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The week in social: Snapchat funding, Amex, and promoted pins

China starts blocking Gmail

The Chinese government has blocked access Gmail from third party software including Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook, causing anger and frustration from many internet users. This comes after a separate effort to block users from accessing Gmail via the web or first party apps, largely removing all common methods of access. Issues stem from users with personal accounts all the way to corporate businesses that utilize Gmail as their main communication tool. To combat this, users typically use a VPN (virtual private network) or another form of proxy that will trick the IP address into appearing as if it is from another region in order to access country-blocked services. Other popular services that are blocked in China include Facebook, and when LinkedIn started offering a Chinese-language product, it had to work with the government to ensure certain content would be censored.

Read more on New York Times.

Twitter testing promoted accounts in follow lists

A number of users have been seeing sponsored accounts in the lists of accounts other users are following, a new way for Twitter to sell ad space and generate revenue. An example of this comes from William Shatner who noticed Mastercard on his list of accounts he is following, even though the actor is not associated with them. This has potential implications such as implying a certain user endorses the brand or account. In response, the lists of these accounts with rectified. This format of promoted accounts has allegedly been appearing since 2013, however it is not mentioned as one of the available placements on the company site.

Read more on The Next Web.

Facebook facing lawsuit for scanning user messages

A class action lawsuit has come across Facebook for allegedly scanning the private messages sent between users for use in advertising. Some of the claims however were dismissed by a US District Judge in California, although Facebook will have to stand trial for others. Facebook has made an argument that its actions were covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, but the court ruled a sufficient explanation has not been provided. The lawsuit was brought forward originally in 2013, on the premise that the social network was scanning messages to find shared links related to Pages, and adding those as “Likes” to the respective Page. According to Facebook, this stopped in 2012, and messages are now only scanned for virus and spam purposes, but it remains to be seen how the lawsuit will play out.

More information on AllFacebook.

Pinterest launching advertising for all businesses for 2015

As of the start of 2015, all businesses are now able to place ads on Pinterest in the form of Promoted Pins. Promoted Pins are created in the same way and within the same categories as regular pins made by users, and show up in search as sponsored results. Promoted Pins have been in testing with the company since 2013, and a trial for brands started this past May. Promoted Pins will be priced on a pay-per-click model, as opposed to paid based on impressions, which is how many users see a particular ad. This past September, Pinterest rolled out analytics for its budding ad service, and it remains to be seen if brands find value in adopting this now widely available social ad format.

Read more on The Next Web.

Amex increases Instagram engagement using influencers

Running a campaign over the course of two weeks where their official Instagram account was handed over to social influencers, American Express was able to generate over 10 million impressions. As part of the company’s #MyAmex campaign, influencers including photographers, chefs, and fashion designers were given the reins of the account, and due to the content posted, engagement increased by 23%. Total engagements for the period were 40 thousand, and the rate at which the account gained followers doubled in the same period.

Read more on Adweek.

Facebook remains top destination for brand social content

Although it is well known that other, smaller social networks surpass Facebook in terms of brand content engagement, the social giant is still considered a top choice for brands to put their social content, and for users to seek it out, according to a new study from Simply Measured. Based on the report, the top 100 companies featured have a combined 1.1 billion fans, and 77 percent of the companies have more than 1 million fans. The report goes on to say that users are no longer concerned with ads appearing in feed, as the network is so focused on branded content. In terms of content creation, the Interbrand top 100 companies post an average of ten times per week on their Pages, with updates includes pictures and short bits of text, leading the way for high engagement.

More information on Simply Measured.

Snapchat raises 486m in new funding

The ephemeral messaging app Snapchat announced that it has raised $486m in a new single round of funding, putting the company at a valuation of approximately $10 billion. The announcement came on New Year’s Eve, and the new valuation put its a full $7 billion higher than what was offered to purchase the company for by Facebook last year, $3 billion. Although the company now has a high valuation, the revenue-generation model for the company is still in its infancy, with a small number of brands created promoted posts, or taking over the “Our Story” section for special events and sponsorships.

Read more on CNBC.

Twitter measures top 2015 resolutions

Taking a look at the top tweets regarding 2015 New Year’s resolutions, Twitter compiled a list of the most popular categories. The list, compiled of English language tweets, measured resolutions starting from December 25th up until the New Year hit. The top three resolutions, starting with #1, included working out, being happy, and losing weight. Other goals included working harder, and stopping smoking.

Read more on Twitter Blog.

Twitter rolling out ‘While you were away’ to majority of users

One of the features that Twitter has been quietly testing is now rolling out to a larger number of users. This latest feature, ‘while you were away’, shows users top engaged tweets from the accounts they are following. This is a change from the standard of showing a chronological order all all tweets that followed accounts are posting, and takes a cue from Facebook and other social networks that show content based on algorithms, engagement, and other parameters. For now, mobile users are the ones experiencing the update, and it remains to be seen if it will roll out to other platforms and the total user-base of Twitter.

Read more on TechCrunch.