This week we have the the redesign of Google+ and the backlash against its fudgy user numbers; some great stats on eReaders; worries about kids on Facebook and of course a little more about the biggest social buy-out story of the week (maybe ever): Facebook and Instagram.
Google’s social network is obviously gearing up for the long haul. After announcing 170 million users on Google+, a figure that has been heavily questioned by critics (more below), there can be little doubt that Google is prepared to throw everything it has at making sure the product is a success. So it came as a surprise to many yesterday when they discovered that the already minimal layout of the service had been overhauled overnight.
Google has justified the revamp by claiming it now focuses more on its key differentiators such as hangouts. However we can’t help shake the feeling we've seen a lot of the ‘new’ features before: a “trending topics” element borrows heavily from Twitter and a new cover photo for profiles that practically mirrors Facebook.
Perhaps more excitingly for users (or less, depending on whether you actually use the service) is the mysterious white space that seems to occupy a third of the screen. Vic Gundotra, head honcho for Google+ has coyly alluded to the fact that the space is there for a reason; however was it a short sighted move to roll-out such a radical UI change with only part-baked functionality? Either way, this new interface has a lot of people scratching their heads, and possibly not for all the right reasons.
By account manager Sam @cooltweetbro
A turn up for the books?
New research from Pew confirms that reading on our favourite electronic devices is on the up and up, with a fifth of American adults having dipped into an eBook in the last year. Whether it’s due to novelty value or convenience, those of us who consume our books digitally are taking in a respectable ten extra tomes per year.
Kindles and other eReaders have contributed to several new trends, including social reading (where communities virtually read and annotate books together, much like real-life bookclubs) and publishing on social platforms. We’ll be interested to see whether this trend brings some of the promising social reading and publishing communities into the mainstream.
By community manager Annie @anniefiddle
The kids aren’t alright
It’s well-known that in order to avoid parental approval processes and child moderation, Facebook only allows users aged 13 and over to register for an account.
However, a recent survey by Mini Monitor has highlighted some of the concerns of parents around the numbers of children aged 12 and below that are using the service. According to the survey, 38 per cent of all children on Facebook fall into this bracket and are too young to use the service.
Obviously this presents major concerns for protective parents worried about child safety, grooming and bullying.
So what can Facebook do? It could look to put in place barriers to registrations, however that would affect their own registration figures for all age groups. We have used an eModeration approved ‘Parental Approval Process’ before – but again it’s not bullet proof and users can bypass the full process by simply entering an incorrect age.
Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest questions for Facebook to answer. Unless it goes extreme and start requesting credit card information to validate a user’s age, the onus will remain on parents to monitor their children’s online activities.
By Ricky Gill, project manager @rickygill
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was undoubtedly the hottest story of the week, with the purchase extremely contentious amongst social media users. The $1b deal meant Instagram, with its 33m users, was worth a full $50m more than the 116 year old New York Times. For a service operating in an industry that has proven to be extremely difficult for start-ups and that was until now only available on one handset, these figures are astronomical.
But with only 12% of discussion around the acquisition positive, will users jump ship to another service such as Pixable?
I doubt it very much, and if Instagram can keep its autonomy and forge a Google/Youtube esque relationship, I think the acquisition will help the service continue to evolve and increase in popularity. Smart move by Facebook? Definitely.
By insight executive John-Paul @johnpaulfox
Finally, some of the major commentators on search and social are starting to crack and wail quite loudly at Google and it’s evasiveness over Google+ user figures. This week, Danny Sullivan of the hugely influential blogs and news sites Search Engine Land and Marketing Land finally said it: If Google’s really proud of Google+ it should share some real user figures.
The resulting article is an essential read for anyone interested in the media giant and its forays into social (which really, if you’re reading this blog, probably includes you). It’s fair and even handed, and even says that Google+ could have lots to be proud of and might just be great. But it won’t be any of these things for the general public until it starts being honest about what constitutes a ‘user’. Hopefully this pressure will mean we start to see more transparency about who is really using the service, and how.
By PR and marketing manager Claire @claire_foss
And video of the week award goes to Belgian TV channel TNT with this beauty...
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