While the majority of notable first quarter 2011 changes in the social space originated from Facebook – from the launch of Facebook Deals and Questions to the shift from FBML to iFrame – this past quarter’s shifts were more balanced across the landscape, and as the months progressed from Spring to Summer, the changes got more dramatic, with the climax occurring in the final days of June. Let’s take a look back at the social landscape from Q2 2011 so we can paint a picture of what Q3 has in store.
- YouTube Live (4/8): While YouTube is the largest source of video on the web, live streaming was not in the repertoire until April, when YouTube Live launched. Initially open to only a few beta partners, YTL hasn’t seemed to pick up much traction, and in competing with already well established players like Ustream, Justin.tv, and Livestream, they will need to make a big push in the second half of 2011 if YouTube Live wants to be relevant in the streaming space.
- Facebook Safety Tools Upgrade (4/19): In mid-April Facebook released an upgrade of their safety toolset which contained two main improvements. For one, new Two Factor Authentication would, if enabled, ask a user for a code any time they access their account from a new device, to prevent unauthorized access to the account. The second improvement deals with HTTPS and third-party applications; now whenever a user exits a non-HTTPS certified application, they will revert to HTTPS as soon as they leave the experience.
- Facebook Deals (4/26): Unlike Checkin Deals, regular Deals are akin to Groupon or LivingSocial in that you’re offered up local specials that are easily shared with friends; and because the user is already within Facebook, the idea is that sharing and planning of the experience among friends will be much more seamless than doing it on a third-party site. Deals was released in beta in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco, with plans to launch nationally.
- Foursquare and Starwood Hotels (5/10): In early May, Starwood Hotels partnered with foursquare to plug checkins into their existing Starwood Preferred Guest program so that users could earn points, participate in giveaways, and unlock rewards like extended stays. This was one of the first executions of incorporating an existing loyalty program with foursquare, and others like Heineken, Vons, American Express have followed suite since. Look for more legacy reward programs to integrate geo-location, either with foursquare or with Facebook Places.
- Twitter Permissions Process Update (5/17): Twitter took steps in the middle of the month to make the permissions process for third-party applications a bit more transparent for users. The specific changes included removing existing apps’ ability to DM users (permission was revoked and the apps had to request again), all new apps having to specifically ask for DM permissions, and a more detailed permissions screen that spells out each item that the app will have access to and each ability that will be enabled. These changes shouldn’t have a huge impact on the user or brands on Twitter, but it does boost the security and goodwill of the platform.
- Twitter TweetDeck acquisition (5/25): In the last week of May, Twitter acquired London-based TweetDeck from Iain Dodsworth, allowing them to provide an in-house power tool for their super users. It’s not uncommon for social platforms to purchase small third-party technology shops to build out their core services; sometimes, it’s just more cost effective than allocating the internal resources.
- Twitter Follow Button (5/31): Twitter’s biggest new feature of Q2 was the Follow Button, a response to the Facebook like button, and was initially released on 51 partner sites including MTV, IMDB, Sports Illustrated, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Adding the follow button to your site is now very easy, and no brand with a Twitter presence should be without several across their digital properties (brand site, ecomm site, Facebook page, etc.). The more that Twitter can engrain itself across the web, as Facebook has done, the more likely it will be around for years to come.
- Twitter Search+Photos (6/1): Hours after the Twitter button was released, Twitter also announced an innovation in photos; users are now able to attached photos to tweets from Twitter.com and from the official mobile app, and are able to search for photos either via hashtag or via username. An example of a third method of innovation – rather than acquiring a tech shop or fully developing the capability in-house – Twitter partnered with Photobucket for media hosting, and has given TwitPic and yFrog something to think about, going forward. That said, Instagram has given everyone something to think about when it comes to creativity in photosharing.
- YouTube Creative Commons (6/2): YouTube hasn’t been a frequent innovator over the past number of quarters, but this update is subtle in its significance. Users are now able to add Creative Commons video clips (think B-roll) to their own videos to make them more robust. This goes with the true spirit of the social web, and it’s great that YouTube is embracing the Creative Commons the same way that Flickr has in the past.
- Foursquare and AmEx (6/23): Toward the end of June, foursquare and AmEx announced a massive partnership on a scale seemingly larger than the aforementioned Starwood Hotels Preferred Guest program. With AmEx foursquare specials, users simply link their credit card and foursquare accounts, checkin at a participating national chain – of which H&M and Sports Authority were the trailblazers – and click “load to card” and the special will appear on your next statement. This will present a massive opportunity for brands for the remainder of 2011, both on foursquare and using Facebook Places. The name of the game is seamless user interaction, and foursquare and AmEx have nailed it here.
- Google and Google+ Rollout (6/28): The biggest announcement, perhaps of the year thus far, and most certainly of Q2 was the rollout of Google’s new social network, Google+. Circles, Sparks, and Hangouts are some of the first features rolled out, and definitely address some of the issues that have plagued other social networks, namely Facebook, specifically in regards to privacy. Google has taken steps to re-examine privacy, collaboration, and sharing, and has put out a product that should have true staying power, unlike some of their other extinct ventures like Wave and the Nexus phone. The most exciting part about G+ is going to be the rollout in the second half of the year for business accounts and profiles.
Looking forward to a Q3 jam-packed with updates and new features from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the top players in the social landscape. Did we miss any major updates from Q2? Link us to them in the comments!