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Digital News Roundup: End of Summer Edition

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Sunset At The Marina

Summer has came and went but not without some big news items coming out of the digital space. Check out our rundown of the top 20 headlines of the summer (listed chronologically) in the post below. And, as always, stay tuned for more news and insights from the 360i team right here on the blog.

  1. Facebook Simplifies Privacy Amid Growing Backlash
  2. With FTC Approval, Google-AdMob Deal Officially Closes
  3. Summer of Mobile Brings 7 Reports from 360i
  4. Google Caffeine: Fully Brewed and ‘50 Percent Fresher’
  5. Silly Bandz: Using Digital Tools to Spot & Track Cultural Trends
  6. Finally, the Ad Model: Trending Topics Now for Sale on Twitter
  7. One Year Later: Bing Buzzed, But Didn’t Bother Google
  8. The @earlybird Catches the Steal with New Twitter E-Commerce Program
  9. Check This: Foursquare Expands its Loyalty Program
  10. Old Spice Man Takes the Web by Storm – then Rides Off into the Sunset
  11. Facebook Hits 500 Million Members
  12. 360i Study Uncovers New Findings about Twitter Usage Among Consumers, Brands
  13. Why Brands Must Check in to Foursquare
  14. FTC Provides Clarity to its Guides for Endorsements
  15. What’s Behind Starbucks’ Free Wi-Fi Offering? An Entire Digital Network
  16. Following People and Brands on Twitter: Now Easy as 4-0-4-0-4
  17. Facebook Gets in On the Check-in Game with Places
  18. It’s Official: Bing is Now Powering Yahoo Search Results
  19. Apple Socializes Music Consumption with Ping
  20. 10 Reasons to Check Out 360i on #findajobfriday

Facebook Simplifies Privacy Amid Growing Backlash

In Late May, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made an about face when he addressed growing concerns regarding user privacy within the world’s largest social network. In the live announcement, Facebook’s CEO reiterated the company’s core mission – to connect people – and said that staying connected is best achieved when people have control over what they share. Zuckerberg said the solution to providing more effective control is to simplify the process for users.

[Image via the AP]

360i CEO Bryan Wiener told Ad Age that Facebook’s mea culpa helped the brand prevent long-term damage. “They owned up to their mistake quick enough so they’ve avoided that,” he said. For more information, check out the official blog post from Facebook.

With FTC Approval, Google-AdMob Deal Officially Closes

The Google-AdMob deal got official this summer — more than six months after the acquisition was first announced. The Federal Trade Commission unanimously approved the deal in May after mulling over the case and determining that it would not block the acquisition due to antitrust regulations.

Back in November, Google offered $750 million in company stock for the leading mobile ad network and asserted that together, Google and AdMob would work on the future of mobile advertising. In a recap on our blog, we listed specific ramifications through the lens of the mobile market’s three prime stakeholders: consumers, publishers and advertisers.

Bottom line: This deal will help propel the mobile industry by encouraging mobile ad spend, which currently pales in comparison to other digital mediums, such as display. Yet given the discrepancies in spend, mobile usage continues to rise to dramatic levels, and advertising must keep pace.

Summer of Mobile Brings 7 Reports from 360i

Over the past few months we’ve embarked on quite a large endeavor — 7 mobile reports covering nearly every topic of this emerging landscape, from mobile-social and apps to SMS marketing and search. Below is a final rundown of the series. You can download the full PDF for any of these by clicking the “Download” button within Scribd.

You can expect lots more from us by way of mobile in the coming months.

Google Caffeine: Fully Brewed and ‘50 Percent Fresher’

About ten months after it was announced, Google’s new Caffeine indexing system went 100 percent live (see post on the official Google Blog). Google says the new system provides “50 percent fresher results for web searches than [its] last index” and represents the largest collection of web content Google has ever offered. Back in August 2009 we took a look at Caffeine and how the new system might impact SEO. If you’re looking to learn more, be sure to read 6 Things to Expect if Google Decaf Gets a Caffeine Boost.

Silly Bandz: Using Digital Tools to Spot & Track Cultural Trends

One of the summer’s biggest fads were Silly Bandz – the fun, colorful rubber bands that people of all ages collected and traded with friends. One day you might have seen a few people with  rubber bands on their wrists and then all of a sudden these bands seemed to be everywhere.

Overall Buzz Volume for Silly Bandz (January-June 2010)

[Source: Sysomos, includes Twitter, Forums, and blog posts]

Marketers have the ability to assess and evaluate pop culture trends quickly and in real time through the use of online research — and that’s just what we did to uncover the rise of Silly Bandz. Check out our full post to learn how (and where) this craze started, and how online trendspotting can help inform your marketing strategies.

Finally, the Ad Model: Trending Topics Now for Sale on Twitter

In June Twitter began featuring sponsored keywords within its trending topics list. Users who click on a promoted trending topic are now brought to the usual search results page – but at that page they encounter a promoted tweet from the advertiser. Disney Pixar was one of the first to test this out, with Toy Story 3 ads appearing atop the search results page for ‘Toy Story 3.’

ReadWriteWeb points out the deep differences between this ad model and traditional advertising, as the user is sent to a “live and uncensored conversation” instead of a marketer-controlled landing page. Following Twitter’s announcement regarding its promoted Tweets program earlier this year (for more you can check out 360i’s report on Promoted Tweets), the new trending topics feature is one of the earliest in the ad model.

One Year Later: Bing Buzzed, But Didn’t Bother Google

June marked the first birthday of Microsoft’s new “Decision Engine,” Bing. Microsoft said the new engine was developed to help searchers navigate more easily through information online – an objective perhaps most vividly captured in the company’s slew of commercials poking fun at “search overload.”

As the year progressed, Microsoft made several large announcements that granted them significant attention among industry professionals and publications. Check out our summary of each of these milestones on the blog and read our thoughts on where Bing might go from here.

The @Earlybird Catches the Steal with New Twitter E-Commerce Program

In July, Twitter unveiled a new e-commerce program, dubbed @earlybird Exclusive Offers, which promotes special deals on products and events from select advertisers. Twitter earns revenue with each item sold via the service.

As the New York Times’ Bits blog noted, the set-up plays to the popularity of limited-time sale sites like Gilt and Groupon as well as the tremendous success Dell has seen by tweeting deals via its @DellOutlet account. You can learn more about the Early Bird program over at the Twitter Help Center.

Check This: Foursquare Expands its Loyalty Program

Mobile check-in service Foursquare published a blog post in July touting the successes of several brands and businesses that have used the network to provide special offers to customers and introducing some updates to its loyalty program. For example, Starbucks saw a 50% increase in check-ins after it offered $1 off any size Frappuccino® for its mayors. At a smaller scale, one chocolatier based in Palo Alto, Calif. was able to acquire 50 new customers as a result of running a special offer via Foursquare.  The owner noted that he ran the same special in his local newspaper and acquired only one customer as a result.

Based on the successes of these and other merchants, Foursquare made some updates to enhance the experience of its loyalty program:

  • Loyalty offer variability (“Specials Nearby”): Offers are rotated in the “special nearby” tab to provide customers with more opportunities to discover specials.
  • The “reach” for special offers: The physical reach of an offer has expanded, primarily in non-urban areas so that customers can explore even more offers.
  • Participation from employees: Foursquare now allows employees to get in the game by designating them as official staff members on venues within the network.
  • Redemption: Foursquare hinted that barcode scanning, loyalty card integrations and other means of easing the redemption process are in the works.

TechCrunch notes that this last update is potentially the biggest – as it suggests that Foursquare will soon try to tie in its service with actual hardware such as custom barcode scanners, which would make the check-in and redemption processes more seamless.

Old Spice Man Takes the Web by Storm – then Rides Off into the Sunset

Unless you were under a rock this summer, you heard of Old Spice’s summer campaign that tied YouTube to Twitter by having the face of the brand (Old Spice Man, as played by actor Isaiah Mustafa) field questions from Twitter and respond in short video segments on the brand’s YouTube Channel.

[Video: The final video from Old Spice Man]

Old Spice and its agency partners (led by Wieden + Kennedy) were quite busy during the two-day blitz in July, responding to more than 185 queries by writing, producing and publishing clips on YouTube (Read Write Web has a great recap of how it all worked). Old Spice Man eventually threw in the proverbial towel. “I must ride my jet ski lion into the sunset,” he said in his final video. “Please know I consider you my dearest and closest Internet friends. I will never forget this time we spent together ….I love you, always.”

It didn’t take long for the clever campaign to become a viral sensation – capturing the attention of millions of consumers, Internet celebrities (like Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore and Apolo Ohno), brands (like Starbucks and the Chicago Blackhawks) and media outlets like the Huffington Post and Perez Hilton. According to the Financial Post, the real-time approach placed Old Spice as the most-viewed YouTube channel of the day and made it the fourth-most subscribed to date.

Facebook Hits 500 Million Members

The world’s largest social network reached a new milestone in late July by tacking on its 500 millionth member. This news was announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the official company blog. As the New York Times notes, Facebook’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric — doubling in size in just one year.

In the New York Times piece, Gartner analyst Ray Valdes estimated that Facebook is gaining about 50 million members a month — likely due to the company’s ability to continuously change to provide new and better features to its users. InsideFacebook reported that a new homepage design could be in the works, and is rumored to launch in September.

360i Study Uncovers New Findings about Twitter Usage Among Consumers, Brands

In July we shared the results of a six-month study tracking Twitter usage among consumers and marketers: Twitter & the Consumer-Marketer Dynamic. Why are people using Twitter – and how? And given these insights, how can marketers use the service to create deeper connections with consumers?

Key conclusions from the study include:
(1) A major disparity exists between how consumers and marketers are using Twitter.
Most marketers are still largely using Twitter to broadcast, while consumers are using Twitter to converse. The study reveals that the number one reason for a consumer to compose an original tweet (non re-tweet) is to converse with another user, with conversations between users representing 43 percent of all original consumer tweets. By contrast, three out of four tweets by marketers contain messaging centered on news and information, with only 16 percent demonstrating active dialogue with consumers.

(2) Conversations about brands on Twitter are still limited.
According to the study, only 12 percent of consumer tweets mention a brand by name. When they do refer to a brand, consumers are sharing news or information about the brand (43 percent) or reporting use of or interaction with the brand (35 percent).

(3) Twitter presents a huge opportunity for brands to learn about their customers.
The study shows that Twitter continues to be an important tool for brands to listen to what consumers are saying and to get to know their customers better, as 94 percent of tweets are personal in nature and 85 percent of tweets represent original content (non-retweets). Unlike with Facebook, where privacy controls make it difficult for marketers to monitor conversations among consumers, only eight percent of Twitter users make their tweets private, creating a ripe platform for online listening.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Why Brands Must Check in to Foursquare

In a study published in July, Forrester found that location-based social platforms are too small for major marketers to concern themselves with. At least for now.

The reasoning Forrester gives is that location-based start-ups are still too small for major marketers to take great advantage of. Regardless of its current scale, we provided four reasons why at 360i we’re including Foursquare and other location-based social networks in our client thinking today. Read our rationale over at the Ad Age Digital Next blog.

FTC Provides Clarity to its Guides for Endorsements

Last October, the Federal Trade Commission updated its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements & Testimonials in Advertising for the first time in nearly 30 years. The changes addressed new scenarios created by the evolving digital landscape – namely how personal bloggers should approach disclosure when it comes to their affiliations with marketers and PR professionals.

Since that time the FTC welcomed questions from the public on the updates, and it answered some of the most common questions on its website this summer. In the article, the FTC debunks the myth that bloggers can be fined up to $11,000 for failing to comply to the guides (in fact, advertisers will be the focus should enforcement measures are needed); maintains that bloggers are not being held to a “higher standard than traditional journalists;” and says that though there is not one right way to disclose (e.g. utilizing specific language), a single disclosure on the homepage of a website is not sufficient.

To learn more, read our complete summary of the key takeaways and our initial POV on the announcement from last fall.

What’s Behind Starbucks’ Free Wi-Fi Offering? An Entire Digital Network

When Starbucks announced this summer that it would be offering free Wi-Fi to customers, many speculated that it was to keep up with smaller cafes offering the service at no cost – or perhaps to increase the amount of time people spent it in its locations. While these reasons might hold some truth, an announcement from the company in August outlined an underlying vision.

The Starbucks Digital Network is an in-house network that will offer “premium content” (a.k.a. access to paid content) to Starbucks customers. So far five content providers are on board: iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo and Zagat. More partners – including Nick Jr. Boost and Rodale – are slated to join this lineup in the fall.

So how does this network work? By surfing the web while physically at a Starbucks location, customers will be able to consume exclusive content from a growing roster of media companies. Starbucks VP of Digital Ventures Adam Brotman told Mashable that the venture seeks to “aggregate and compile the best content that [customers] can’t get anywhere else.” He also wants to expand the program to include elements that digitally connect patrons to other patrons.

Following People and Brands on Twitter: Now Easy as 4-0-4-0-4

This summer Twitter announced Fast Follow, a new feature that lets you follow accounts without signing up for the service. To receive mobile updates from any account via SMS, simply text “follow [handle]” to 40404.

While this feature isn’t too shocking (Twitter was in fact built upon the concept of 140-character text messages), it’s significant to brands – mostly as it eases the sometimes convoluted process of embarking on an SMS marketing effort. As we stated in our blog post on the subject, Fast Follow empowers marketers with an established platform through which they can reach consumers via SMS. Typically, marketers would need to register their won shortcodes or sign up for a shared shortcode from an SMS provider if they want to reach consumers in that fashion.

Check out the full post to learn more about how the announcement might impact the strategy for brands currently utilizing the platform.

Facebook Gets in On the Check-in Game with Places

A couple of weeks ago Facebook announced its much-anticipated location feature, appropriately named Facebook Places, which allows users to let friends know where they are in real time via their mobile devices. With this new feature, Facebook (and its 500MM strong user base) could potentially make “checking in” a mainstream social activity, rather than one limited to early adopters who use much smaller services like Foursquare and Gowalla.

In our report we take a look at Places and the opportunities it holds for businesses of every size. Check out our full recap here, where you can also download a PDF of our newest POV.

It’s Official: Bing is Now Powering Yahoo Search Results

Yahoo and Microsoft have announced that Yahoo’s move from its own engine to Microsoft’s Bing engine is finally complete after a one-year transitional stage. This means that Bing is now the engine behind Yahoo’s organic search results (text, image and video) in the United States and Canada.

This news is significant to digital marketers as they may need to rethink their search engine optimization strategy in light of the transition. Read our full POV to learn how the alliance will impact your SEO strategy.

Apple Socializes Music Consumption with Ping

Last week, Apple announced a new iTunes add-on, called Ping, which aims to make the process of listening to and purchasing music through iTunes a more social experience.  Ping users can follow their favorite artists (like GaGa) to keep tabs on their concerts, appearances, music releases and more. They can browse artist playlists to learn what they’re listening to. You can even learn when artists are playing and where, and then buy concert tickets via Live Nation.

This notion of a music-centric social network isn’t entirely new. In fact, has offered an almost-identical service since 2002. Popular music streaming sites like Grooveshark, Pandora and also allow you to share what you’re currently listening to with your social networks (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.). That said, Apple does have a very clear advantage, and that’s its already massive user base that will simply need to “opt in” to become a part of Ping. Jobs noted that Ping could potentially attract 160MM users – more than Twitter’s 100MM, though significantly less than Facebook’s more than half a billion.

10 Reasons to Check Out 360i

And finally, we recently aggregated some of the reasons why we love working here at 360i. If you’re interested in career opportunities with us, check out this post and then peruse our latest job openings.