with which they dealt with the crisis earned them mild
praise – but nevertheless Plurk is ominously said to be considering its
legal options
.

Twitter found itself under
attack
last week by the mysteriously-named Iranian Cyber Army, who it
appears hijacked the site via weak Twitter email security. The group managed to
redirect users to their own site – but Twitterers were left confused as to the
hackers’ message. In broken English, they appeared to harbour anti-American
feeling – but used the image of a green flag, associated with those who oppose
the current regime.

Meanwhile RockYou – the third most successful
Facebook app, with more than 55 million monthly active users – suffered a serious
hack attack
which exposed 32 million customer usernames and passwords to
identity theft. The breach is all the more serious because Rock You’s usernames
and passwords – which were apparently displayed in plain text – are by default
the same as the user’s email username and passwords. Worse still, RockYou
appears to have taken a full 10 days to let them know of the risk to their
online identities.

THE LOWDOWN

On Saturday, Washington DC’s Twitterers organized an
impromptu street-corner snowball fight – what could be more seasonal or more
jolly? Unfortunately, an undercover cop whose Hummer caught a couple of stray
snowballs was not yet fully immersed in the festive spirit, and rather pooped
the party by getting out of his vehicle and drawing his weapon on the dismayed
funsters – inspiring the instantly viral chant of ‘Don’t bring a gun to a
snowball fight!’

A 15-year-old boy, whose parents took away his Xbox
system as punishment for an unspecified misdemeanour, called
911
to check that they were within their rights to do so. Police officers
who arrived at his house confirmed that his parents are, in fact, the boss of
him.

In what will be the last ‘What Were They Thinking?’ of 2009, three
police officers have been disciplined after a group of inebriated young women
ran amok in their police station. The officers, presumably perfectly capable of
dealing with both fast-footed burglars and angry drunks, found themselves
unaccountably unable to control the young women, who took photos of themselves
in police uniforms posing in, ahem, a provocative manner – shots which later
turned up on Facebook.

A producer from Uruguay who uploaded his short
film – made for a total of £186 – onto YouTube has now been offered a £18.6m
contract to make a Hollywood film. Just three days after the upload, Fede
Alvarez’ inbox was bulging with enquiries from Hollywood; but if you are still
clutching to your secret heart the fantasy that it could happen to you, were you
only to launch your talent on the YouTube-viewing world – watch this, and let
the dream go.

Chris Brown has had what is rapidly becoming known (well,
in my head) as a Twissy Fit. You may or may not know that the singer recently
released a comeback album, part of his attempt to rebuild
his image
after his violent assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna. In a series
of increasingly bitter tweets, Brown claimed that retailers were blackballing
his album – causing widespread mockery in the entertainment press, and the
hurried deletion of the account in question.

Last week we had the murky
ethics of lawyers ‘friending’ judges – this week it’s jurors whose questionable
social media activities are in the dock. Jury-members in the mayor of
Baltimore’s trial for gift-card embezzlement made
contact with one another
on Facebook – and now the mayor’s lawyers are
examining whether this could constitute grounds for appeal.

If you wish
your kiddywinks to enjoy a Christmas which is both magical and modern, upgrade
your traditions to Yule 2.0 with Mashable’s
list
of ways to interact with Santa. There’s even an iPhone app in which the
Big Guy tells them that, unless they shape up in the behaviour department, they
can expect nowt but a lump of coal in their stocking.

IN OTHER NEWS …

On Christmas Day, just after
lunch, Barnardo’s is launching their hugely innovative Teens’ Speech campaign online.
For the last 2 months, Barnardo’s has been encouraging teenagers to upload
videos in which they express their hopes – and fears – for the future. The
project – which eModeration has been delighted to be part of – involved an open
invitation
to this much-maligned group to speak out on the issues which are
important to them across multiple platforms including YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and the Barnardo’s
website
. The campaign also hopes to draw attention to the fact that what
matters to teens should also matter to the rest of us – and it promises to be
touching, insightful, and very honest.

Hot on the heels of last week’s
revelation that Facebook’s demographic is increasingly Gran-shaped, comes the
launch of a new service for granny-bloggers. The NanaBlogs helps Grans to
explore social media, and to start their own blogs. The launch coincides with
news that the older generation is embracing
texting
at last – 14% of those aged 45-plus are sending more than 30 text
messages every week.

Two regulatory changes this week: first the
Advertising Standards Authority’s remit was extended to include
digital marketing
– bringing brands’ websites under their control for the
first time.

Then the Press Complaints Commission’s reach
was extended
to cover online-only publications – until recently those which
had no offline presence were exempt.

An interesting week for online news
content: the Guardian launched
an iPhone app
, which for a one-off fee of £2.39 allows users to customise
Guardian content, making it much easier to view on a mobile device. And over the
pond, the Huffington Post is offering sponsored
tweets
to advertisers, which will feature in the live Twitter feed on its
site. It’s also offering ad placements within the comments section of its
articles.

Meanwhile, a huge GfK Group study has found that only 13% of
people in Europe and the USA would be prepared
to pay
for online content. Worse still, 42% of European and 21% of US
consumers didn’t even want their content to be supported by ads – which would
leave content-providers without any visible means of support
whatsoever.

ON FACEBOOK

Aside from the growing privacy brouhaha detailed above,
it’s been an uneventful week for the ‘Book.

They announced the
heartening results of its recent demographic study, which show that the
percentage of Black and Asian users are now approaching those found in the
general US population. But the social giant also faced criticism for pointedly
refusing to share the wider data-set with the public, which caused some
to wonder
whether other, less cheerful cultural trends were contained
within.

Facebook also launched a developer
consultant
programme, to help confuzzled brands decide who to work with when
building their Facebook presence. The initial roster of 14 companies include
Context Optional and Wildfire, who have worked with brands such as Red Bull,
Chase, MTV and Disney on social media launches.

ON TWITTER …

A light news week also for
Twitter: they launched
in German
, which joins Spanish, French and Italian as official
Twitter-supported languages.

And, in a possible step towards a full
commercial offer, Twitter began testing a new ‘Contributors’
feature
. It lets businesses have accounts which can be used by several
employees, each of whom would be identified by an individual by-line.

And
finally, Twitter announced their top trending topics of the year: the results,
which put Michael Jackson and Susan Boyle at number one and two respectively,
were entirely
predictable
– but like too much gin in Auntie Vera’s holiday egg-nog, were
no less enjoyable for that.

ON GOOGLE

Like Facebook, Google launched URL
shorteners
this week – and while Google’s is only available through its
Toolbar and Feedburner, there’s nothing to say things will stay that way. Which
must, as MediaPost points out, make uncomfortable reading for Bit.ly et al, as
they watch Google pull out all stops to keep the traffic flowing through to
search.

Elsewhere, ZDNet.com suggests that real-time search is not
necessarily going to be the money-spinner that Google might be anticipating.
They wonder if ‘real-time search moves too fast and is too unpredictable to monetize
In other words, you need a crystal ball to monetize a real-time stream of
information.’

But most Google gossip this week concerned rumours of an
imminent launch-date for their own-branded smartphone, based on the Android
platform. Unlike other phones, this will be sold directly to consumers, who will
themselves contract with a wireless network. Some
commentators
are urging those of you who initially snubbed the iPhone to
view this as a second chance to get in at the off. But others
warn
that, at $500, the Droid is a risky prospect in a market where “all
previous attempts to sell directly to the consumer in the U.S. have thus far
have been an abject failure.” Ho hum.

ON
YOUTUBE …

Following reports last month that YouTube was
contemplating iTunes-style rentals for their growing offer of long-form TV
content, Reuters reports that the video-sharing site is considering monthly
subscriptions
along a cable-tv provider model. Mashable posits that, one way
or another, we’re looking at some kind of paid-content model for YouTube, since
providers seem unwilling to settle for an entirely ad-supported
model.

Ah, here she is again – Susan Boyle is top
of the pops
on YouTube’s most popular vids of the year. Pass the egg nog,
Auntie!

BRANDS GET SOCIAL

Marshalls and T.J. Maxx have co-sponsored a festive
YouTube Caroling
Channel
. It’s a contest site where singers can pick one of four customized
songs to sing – including ‘Deck Yourself Out’ and “We Wish You a Better Way to
Christmas Shop” – in hopes of winning a $5,000 gift-card Grand
Prize.

Carl’s Junior has hired Kim Kardashian to front a new
multi-faceted digital campaign, the centrepiece of which is an augmented
reality lunch date
, in which fans can chat with the star over a virtual
Carl’s Jr. grilled chicken salad.

NBC is launching a fan-driven
campaign
to raise the social media profile of its show ‘Chuck’, which
revolves around a geek who must save the world after his brain becomes
accidentally encoded with government secrets. Fans who ‘share the greatness’
through Facebook and other SocNets have a chance at the Grand Prize of appearing
in a Chuck episode.

Samsung is offering 10 teams of bloggers the chance
to zip over to the Winter
Games
in Vancouver this February. The teams will face a selection of
challenges, like visiting multiple sites around the city, collecting fan stories
and covering the various events – all of which they’ll record on a Samsung
Mythic mobile phone.

SOCIAL STATS

The number of reviews consulted by online shoppers was
up by a mammoth
128%
this year, according to a massive survey of UK shoppers carried out on
November 30, the date which marks the unofficial start of the online Christmas
shopping season.

Meanwhile, social media recommendations from strangers
languish at seventh place as a means of discovering online video – verbal word of mouth (41%)
and search (32%) are the top two.

Prompt Communications report that
Facebook (96%) is now the most
popular communication tool
, followed by text (93%) and email (91%) – but
consumers use text (37%) more frequently, with Facebook and the phone at
28%.

YuMe reports that under-14s
have the highest click-through rate on pre-roll video ads, at 3.7%. Their
parents – people over 35 – have the next highest at 1.9%, followed by 18 to 24s
at 1.5%. More detailed stats on video ads can be found here.

A recent
study from SheSpeaks finds that the number of US women who have at least one
social networking profile has leapt
by nearly half
to 86% – up from 58% last year. The number logging in at
least once a day is now up to a cracking 72%, from 53% in 2008.

eMarketer says US online ad spend figures will show a 4.6% decrease over
last year – a
sharp revision
of the growth of 4.5% it initially predicted. The good news
is that they reckon that the cycle has bottom out – for online advertising at
least.

ON MOBILE

Smartphones are changing the social landscape, with over
450 million of us
accessing the mobile internet in 2009. IDC’s research also
predicts that this already huge number is set to double to 900 million by the
end of 2013.

And Scandinavian operator TeliaSonera is leading
the way
, by offering the world’s first ‘4G’ mobile broadband to users in
Norway and Sweden. They’ll now benefit from mobile download speeds an
astonishing 10 times faster than the rest of us 3G
slowcoaches.

VIRTUAL AND GAMES

Finally, here’s news that Sony is launching an MMO on
PlayStation Home. The game, called Sodium
One
, is sci-fi themed, and is free-to-play for the first five levels.
Thereafter, additional purchasable items will help you continue to
advance.

That’s all till 2010, folks! !