A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Facebook’s Challenges in Going Global

While Facebook dominates U.S. social networking, similar international platforms are keeping a global monopoly on virtual social life out of reach for the California-based company.

Last year, Facebook sued German social network StudiVZ for violating copyright laws, mimicking its logo, features and service, according to German website, The Local. The two companies are currently battling out of court, but will begin trial in July if an agreement isn’t met.

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Despite Facebook’s cries that the StudiVZ stole its design and even hacked into its coding, ReadWriteWeb reports that before all of this chaos, Facebook was actually trying to acquire the social network, which has 5.5 million members in German speaking countries, compared to Facebook’s 2.2 million in the same areas.

Also in the summer of last year, Facebook launched translations of its site in 55 different languages, hoping to increase its spread. Since then, international attention for the giant has increased, but heavy competitors, backed by major U.S. companies, are not ready to step out of the way.

Bebo.com, which is an acronym for “Blog Early, Blog Often” is AOL People Network’s attempt to grab a slice of the social media market, and has become extremely poplar in the United Kingdom and Australia.

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So far, Bebo proves to be the most effective aggregator network in use. Bebo’s “Lifestream” pulls your friends and contacts’ updates from Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and Delicious, with more in development. Bebo’s also beating Facebook in the mobile race, allowing users to be able to update their pages and send and receive SMS updates and alerts.

Leading the Latin American markets are Orkut.com and Hi5.com. Orkut, the top social networking site in Brazil, according to SocialNetworkingWatch.com, is a Google-owned site aiming to integrate Google’s news and e-mail functions into a social networking platform. Although it hasn’t been able to keep up with Facebook in the U.S., the site is gaining speed here, and growing rapidly in South America and India.

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Hi5 is attempting to cash in on the ground lost by MySpace when they overloaded users with entertainment profiles and brand itself as the best-in-class “Social Entertainment Site.” The site has over 62 million unique visitors and month and provides service in over more than 50 languages. The site is partnering with PlaySpan Marketplace and launching a Micropayments plan for Virtual Goods that will allow users to buy music, movies games and books online through their profiles.

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Perhaps the most difficult market for Facebook to break is the ever-growing Asian social networking market, simply due to the high level of government web control and company control over users profiles. China’s largest social network, Xiaonei, and Japan’s, Mixi, both forbid applications from third-party users.

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On Mixi, only users over 18 are allowed to join, and you must be invited by another user in order to join. Even with all their restrictions, both social networks seem too powerful for Facebook to challenge thus far.

If Facebook truly wants to go global, developers will need to expand their partnerships or acquisitions of international sites in order to tap into each country’s unique social networking needs.It will be interesting to see how the company expands its brand without losing its core

Social Media and the Pickens Plan Virtual March

We have been writing a lot of self promotional blog posts about our work on the Pickens Plan web program lately.  I am going to write one more and then I promise to move on to other topics.  :)

The last three days, the Pickens Plan has been holding a virtual march on Washington in support of the elements of the Plan.  The team has recruited over 4.5 million virtual marchers and there has been tons of online activity this week around the March.  In support of the effort, we built some social media tools that help spread the word about the March in various online communities.

Using Hashtag to Promote Action

Prior to this week, the Pickens Plan team hadn’t really been using hashtags as a way to organize content on Twitter.  In advance of the virtual march, we launched the #pickensplan hash tag through our Pickens Plan Twitter account and encouraged supporters to use the tag to promote the Plan.  To promote the tag, we also launched a page on the virtual march site that aggregates all mentions of the tag.  The page includes a leaderboard that recognizes the users that have used the #pickensplan hashtag most frequently and tools that allow users to post Pickens tweets right from the page itself.

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This strategy has worked well, as the #pickensplan hashtag has become ubiquitous and a great many users are promoting the march by tweeting our suggested messages.

Contacting Congress via Facebook and Twitter

A big part of the virtual march centers around asking activists to contact their legislators in support of the elements of the Plan.  Like everyone else, the site includes the ability for people to send emails to Congress.  To surround the situation, the Pickens team also launched a page listing member of Congress on Twitter and Facebook and encouraged users to reach out on those venues.  You can see a screen grab from the page below.

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If you check out #pickensplan on Twitter, you’ll see examples of supporters reaching out to their Representatives using these tools.  Given its closed nature, it is more difficult to show the results on Facebook.

You can learn more about the Pickens Plan virtual march here.

Financial Expert: Use Facebook when Job Hunting

This morning when I was getting ready for work, I had the Today show on.  During the show they did a segment on dealing with the current tough economic climate.  

I was struck by one of the tips that Jean Chatzy, a financial guru, gave.  When it comes to job hunting, Chatzy urged everyone to join both Facebook and LinkedIn since she claims that every headhunter is searching those sites.  While I can definitely see why she recommends LinkedIn, the Facebook shout out surprised me.  

Facebook is primarily for social – not professional – purposes.  Granted, people do use Facebook for to network for their career needs, but if I were a headhunter, I would devote most of my time to a job targeted site like LinkedIn.  However, I guess Facebook is worth some time as well.

Also, most of the news reports I hear about Facebook are about how account holders get into trouble.  Most of the warnings are about what people place on their profiles.  The picture of you drunk at party over the weekend does not really help you maintain the model employee image.  Another concern is when a friend writes a PG-13 or higher rated comment on your profile.  Needless to say this is one of the few times I have heard that using this site is helpful to one's job hunting efforts.  The layout of LinkedIn, however, restricts the chances of "unprofessional" material appearing on one's profile.

While I am not disagreeing with Chatzy about Facebook, I just found it interesting that she would recommend Facebook as a way to get another job.  Does anyone have a story of getting a job through Facebook?

Update: BusinessWeek wonders "Is Twitter the Next Monster?"

2009: My Digital Resolution

The first Monday after the New Year brings many of us back to reality after a fleeting period of mental freedom (barring any drama with the in-laws, of course). This time of year many choose to reflect on the previous 52 weeks, and determine what kinds of lifestyle changes will make the next year (in our case, 2009) less lackluster. Instead of boring you with non-existent plans to visit the gym with increased frequency, or a false promise to cook at home more, I've decided to share my list of ways I would like — and have already begun — to change my internet habits.

Online Products Getting the Axe

  • Flickr. With more and more of my friends making use of Facebook's photo albums, I have been using Flickr less and less. While I realize there's still a place for the artsy photostream, Flickr, once a mainstay of my daily online repertoire, is largely absent from my browser's address bar.
  • Firefox. Nothing personal to Mozilla, and I still run it on my Ubuntu and FreeBSD boxes. But when it comes to my business-centered Windows machine, I have abandoned this once-touted browser champion for Google Chrome. Now out of beta, the UI is slick and it uses far less system resources than the now pudgy Firefox. Disclaimer: I am also a self-proclaimed Google fanboy.
  • Technorati. I still view Technorati via RSS, as their headlines are worth a look. However, I used to use this service mainly as a blog search tool, and Google Blog search has simply surpassed it.
  • Twitter. After Facebook implemented and revamped its status updates, Twitter doesn't quite have the same sheen it once had. In addition, most aggregate services implement with the Twitter platform if you really need to stay afloat on any crucial Tweets. Not to mention its non-impressive growth over the last few months.

Online Products I Use More, or Have Begun Using

Excluding the mainstays such as Gmail and Facebook, here are some products I've made some room for as we transition into 2009.

  • Google Reader. While I did not begin using this recently, the revamp of its design and new features have really set this reader further away from the pack than I had imagined.
  • FriendFeed. Upon launch, I was adamently opposed to FriendFeed. After some time to work out kinks and to catch on in popularity (and by nature, functionality), I have found some good news leads and websites through this service. I joined FriendFeed to show how pointless it was, and now it saves me time by aggregating all sorts of websites I'd rather not visit primarily.
  • Hulu. I only really watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and it's available on Hulu. As are all of the archived episodes of Arrested Development. I watch more Hulu than television by a long shot. Where else can I stream forgotten films of the 80's and 90's for free with (very) limited commercial interruption in 480p?
  • Truphone. I make a few calls internationally every now and then, and while Skype is great, without a truly mobile Skype phone available in the United States this service is truly discount calling on the go.

I'm excited to see the innovation that will come with 2009, and hopefully this list will expand itself with better offerings as the year progresses. What kinds of digital changes do you plan to make in the New Year?

Papa Johns Brings Couponing to Facebook

fans Papa Johns Pizza is currently running one of the cleverest Facebook promotions I’ve seen.  Between now and December 1, if you sign up to be a fan of of Papa Johns on Facebook you will receive a coupon for a free medium pizza (fineprint: you must first purchase a pizza online, which insinuates this is really a buy one get one free type of things).

The promotion appears to be working, as Papa Johns has gone from 10,000 fans to 168,509 fans in a matter of days.

Not bad, particularly when you consider the coupon isn’t any different from the ones the pizza chain mails out and offers on their website every day.