December 21, 2012

This week in digital: The one about social media

Written By Martin Sandhu

It’s not unusual for the major social networks to try and out do each other in the press stakes, but this week it seems to have escalated!

It all started with Instagram. In a somewhat underhand move, the Facebook-owned photo sharing network quietly updated its terms of service, suggesting that from January 16th 2013 they would own all rights to any photos uploaded and would happily sell them on to advertisers…cue the media frenzy!

They did attempt to make these changes quietly, but once a few tech sites got hold of the information (and worked out what the legalise meant) it was all over the mainstream media, even making headline news. Although many users agreed that ownership of images was fair, they took umbridge with the plans to sell them on and the way Instgram went about letting people know.

Less than 24hours later they posted an update to the app denying that they had changed their policy to allow them the right to sell photos to advertisers stating:

"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos," it said. It is our mistake that this language is confusing. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Next up Facebook started to test charging users to send certain messages. The social networking giant announced: "Today we’re starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance. This test will give a small number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to the ‘Inbox’ rather than the ‘Other’ folder of a recipient that they are not connected with."

Currently Facebook’s messaging system puts the most relevant messages, such as those from friends and other users in an Inbox and siphons the rest, like messages from company pages, into an ‘Other’ folder.

Then Twitter announced it had reached the 200 million active users milestone, up from 140 million back in May. 10 million of those active users are UK-based. A Twitter spokesman attributed the sudden rise in users to those discovering the site for the first time, particularity in France where Twitter played a large part in the countries elections earlier this year. Other events such as the Olympics, the US elections and Felix Baumgartners space jump have also helped Twitter in the popularity stakes.

Whilst the milestone is great news for the site, it highlights the fact that less than half of those with a Twitter account regularly use the site – there are currently 500 million registered users.

And perhaps something Facebook didn’t want us to know about, using the site apparently makes us more likely to eat unhealthy snacks. Researchers have found that whose who regularly socialise with friends via the site have higher self-esteem, but lower self-control, making them much more prone to eating a few naughty treats after logging off.

Writing in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers from Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh explained: ‘Using online social networks can have a positive effect on self-esteem and well-being. However, these increased feelings of self-worth can have a detrimental effect on behaviour.

‘Because consumers care about the image they present to close friends, social network use enhances self-esteem in users who are focused on close friends while browsing their social network. This momentary increase in self-esteem leads them to display less self-control after browsing a social network.’