Coming off of an exciting first quarter of 2012, the big newsmaker this quarter was Facebook, which crested over 900 million active users in April, resulting in more than 125 billion friend connections, and whose users spend more time browsing via mobile than via website; not to mention seemingly the most hyped IPO of all time (including several post-IPO black-eyes). At Stuzo | Dachis Group, we treat Facebook as the hub of most of our branded custom experiences, and so the last three months have been filled with anticipation and excitement at the huge changes over at the world’s largest social network. Let’s take a look at the second quarter of 2012, from massive acquisitions, to functional breakouts, and a hint at what’s to come for a giant’s under-performing social network.
- Instagram Acquired by Facebook for $1B (4/9): Today, this may seem like a rather deft move, but back in early April, people were viewing this as a belated April Fools joke. $1,000,000 for a startup that was barely a year old, with a community of 30 million and no business model in sight seemed outrageous, especially right before an IPO with all the world’s eyes watching. Once the details of the deal came out (“only” $300 million in cash and 23 million shares of stock), and Facebook made its plans with Instagram and Facebook Camera a little clearer (though still not crystal), the deal seemed to fall more into place. Zuckerberg came out and said that they planned to keep Instagram going independently, unlike the standard Facebook practice of purchasing hot start-ups, killing the product(s), and absorbing functionality and people for internal Facebook purposes. While the future of Instagram is not exactly clear, the reason for the purchase is. People love sharing, and the more people feel comfortable sharing, the more they share. Facebook, also, loves when people share, and people share photos more than anything else on the web. If this service gives people more confidence in sharing photos (contrast editing, filters, etc.), making them more likely to share more photos with friends, then Facebook wants to own that space; with 30 million users and growing, acquisition appeared to be the cleanest option.
- YouTube Launches AdWords for Video (6/22): A fundamental play, this one, as Google expands its AdWords product into their video space. Advertising on YouTube hadn’t always been the most intuitive or effective practice, but with the new AdWords integrations, brands can potentially expect their content creation and community management efforts on YouTube to drive cleaner conversions.
- Google+ Rolls Out New +1 Button (4/24): Google+ has been live for roughly a year, at this point, and made a tweak to their +1 button in April that adds a bit more context to why the user is sharing the content. Later in Q2, they would also roll out a new Google+ Recommendation button, keeping pace with the pervasive social sharing options from Facebook. Nothing large to these changes from Google, but definitely notable as these sharing options are table-stakes in the new social web.
- Spotify Launches iPad App (5/2): A full iPad app for the social music service Spotify seems overdue, but the app looks, feels, and functions beautifully. As mobile becomes more and more essential to an application’s design, we will see a much heavier focus on timed launches of parallel applications and optimizing functionality for mobile then working into desktop UX, rather than vice versa.
- Facebook IPO (5/18): The big kahuna. Facebook opened up on NASDAQ over $40, sank into the high $30s, then dropped due to a variety of issues. Once the dust cleared, it was clear that there were two main issues that hampered what would have been a successful opening. First, NASDAQ had a series of technical issues that delayed initial trading for an hour and resulted in individual investor trading delays thereafter, causing confusion for investors. Second, Facebook decided to “selectively disclose” financial information to big banks, which, in addition to being not such a nice thing to do, seems to also be illegal, and Facebook is now under a set of lawsuits that it needs to dig its way out of. What does this poor showing mean for Facebook? In the long-run, probably not too much. We will remember that they stumbled out of the gate amid issues with mobile revenue and transparency, but they will become a better company as a result. Certainly, I can almost guarantee that they’ll be around come 2020.
- Introducing Facebook Camera (5/24): In a play related to the Instagram acquisition, Facebook unveiled their Camera application late in May. This is an interesting play, as Facebook is breaking out their camera and their messenger from their main application. Pros: segmented audience for applications based on utility gives Facebook more data on usage and more opportunities to target ads and optimize revenue. Cons: Facebook now takes up more real estate in the OS interface (needing three icons instead of just one), and causes a disjointed feeling for users that must navigate through three different applications for what, seemingly, should be a unified social experience. More to talk about in the near future with Facebook Camera, you can bet.
- AMEX Deals Now Activated in UK (5/30): This highly successful AMEX-Foursquare integration from 2011 has made its way across the pond and will now be allowing the Brits to join the ranks of confused American Foursquare users as to where there actually are specials and where there are just omnipresent AMEX deals. If you’re in the market for an AMEX card, or are currently a cardholder, these deals are actually really great, as you make your way around town. For users not in either of those groups, though, there’s always the ‘hide these deals’ button.
- Facebook Launches App Center (6/7): With US Facebook users spending more time on the social network via mobile than via the site, Facebook made a great play toward the end of the quarter with the launch of the App Center. Now, brands, developers, and users will have a central location to explore, launch, and engage with applications. Shortly thereafter, Facebook also announced a new feature – follow – that allows users to follow the application activity of one another: useful for both gaming and for utility apps.
- Twitter Launches Topic Pages #NASCAR and #Euro2012 (6/7): Twitter didn’t splash too much during the second quarter of 2012, but they did launch two major pages which centralized chatter around two massive topics. #NASCAR gave all of the sport’s fans a place to congregate and tune in before, during, and after races throughout the season, and the Euro 2012 page served the same purpose for soccer/futbol fans in Europe and around the world.
- Pinterest Announces Attribution Update (6/20): Pinterest walked into a bit of a clusterfiddlesticks at the end of Q1 with their attribution issues, and gave the Pinterest terms of service an overhaul. This update that was rolled out at the tail end of June streamlines the attribution process for users, and is a step in the right direction for the highly popular, yet copyright-issue-laden social network.
- YouTube Launches Redesigned Mobile App (6/27): A move that was seemingly a long time coming for one of the social grandaddies of the space. Google, like Facebook, has struggled to keep pace with the immense shift to mobile adoption and engagement that everyone has been predicting for years, at this point. The nicely redesigned YouTube mobile application allows the user flexibility and ease of interface and is a breath of fresh air from the second largest search engine on the web.
- Foursquare Launches Connected Apps Platform (6/28): In the last days of the quarter, Foursquare made a big announcement and launched their Connected Apps platform for developers to tap into their APIs and build out new and amazing custom experiences. In addition to the platform release, Foursquare also made a major ux update at the beginning of the month, and the facelift was met with rave reviews. For brands, how will the Foursquare Connected Apps platform be leveraged to drive engagement at scale across your physical store locations, and how will you integrate Foursquare functionality and visualization into your custom branded experiences and communities?
- Early Developer Preview to G+ Platform for Mobile (6/28): On the same day as the new Connected Apps Foursquare platform, Google announced that they, too, would be launching a new platform for Google+; this one, for mobile. Google+ has, as we mentioned earlier, been on the scene for about a year, and has yet to make a big splash. Brands have been coming on board ‘slowly’ (can it be ‘slowly’ if we’ve only had the platform for a year?), but there certainly is more expected of the Google social network in terms of branded engagement. We know that, holistically, the value is there from a user standpoint (email, search, maps, apps, and social, all in once place!), from a social business standpoint (Google+ and the Enterprise), and from a Google standpoint (more unified user data), so let’s hope the actual user engagement comes around in the second half of 2012.
Did we miss any updates that you thought were notable from the second quarter of 2012? Let us know about them in the comments! More to come over the next few months – stay tuned for the Q3 landscape review, and check out the Social Landscape Review from Q1 if you missed it.