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Twitter Adds Team Who Created Privacy Tools for Activists

Twitter on Monday announced the acquisition of a two-person startup called Whisper Systems, whose technology protected people’s mobile-phone calls and text messages from being obtained by third parties such as governments.
The deal terms weren’t disclosed. The acquisition led to speculation about what Twitter, an online-messaging service, might do with Whisper Systems founders Moxie Marlinspike and Stuart Anderson–who are well-known in computer security circles–and the technology they built exclusively for devices running on Google’s Android software.
Whisper Systems created a suite of services for human-rights activists or other privacy-conscious individuals, which were used by activists during the recent “Arab spring” actions. In a blog post, Marlinspike and Anderson said the services they created will “live on” though they had to temporarily shut them down.
Twitter acknowledged in a statement that Marlinspike and Anderson will join the company, without providing details. “As part of our fast-growing engineering team, they will be bringing their technology and security expertise to Twitter’s products and services,” the company said.
One piece of software from Whisper Systems, called RedPhone, encrypts people’s voice communications, while another called TextSecure scrambles text messages. A third Whisper service let people download applications from the Android Market without sending private information to the application developers, who sometimes require it.
The Whisper Systems acquisition caused concern among some privacy-minded individuals who don’t see how the startup’s services mesh with Twitter’s core function—helping people send public “tweets” or messages of up to 140 characters. Christopher Soghoian, a well-known privacy activist who uses Whisper Systems software, said that “it makes sense that Twitter wants to beef up their mobile security team,” but he’s concerned the service is being shut down, even if the founders say it is temporary.
“If you’re concerned about internet freedom,” he said, the app suite “is the first thing you’d give to an activist.”
Twitter, of course, also lets people broadcast tweets to a restricted group of individuals as well as send private “direct messages” to other Twitter users, and it has fought to inform users that the U.S. government was trying to obtain personal information about them.
Like other Web companies such as Facebook and Google, Twitter has had problems in the area of privacy and security. In March the Federal Trade Commission finalized a settlement with Twitter to resolve charges that it “deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information.”
Specifically, the federal agency had alleged that the company claimed to protect users’ information yet “serious lapses in the company’s data security allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, including both access to non-public user information and tweets that consumers had designated as private, and the ability to send out phony tweets from any account.”
As part of the settlement, Twitter agreed to outside monitoring of its information-security program for 10 years.

EU Set to Slap Facebook With Privacy Sanctions

The European Commission is preparing a Directive to prevent Facebook from sharing users’ information — such as their political beliefs and location — with advertisers unless users specifically allow it.
According to The Telegraph, the Directive — which will be part of an update to current data protection laws — is scheduled for early January release. Should Facebook fail to adjust its privacy settings in compliance with the new legislation, the social network could face prosecution and/or a heavy fine.
“I call on service providers – especially social media sites – to be more transparent about how they operate,” Viviane Reding, the vice president of European Commission, told The Telegraph. “Users must know what data is collected and further processed [and] for what purposes.”
Facebook, for its part, says that it shares data anonymously and in aggregate to advertisers, and that individuals’ personal details are not at risk. (UPDATE: In a followup email, a spokesperson for Facebook also noted that Facebook users agree to receive advertising when they sign up for the service. Facebook users cannot, however, opt of targeted advertising in the same way that users can opt out of Google’s targeted ads.)
This is not the first time Facebook has been scrutinized by the European Union. In June 2009, the EU laid out privacy guidelines for social networks, and in June of this year, EU regulators began investigating Facebook’s facial recognition system.
Earlier this month, Facebook released details about how it tracks its 800 million users across the web.

by at Mashable

Female Online Gamers Have More Sex [INFOGRAPHIC]

Gamers rejoice: female online gamers are more social, happy, sexually and physically active than their non-gaming counterparts, according to a Harris Interactive survey of 2,000 U.S. adults. Gaming is a stress reliever for most of these women (61%), while 16% game online to connect with others.
This GameHouse infographic, first published in VentureBeat, compares the characteristics of women who game online and those who don’t. The study found that 55% of online gamers are women and 45% are men, although the infographic only details findings about women.
Female online gamers are more social than their non-gaming counterparts. Forty-one percent socialize at least once each day in person compared to 31% of non-gamers. They’re also more active on social networks, with 88% of gamers socializing online at least once each day compared to 71% of non-gamers.
More than half of all gaming women (64%) are either married or live with a partner. Fifty-seven percent have sex and 38% have sex at least once a week. Non-gaming women are less sexually active, as 52% have sex and 34% have sex at least once a week.
Thirty-eight percent of female gamers, compared to 28% of non-gamers, have children under the age of 18. The most popular time of day for gaming is between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m., possibly after many moms have put their children to sleep.
Are you surprised by the positive behaviors, such as being more social and happy, associated with online gaming?
(Click the Infographic For Bigger View)

Leaked: Company Guidelines for How Cops Can Access Your Private Online Accounts

Guidelines for how police can acquire information from online accounts like Facebook, AOL, Blizzard and Microsoft, and the types of data stored and for how long were leaked this week by several sources.
CNET reports the law enforcement guidelines as being confidential but some sites are more transparent about what they keep and what police can access without a search warrant. Here‘s what CNET pulled together from each of the companies’ policies:

Blizzard: Logs of Internet Protocol addresses are kept “indefinitely,” according to the company behind World of Warcraft. Sent mail is not retained. Deleted mail messages are not retained.
Facebook: An earlier version of the company’s manual from 2008 said that “IP log data is generally retained for 90 days.” That statement is missing from the newly-released 2010 version, indicating that Facebook now may store data longer (a company spokesman did not respond to that question).
Microsoft/MSN: Hotmail IP logs are kept for 60 days. MSN TV’s Web site logs are kept for 13 days. No logs are kept for conversations taking place through MSN chat rooms and MSN instant messenger. The leaked document is from April 2005, though, and may be out of date.
AOL: IP logs for the AIM and ICQ messaging services are stored for up to 90 days. Customer logs are kept for 6 months. All AOL e-mail, including from portals such as AOL.ca, AOL.fr, and AOL.mx, is stored in its Northern Virginia data center.
As for who leaked the guidelines, CNET reports that AOL, Blizzard and Microsoft were released by Anonymous and Facebook by PublicIntelligence.net, which is refers to as a “Wikileaks-like effort”.

After the manuals were put out on the Internet, Facebook released its full manual for law enforcement, which CNET reports may or may not be coincidence. But in the past other sites have been less apt to have this information go public. According to CNET, last year John Young, who runs the Cryptome.org document repository, posted the manual for Microsoft Windows, which the company then tried to have removed from his site through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This request was soon after withdrawn.
According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, email accounts, and other information, hosted third-party servers can be accessed if they are six months old or older without a search warrant. Some are calling for the law to be updated as the technology has evolved since its enactment in 1986. CNET reports that a subpoena usually releases general information from these sites, while a court order may be required for more in depth info.

by  at TheBlaze

Infographic: Usage of Social Apps, iPhone vs. Android

Onavo released another infographic peering into the usage of social apps on mobile networks, comparing between iPhone and Android users. As expected, Google+ is an Android stronghold, as 35% of users use the app on their device. iPhone users on the other hand are no strangers to Google+ (8%), but prefer to spend their time on Facebook – 90% used the app within the 30-day period.
In terms of data usage, Facebook is big on each platform – accounting for 10% and 5% of all mobile data on iPhone and Android, accordingly.

also available on visual.ly (high res version)

 Via: Onavo

Barack Obama Joins Google+

Debate is still raging about how many people are really using Google+ and whether it can ever overtake Facebook. But at least one prominent user was making active use of the site Wednesday: President Barack Obama.
Obama’s profile, which just gained a “verified account” tick mark, appears to have been launched first thing Wednesday morning. Naturally, it isn’t being run by the President himself, but by his reelection campaign — a fact that the profile’s posts makes no attempt to hide.
“Welcome to the Obama 2012 Google+ page,” reads the first Presidential post. “We’re still kicking the tires and figuring this out, so let us know what you’d like to see here and your ideas for how we can use this space to help you stay connected to the campaign.”
One one hand, Obama’s arrival is an important stamp of approval for the nascent social network. Obama has been active on Twitter and Facebook since he was a U.S. Senator running for the highest office in the land; his social media savvy is often credited with boosting his first presidential campaign, helping to recruit an army of young campaign workers and small donors. The President held a Town Hall with Twitter in June, and another at Facebook in April.
On the other hand, the relative lack of fanfare surrounding Obama’s arrival may indicate just how far Google+ has to go. His first post was arguably the most historic thing to happen on Google+ this week; more than 12 hours later, it boasts just 110 shares. (For comparison, one of our more popular Facebook stories this week has been shared more than 3,000 times in a day.)
Since that first announcement, Obama’s campaign has posted twice more Wednesday — once to tout the President’s tax credits for unemployed veterans, and once to push a campaign contest where winners get to have dinner with Obama. It has posted nine scrapbook photos, and no videos.
We’re looking forward to the President’s first Google+ hangout, which may supplant the meeting of Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Llama as the most historic hangout in Google+’s young life.

by at Mashable

Game review: This 'Zelda' needs a refresh

"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" doesn't offer fans of the series much that's new.

"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" is, in a way, a tough game to figure out.

On one hand, the "Zelda" franchise has provided many hours of enjoyment for fans for 25 years, while chronicling the adventures of everyone's favorite green-hat-wearing elf, Link. This game has that.

On the other hand, I was looking for something that was going to advance the franchise in new directions and possibly break some new ground. That didn't happen.

"Skyward Sword" is full of what we've come to know and love about Link. Maze-like terrain, challenging dungeons, familiar weapons and, of course, the quest to find Zelda. There is little here that we haven't seen before.

Epona, Link's trusted horse, has been replaced by a giant bird that carries him to distant locations. Unfortunately, there isn't much challenging or exciting about riding around on a flying bird after you've done it once or twice. (But, since Link is based this time out on a city floating in the sky, trying to ride a horse around could have gotten messy very quickly, I suppose.)

I was also confused about where this game falls in the "Zelda" timeline. Link appears to be slightly older, but he doesn't have any of his traditional garb or weapons. He is a recruit in the knights' program and, in fact, has to earn his familiar hat and clothing. Contrast that with previous games where Link looks like a kid.

Unfortunately, Link also seems to be missing his personality. He is, as always, silent, but really shows no reaction to anything that happens around him. In an early segment, Link is getting bullied but shows no outward emotions. It is Zelda who arrives to chastise the bullies and defend him.

Nintendo has said "Skyward Sword" lays the foundation for the events in "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," but it doesn't feel like a precursor at all.

The gameplay is slow, with plenty of moments of inaction. Its pace is almost leisurely as Link goes from one mission or dungeon to the next. There's no sense of urgency, but that does allow players to fully explore without feeling as if they're missing something.

Environments are vibrant, with collectibles and creatures lurking around every corner. There is a maze-like quality when you're trying to reach some areas -- with only one path in and one path out. Usually, some puzzle needs to be solved to open the pathway and allow Link to continue.

Instead of Navi ("Hey, Listen!"), a mystical creature named Fi acts as sort of an artificial-intelligence program, helping out whenever something new comes up or if a player gets stuck deciding what to do next. Fi lives in the handle of Link's sword and comes out when summoned. She can also evaluate your gameplay and scan the surrounding area for any dangers or monsters.

Combat is decidedly different, since the game requires you to use Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus Control.

Defeating monsters, or solving some puzzles, requires precise motions to get past obstacles or slice open new pathways. This was a welcome change from straight button-pushing and injected a new level of challenge into combat.

The nunchucks attached to the Motion Plus Control act as your shield during combat and also help with special moves such as rolling or shield-bashing your enemies. The two controllers together work very well and made the combat enjoyable without making it tiring.

In the end, "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" is an underwhelming game that mostly sticks to the successful path that Link has been on for the past 25 years.

This is one series that can keep fans happy with its familiar concepts and characters. But the new game's minor tweaks don't inject new energy into the franchise. I wonder where Nintendo can take "Zelda" next without considering some radical changes.

"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" is available now in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. It is a Wii exclusive title and is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 years old and older due to animated blood, comic mischief and fantasy violence. This review was done with a review copy of the game.

Extraction: Project Outbreak – review

Extraction: Project Outbreak 'will keep you glued to your phone'.

For all the hullabaloo surrounding the "mobile gaming revolution" there are few games that really tailor themselves well to the medium. Point and click and tower defence games are obvious fits for touch-screens, but the more popular genres, specifically shoot-'em-ups, have struggled – tacking on glitchy joysticks and buttons that obscure the on-screen action. So it's nice to see Shortround construct a title from the ground up, with Extraction: Project Outbreak (App Store, iPhone, 69p, Shortround) reaping the benefit.

A top-down shooter, reminiscent of the classic Cannon Fodder, you control a single mercenary flung into a war-torn land, filled with genetically altered prisoners now resembling that gaming stable, the zombie. The controls are flawless: tap on the screen to move, swipe over enemies to select targets – rubbing over multiple foes will chain up attacks allowing you to gain greater XP, which can be used to upgrade and buy new weapons. It's a combat system that the developer is rightly proud of: the ability to play with just one finger.

Given the care that's gone into the controls, it's a relief that the visuals are a match, with excellent detail in the backgrounds. The different mission types do get a bit samey – protect scientist, escort solider, build turret gun – but it's addictively bite-size and the desire to max out all the weapons will keep you glued to your phone.

Super Mario 3D Land – review

Super Mario 3D Land
Super Mario 3D Land ... the little plumber gains an extra dimension

How does Nitendo do it? Every other year the Japanese publisher releases another Mario platforming title, and every single time it does, the result is brilliant.

Mario may have starred in some rather naff games over the years, but when it comes to platform adventures, he's in a class of his own. This may explain to some degree why Super Mario 3D Land is the first new game produced for the 3DS that justifies the cost of the console all on its own. It really is that good.

Moreover, it's perplexing that Super Mario 3D Land wasn't a launch title for its platform, because not only is it a great game, it makes the console's 3D visuals integral to the gameplay.

In certain sections of the game – a top-down level involving platforms floating in the sky, for example, or some bonus levels which plonk barriers in the player's path – the 3D display becomes absolutely vital to the player's progress.

The 3D visuals are used as more than just a neat gimmick, and instead become an organic part of the overall experience. In this game, players will find their progress becomes more difficult and frustrating unless they play it in 3D.

The game's appeal is bolstered further by the quality of its design. Granted, this is a Mario game and players know what to expect to a degree – ghost houses, music blocks, coins, mushroom power-ups and flagpoles at the end of every level – but while the levels themselves take more than one or two cues from earlier games, they are bursting with new ideas.

Super Mario 3D Land

They're also constructed in such a way that allows them to be enjoyed in bite-sized gaming chunks. This is a game that is designed with your working week commute in mind; every level – at least, initially– is easy to beat, provided you're not the sort of player who is obsessed with collecting everything on their first play-through.

The power-ups in the game are mixture of new and old. The Fire Flower and Tanooki Suit return, with the latter of offering the player a degree of control over their jump airtime that comes in very handy in certain stages. There's the Propeller Box, a new riff on the Propeller Mushroom from New Super Mario Bros, which allows players to execute huge vertical leaps and slow their descent.

The Boomerang Mushroom is a new power-up that gifts Mario a never-ending supply of boomerangs, which the player can use to take out foes and collect coins.

The power-ups feel incredibly balanced throughout the game. Rather than give the player an endless list of options, Nintendo has chosen here to limit the number of power-ups available, but make them all the more valuable to the player in terms of their level progression.

The difficulty level in the game accommodates all levels of players – up to a point. Mario veterans will blaze through the first six worlds with relative ease before mistakes start costing them lives.

Super Mario 3D Land

Once they've completed all eight worlds, a further eight are unlocked – which are essentially re-jigged versions of the original eight, with the difficulty level ramped up considerably.

This is the content that ensures longevity with the hardcore. The extra levels are fiendishly challenging, and most of them are speed-run time trials that box the player into an intense, nail-shredding gaming experience.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Super Mario 3D Land is how the game makes use of all of the Nintendo 3DS's capabilities as a console, without the sense that any of its aspects feel tacked on or shoe-horned into the proceedings for the sake of it.

The thumbstick and face buttons offer a great degree of precision and the 3D visuals – as has been mentioned – are a key part of the gameplay. The gyroscope comes into play during instances where the player uses binoculars in the game to spy Toad in the distance – who, upon being discovered, will toss out a star coin or power-up. Streetpass rounds out the package, offering players gift boxes containing extra power-ups and coins.

All of it is shot through with the Mario series' trademark adorable charm which, if anything, makes the game easier to like. Not that it needs it; Super Mario 3D Land is one of the best Mario games in recent years and easily the best new game for the 3DS platform.

In the current era of handheld casual gaming, it deserves to be a hit. Not only does it offer an engrossing and challenging experience, it's perfect for gaming on the go.

The meticulous craft that has gone into its ingenious design is enough to warrant admiration from even those players who have no time for the portly plumber. As for the rest of you – and we're assuming you're Mario fans – you're in for a real treat.

Microsoft cuts Black Friday prices on Kinect, laptops, games

Customers play a Kinect dance game at the grand opening of the 14th Microsoft Store in McLean, Virginia last week.
Customers play a Kinect dance game at the grand opening of the 14th Microsoft Store in McLean, Virginia last week.

(CNN) -- Microsoft may be a relative newcomer to in-store retailing, but it's getting the hang of this Black Friday thing.

The computing giant, with 14 retail stores across the U.S., is diving into the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness with a slew of substantial new discounts on laptops, phones, software, games and its Kinect gaming system for the Xbox 360 console.

The sale begins online Friday at 12:01 a.m. PT, when most Microsoft stores will open, and lasts through Monday. Some of the deals are just available in stores, while others are offered only at Microsoft's online store.

Among them:

-- Sony S137GX notebook: $599, normally $999 (online only)
-- Samsung RC512 laptop running Windows 7: $499, normally $799
-- Acer Iconia Dual-Screen Touchbook: $599, normally $999
-- Xbox Ultimate Gaming Bundle, which includes accessories, a game and a 90-day Xbox Live membership: up to $200 off
-- Kinect Sensor Holiday Bundle, which includes three games: $100, normally $150 (not available online)
-- A free Windows Phone with a two-year service agreement (the site doesn't specify the carrier)
-- Office Home and Student suite of software: $120, normally $150

Microsoft also is cutting prices -- in many cases by half -- on such recent popular Xbox games as "Assassin's Creed Revelations," "Battlefield 3" and "Madden 2012." See its Facebook page for an entire list.

These discounts are much deeper than those announced Wednesday by rival Apple, which is trimming prices on iPads, iPods and Macs by less than 10%.

Next up for Apple, it's iTV – the television that will respond when you shout at it

Steve Jobs
Comments made by Steve Jobs to his biographer have heightened speculation. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple is designing a television that you can shout and gesticulate at – and it will understand you.

Having revolutionised the music and mobile phone industries with its iPod and iPhone, the company is planning an "iTV" to turn couch surfing into a hi-tech experience.

The Japanese firm Sharp has been asked to begin commercial production of Apple TV screens in February, with the sets available in the second half of 2012, according to analyst Peter Misek at the American bank Jefferies.

"Other TV manufacturers have begun a scrambling search to identify what iTV will be and do," Misek claimed. "They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat-footed by Apple."

An internet-connected TV offering seamless links to cloud services to download films – as well as a new level of interactivity – could threaten other manufacturers as well as taking viewers away from pay-TV giants such as BSkyB. Senior engineer Jeff Robbin, who built the iTunes service and helped to create the iPod, is reported to be overseeing the project. Speculation reached new heights when the TV project was mentioned in a biography published soon after the death of Apple's founder Steve Jobs last month.

Jobs told his biographer: "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

In October the US patent office published a filing by Apple for "real time video process control using gestures", which describes using infrared, motion and other sensors to read the user's movements. Gestures could edit video, or "throw" it from one device to another, say to transfer a film from a mobile phone to a bigger screen.

The patents mention facial recognition, to tag individuals within videos so that home videos can be grouped according to who features in them. This autumn the iPhone was updated with a highly accurate voice control application called Siri, and some observers believe it will feature on the TV sets.

What sounds like science fiction is already in use by niche products. Chinese manufacturer Hisense unveiled an internet TV last month which runs on Google's Android software and allows the viewer to issue commands with a wave of the hand.

Microsoft's Kinect, which links to the Xbox games console to TV sets, acts as a digital video recorder and reads voice and gesture commands. Users can rewind, fast forward, call up menus, or select games and channels without having to find the remote control.

Thanks to four microphones, it separates the user's voice from other noises in the room and users must say "Xbox" before speaking a command.

The venture is a risky one for Apple, whose previous foray into the world of television resulted in a rare failure. Apple TV, introduced in 2007, is a box that can store video and connect the TV to the internet or to the laptop to view photos. However, its latest model is thought to have sold no more than 2m units, compared to 40m iPads since March 2010.

Apple TV already incorporates some gesture commands, using the iPhone as a remote: users can flick it left or right or drag two fingers across its screen to fast forward or rewind, and tap to play.

Misek says the iTV could have an initial production run of 5m to 10m units, and will use liquid crystal displays. The company declined to comment.

Apple has taken over an entire Sharp factory to make its latest generations of phones and tablet computers, which will appear next year with brighter, less battery-draining screens. It is estimated to have spent $500m to $1bn buying manufacturing equipment for the plant, and retooling of a production line is believed to be under way to produce TV screens.

Technology researcher Benedict Evans at Enders Analysis was sceptical about revolutionary an iTV could be. He said that accidental gestures could disrupt viewing, adding: "It would be like sitting in Sothebys and desperately not moving so you don't accidentally make a bid for £10m."

The project will open a new front in Apple's battle with the South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung, which already makes internet-connected TV sets and has been competing against the US group to produce high-end tablet computers and smartphones. The two are locked in an international patent disputes, with some 20 court cases around the world.

Social Engagement is the Way Forward for SEO

SEO is one of the most used—and most mysterious—words in the blogging world, but it is one of the best ways to gain free organic traffic for your blog.
Till now, the strategy for SEO has been to create a new post with good on-page SEO techniques, and do the promotion to create a great off-page SEO. This ends up generating a good rank for your post and brings traffic.

A change in tack

Have you noticed a shift in this strategy? Check out the below screenshot. I took this while I was searching for “Web world” on Google.

You can see that two articles from my site, Makewebworld, are featured on the first page of results for this very competitive term. Is it actually true?
Well, if you do the search you will not get the same result. My domain name contains the term “web world, nut other than that, I’m not optimizing my content for that term. So how would my site end up on the first page of Google results?
It happened because I was logged in my Google account while doing the search. I have shared these posts with my circles in Google+. So Google showed me results based on my user account, rather than general rank system.
Now take a look at the result below, which I saw when I logged out of my Google Account.
If I am not logged into my Google Account, I don’t see Makewebworld on the first page. It only shows when I am logged in.

Social engagement and SEO

Social Engagement is the new shift in SEO.
The search engines are moving toward a non-static ranking system, which will be based on a user and their groups. Google is trying to create a more personal and refined search in which a user has more chance of finding the required information (always a goal for Google).
I’m not saying that on-page SEO and off-page SEO techniques are useless, and only social is in. But the social element has started playing its part in SEO. Google has started mixing social recommendations and their ranked pages in the search results.
Social recommendations were there earlier, but they merely played a part in the rank system. Now it can take you to first page of Google for at least some users or groups.

Why social engagement is important

Why are the search engines making this social transformation? To understand the answers, we need to dig into some stats. If you are using Google Analytics for your blog, you can check the details under the Social tab.

The stats show that people who are socially engaged have much higher page visits and average times on your blog. They also have much lower bounce rates—in fact for Makewebworld I have bounce rates as low as zero.
Go check your stats and see if they’re similar. I expect they are. Google has started taking notice of these stats, since they say that these people like your blog and they want to interact with your blog.
Why wouldn’t their friends like your blog? Why wouldn’t they want to come back in future?
You can check how many social activities happen on your blog, and which content has attracted social activity, from your Google Analytics account.

How can you increase social engagement?

There are many way you can try to increase social engagement on your blog. Main aim is to have readers share your content across the social networks.

Install the Google+ button

If you have not done it yet, you should do it now. Google has already indicated that they are going to use Google+ button for many purposes, and that they’re moving to single account structure.
Google has started using Google+ recommendations in their search results, so if you don’t have the button installed on your blog, you are likely losing some traffic.
It is easy to install Google+ button: check the official page or look up some free plugins to do the job. I’d suggest you treat the Google+ button as a backlink for your blog, because it can rank your blog higher for some people or groups of searchers.
As an author, you should also look for and verify your Google profile. Darren was one of the first few people who verified his account and shared the importance of it on Google+. If you’re looking for a how-to guide, check the Google Webmaster page help.

Install Sharebar

This is another good way to get a few extra social engagements. A basic rule of thumb is that people take action when they’re invited to. Sharebar is a great way to show social buttons all the time.
I know that this is not used on problogger.net, but do they need it? Each post on Problogger gets the required social attention. But if you’re not getting that kind of attention, do some split testing with Sharebar, or install it for a trial period on your blog.
Also, because it floats along the page movement it catches the attention. There are many plugins available like sharebar and you can use any of them.

Use Tweet Old Post and Twitter @Anywhere Plus

These plugins are good for Twitter activities. They really provide a nice and easy way to share your content.
Twitter @Anywhere plus enables the @Anywhere feature to allow readers to share your content easily on Twitter. This plugin utilizes includes easy tweet options for your readers.
Tweet Old Post is a plugin which will tweet your old posts randomly. It has options that allow you to avoid tweeting some content categories or posts, and it’s a really easy way to get some attention to your old content.
One other thing which I would like to point out here is your Twitter handle. Twitter provides a very nice and easy way to remind people to follow you if they tweet your content.
So if you use tweet buttons on your blog, you wanted to make sure that your Twitter handle is included in your tweets. If you have any issues, you can generate the Tweet button code here.

Utilize the Facebook Send button

Almost all blogs have Facebook Like buttons, but do you have Facebook Send button on your blog? Facebook Send is not similar to Facebook Like: Send has more visibility than Like on Facebook. I know that Google does not count Facebook shares in its ranking system, but Google does collect the data—you can see that in your analytics account.
They have started using the Google+ Shares and you never know when they will decide to start using the Facebook Shares. Shares have their own benefits in providing links and traffic to your blog, but they might have other benefits later on.
So what are you doing for Social Engagement on your blog? Let’s share and see how we can benefit from this shift.

by Sanjeev Mohindra of Makewebworld.
Sanjeev currently writes at Make Web World and offers his latest ebook “5 steps to WordPress Blog” for free, you can get the ebook by subscribing here or can connect with him at Google Plus.


Study: 56% of People Still Dig Daily Deals

Even though earlier this week Groupon's stock dropped 35% below its original IPO price, a new survey from LinkShare says that more than half of people would still go for daily deals. The online marketing solutions site surveyed 1,000 people and found that 56% of people would still buy from a brand they didn't recognize if the deal arrived at the right time. Forty-one percent of people said they had purchased something through a voucher or offer that they had never thought to buy previously.

These results run contrary to the idea that personalization is the key to gaining and retaining daily deals customers.
What if daily deals sites operated more like discovery engine StumbleUpon and less like increasingly personalized marketplaces? The study suggests that random offerings are actually one reason users stay on daily deal e-mail lists.
With stock shares sagging, however, leader of the pack Groupon still has a ways to go in firmly establishing the longevity - not the short, bubble-like burst - of the daily deals model.

Is Small Business Finding Good Results In Social Media? [Infographic]

We can discuss how successful companies are using social media but it will be better to hear it from them, specially when it comes to small business.
I’m always concerned about small business because there is a huge difference in what it takes to be successful. When brands run online campaigns they’re usually backed up by a juicy number of ad impressions or other kind of support. Just a few days ago a friend asked me how we were able to get 100k Likes on a Facebook page so fast, I responded “they have a huge TV campaign”. His face filled with disappointment…
Point is, small business goes out there to fight with a stick. Guerrilla style. Most small businesses have pretty depressing stories when it comes to finding any success online. They don’t have the budget, the resources or the knowledge.
There are 2 infographics in this post.
The first one has some basic information on how small business sees social media. It doesn’t surprise me that 83% responded that they use social media because it’s free or inexpensive, which it’s absolutely not true. What surprises me in a good way is that their usage is increasing over the last 6 months and that they are starting to take their brands seriously by monitoring, looking at sentiment and facing all kinds of mentions.

The second one I think is looking at a more realistic state. Here are some interesting points:
  • 88% believe social media will impact their business
  • but 67% will not increase their budgets
  • I expected this to be high but this number is impressive: 96% do not use any social media management
  • and of course having a structure in terms of organization is kind of obvious that is pretty much non existent
Let’s look at it…

Via SocialMouths

Presentify.me Turns Unused Groupons Into Gifts

Looking for a last-minute holiday gift? How about that Groupon you never used? Daily deal vouchers wouldn’t actually make bad presents if there was a way to gift them that didn’t involve an email printout tucked into a card. That’s where Presentify.me, which turns deal vouchers into attractive gift certificates, can help.
The new startup was created by the London-based team behind the deal aggregation service Dealzinga.com, Alex Vander Hoeven, Bob Pluss and Chan Yin. During a 24-hour hackathon earlier this month, the group came up with the idea after having a discussion about whether or not daily deals were acceptable gifts. Says Vander Hoeven, “there are so many good deals out there that I’m sure people would love to give as gifts, but no one wants to get a standard voucher as a present.”
Presentify.me aims to the solve the aesthetics problem by turning vouchers into pretty gift certificates. It currently works with vouchers from Groupon, Dealfind, Tippr or GiltCity, with more on the way. To use the site, you’re walked through a quick wizard where you input the pertinent info (the link to the deal, voucher number and your name) and choose a design. For now, there are only three holiday-themed designs to choose from, but Vander Hoeven says they’re preparing themes for other occasions, like birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Further down the road, user-generated designs will also be featured.
It’s a simple idea and a handy tool…at least until the big guys figure out that this is the kind of thing they should be offering deal-buying customers themselves.
Presentify.me has $400,000 in angel funding from Andrew Bachman, Tim Skyes, and Jamie and David Dingman.

How to Find and Add Facebook Apps to Your Facebook Page

Are you wondering how to add all those cool links below the avatar of your Facebook page? Those links appear when you install an application (or app) on your Facebook page.
If you want to spruce up your page, there’s an app for that.
For example, Facebook apps can automatically showcase your YouTube channel, but they can also do much more. so let's talk about what apps are, where you find them and how you install them on your page.

Defining Applications

When you first start your Facebook page, there will be some basic Facebook apps in the left sidebar. These Facebook apps include Photos, Videos, Links, Events and Notes. Any other app you install will be a third-party app, which means that someone other than Facebook made it.
So how do you get more apps than just the basic ones provided by Facebook?
First you find them and then you install them. Even though that might sound simple, both of those steps are not very straightforward. Finding apps on Facebook can be particularly challenging because the Facebook search feature is notoriously bad. Then steps used to install the app can vary.
Some apps can be installed from within Facebook, others are easier to install by starting on the app website first.
Sometimes it’s even difficult to tell an Application page from a regular Facebook fan page.
An Application page will still have a Like button, a wall and sometimes its own apps installed.
There are a few key ways to determine that it is actually an application. The page may have a Go to App button right next to the App button. Underneath the name of the app at the top, you will see the App classification. And then on the left sidebar you will see the Add to My Page link as you see in the figure below.

An indication of how well the app is established is the monthly active users. In the figure above, you see NetworkedBlogs has one million monthly active users, which can indicate that it is a useful and well-established app.
Facebook applications also include games such as CityVille and Mafia Wars and some of the other apps you may have seen such as Give a Hug or the Birthday Calendar.
Since applications are developed by third parties, not all of them work very well and not all of them are reputable. You may have had an issue on Facebook where you click on some post and all of a sudden you start posting strange things on other people’s walls without your permission, maybe telling them to “check out a new diet” or “see who is viewing your profile.”

Finding Facebook Apps

If you know the name of the application you are looking for, finding the app can be easier. You can use the Facebook search bar or go to www.facebook.com/search. Using the search tool is better because you can filter by People, Pages, Groups, Apps and more as shown in the figure below.
 You can also find a Facebook app by taking a look at how something is posted within your news feed. Some apps will post into the news feed and you can find out more about the app by looking at the link underneath the post as shown by the HootSuite link in the following figure. If you click on the HootSuite link, you will be taken to the HootSuite app.
 If it’s an app that only resides on a page, you can sometimes find out what the app is by looking at the bottom of the page. Many apps have either a link to their external website or a direct link to the app within Facebook as shown in the next figure. Not all apps have this feature and some are custom apps created for a specific page only.
Another tool you can use to find Facebook apps is www.Appbistro.com. They don’t have every app listed but they do list a good cross-section of business apps.

Installing Facebook Apps

Once you have found a Facebook app, installing it can be challenging. Some apps install easier from their external website, and some are very easy to install from within Facebook. Many apps’ external websites will tell you exactly how to install it and make the installation process quite easy.
If you are installing the app from the Facebook App page, the steps will often be different if you click on the Add to My Page link on the left sidebar versus clicking on the blue Go to App button at the top of the page as shown in the NetworkedBlogs figure earlier. Usually you will eventually end up in the same place, but that Facebook “feature” makes writing directions on Facebook apps a challenge.
I usually prefer to click the Add to My Page link on the left sidebar. When you do, you will see a pop-up box where you can select the page where you want the app added.
Now you will navigate to the page where you added the app and find the app listed on your left sidebar.
After you click on the app, there may or may not be added steps to configure the app. Follow the steps as listed and you are all set with your fancy new app to dress up your page!
If you would like to move the app position on your left sidebar, click on the Edit link under your complete list of apps on your left sidebar and then you will be able to drag the app to the position you want. When you have the list organized the way you want, click Done and the new position will be saved.
So now you have the big picture on what Facebook apps are and how to find and install them.
What about you? What are your favorite Facebook apps?

by Andrea Vahl at SocialMediaExaminer