Weekly news round-up: Social networking

Social networking properties had a big week, from the sale of the once almighty Myspace, to the unveiling of Facebook’s new ad format, to the scientific answer on why people share content on social networking sites.

– Tuesday saw the launch of Facebook’s new “comment” ad unit, the social networking giant’s latest effort to make ads more social. But Zuckerberg & Co. will have to wait to find out if users are more engaged, or just plain annoyed.

When users comment on the ad, their comments will appear in their friends’ newsfeeds, helping brands earn impressions. As users’ friends comment, those comments can be turned into sponsored stories. And although Facebook and agencies are hoping the idea is a hit with users, it’s not yet clear how users will react. There is also nothing that shows users will be able to ignore sponsored comments.

Facebook held a competition last year at AdExpo, and the comment ad, from Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett, won. Ten agencies submitted about 100 ideas, which were whittled down to the best five and voted on by a panel. Leo Burnett will have exclusive use of it for two months, and then Facebook will open it up to other advertisers.

To see how well the new formats perform in the market, the social networking site will soon launch an another competition to measure the user interactivity.

– Online ad firm Specific Media agreed to buy Myspace from News Corp. for between US$35 million and $40 million, it was reported on Wednesday. News Corp. will continue to hold a minority stake in the social network.

The price is well below the $100 million News Corp was seeking just two months ago, and far from the $580 million it paid for the site in 2005. Myspace’s projected revenue for FY2011 is $109 million, while expenses add up to $274 million.

How social media is used – or not allowed to be used – was also big news this week.

– The International Olympic Committee announced that athletes competing in the 2012 London games are not allowed to use their Facebook, Twitter or other personal accounts, such as blogs, to share videos filmed at Olympic venues or for commercial purposes.

“Postings, blogs or tweets should be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the IOC document stated.“Participants and other accredited persons cannot post any video and/or audio of the events, competitions or any other activities which occur at Olympic venues.”

The IOC warns athletes that they are to use social media “at their own risk,” and that they “can be held personally liable for any commentary and/or material deemed to be defamatory, obscene or proprietary.”

The social media, blogging and Internet guidelines for Olympians were published on May 10, but surfaced on Monday.  They come with a warning that those who break the rules will be thrown out of the games.

– Meanwhile, in France, broadcast journalists are no longer allowed to mention specific social media companies, unless they are an integral part of the story. This means they can’t tell viewers to follow them on Twitter or visit their Facebook pages.
Le Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, which regulates the French broadcast industry, announced that the rule is part of a ban that has been in place since 1992. The ban does not allow for promotion of commercial enterprises on television and radio.

Now, if broadcast journalists want people to visit their feeds and pages, they can mention social media as a generic term, but not specific sites. How broadcasters will send viewers to their Twitter feeds or Facebook pages without actually mentioning the names of the platforms was not addressed.

– On Thursday, a new study was published, explaining the science behind sharing. In other words, why do people retweet and share information? “Pull their heartstrings, piss them off, make them laugh.”

When emotional stimuli are aroused, the autonomic nervous is activated, which in turn boosts social transmission, the study, authored by Jonah Berger, explains. That means that when people feel fearful, angry or amused due to information, they are more likely to share it.

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