This Week In Social: Facebook Experiments With Sponsored Search, New Facebook iOS App, Twitter’s New Terms Of Service

By Rob McNair


With Facebook shares down 50% since the company’s ill-fated IPO, it was only a matter of time before brainstorming would begin around revenue-generating ideas. One of these is a testing of sponsored search results within the social media platform itself, using a small number of current paying advertisers such as and Zynga. Facebook’s search box is a tool used regularly by its hundreds of millions of users, and while it might not be able to match Google for content, Facebook’s experiment begs the question as to whether they are directly competing with the search engine giant. The results appear anchored by the word ‘Sponsored’ and an ‘X’ in the corner that provides the option to close the ad. According to Adweek, a Facebook spokesperson said they had no present plans to roll out the sponsored category to general search results pages. Whether a potential move towards traditional advertising indicates that Facebook is showing lower levels of faith in its ability to pioneer unique social ad formats, only time will tell. While a tool like Google AdWords drives users to external websites for example, many Facebook ads are intended to increase user traffic within their own platform.


This week, Facebook has also attempted to tackle the long-standing problem of slow functioning on their iOS app by going one step beyond a mere update. Developers have created a brand new, native app with reportedly double the launching, News Feed scrolling and picture loading speed of the old version, and with an interface almost identical to that of its predecessor. Another feature dealt with is the notifications function, which has been made instantaneously responsive in contrast to the notoriously glitch-ridden former one, and new features have been implemented such as a photo-closing downward swipe gesture and a ‘New Stories’ banner at the top of the News Feed. While users will still see the loading wheel when attempting to launch someone’s profile, it’s all a step in the right direction.


A few short weeks ago, photo-sharing app Instagram had its popular Twitter friend-finding feature removed due to Twitter’s crackdown on its API use. This means that notification pop-ups stating ‘Your Twitter friend … has just joined Instagram’ are a thing of the past. Tumblr is now the latest service to feel the long arm of Twitter’s new laws. This has led social media news reports to muse as to how this will benefit Twitter in the longterm, and whether it will result in an eventual mutinous uprising from other social networking services no longer wishing for Tweets to be posted from within them, such as Foursquare, Yelp, Spotify, and indeed Instagram and Tumblr themselves. Social network tie-ins have certainly helped rather than hindered Twitter’s rise to power, and while many social media platforms need to take every opportunity to monetise their services (see Facebook above), it remains to be seen how essentially closing off a connection that up until now has remained relatively open with regard to tie-ins will further aid them.


On Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, Eva Restaurant is offering a 5% discount to diners who agree to leave their mobile phones at the door, while Perry’s Deli in Chicago has posted a sign to ‘strictly prohibit’ the use of the gadgets in their establishment. The moves are inspired by the current trend of ‘distracted dining’, behaviour that is thought to impact on dinner conversation and basic table manners. It’s long been thought that texting or Tweeting at the table is impolite, but the popularity of ‘Instagram-ing’ meal photos has reached such heights that certain restaurants believe many diners are viewing their food as style over sustenance. Pictures of platefuls are posted in overwhelming numbers every day to social networking platforms and apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Yelp, Foursquare and similar, to the extent that multiple eateries the world over have incorporated the digital into the dining experience, with QR codes and discount apps, Paypal bill-paying capabilities and even iPad wine lists. While cuisine-related websites and blogs have turned social networkers into gustatory critics, Sony, Nikon and Olympus cameras have jumped on the food photography bandwagon by creating customisable ‘food’ and ‘cuisine’ settings for photos, and photo-sharing site Flickr has witnessed the ‘food’ tag leap from half a million photos four years ago to a current figure of more than 6 million.


‘Lifecasting’, ‘photobombing’ ‘dogfooding’ and ‘vajazzling’, are now officially part of the English vernacular according to the Internet-based partner to the official Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to these verbs, abbreviations and colloquialisms like ‘totes’, ‘lolz’, ‘Wikipedian’ and ‘tweep(s)’ have found their way in, as well as a number of terms already in existence but widely popularised by social media such as ‘mwahahaha’, ‘group hug’ and ‘guilty pleasure’. They follow the likes of ‘zomg’ and ‘Twittersphere’, which both made it in last year.

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This post was written by Rob McNair

Rob has experience advising some of the worlds most iconic brands. He thrives on helping improving social media knowledge within organisations with the ultimate goal of making theirs brands more social, transparent and accountable.