Tag Archives: Social Media

Thanks for checking in: a look at Location

A new vehicle in the advertising realm, one that should not be underestimated, is location-based applications.

Location-based applications allow users to ‘check-in’ via smartphone and share their location with other users of the service or other social networks. Users are able to see who else is checked in at a given location (from all users) or friends in nearby locations. By checking in, users receive points and/or badges and can unlock certain specials determined by the retailer.

The most publicized of these location-based apps is Foursquare. Today, there are a reported 8 million Foursquare users, up from just one million a year ago. Foursquare’s growth is a reflection of not only the company’s success but the adoption of smartphones and our increasingly mobile lifestyles.

Foursquare was created in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadura. Prior to Foursquare, Crowley founded a similar service called Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Google has since shut it down. Foursquare, which is free for both users and merchants, is now the hottest thing on the block (literally).

 Four steps to Foursquare

  1. Check in
  2. Get points and badges
  3. Get rewarded
  4. Become Mayor

 Thanks for checking in

After joining Foursquare and downloading the free application for smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm, Ovi, Windows Phone, etc), you’re ready to check in. While you’re going about your business — going to work, to the store or to a restaurant for dinner — simply launch the Foursquare application and view the Places around you. Foursquare determines a user’s location based on the phone’s GPS location.

For those that believe Foursquare is a bit too personal, keep in mind that the check-in is a manual process. Users decide when and where to check in or not to check in.

When checking in, users can add comments and/or tips for other users for that particular location. Or upload a photo. If the location you’re visiting isn’t in the Foursquare system, the application allows you to add it yourself.

Users find friends by linking Foursquare to their email, Twitter or Facebook accounts. Users are then able to view their friends’ latest check-ins. And even compete with them in a points contest on the Leaderboard.

By checking in, users receive points and badges based on where, when and how often they check in. The Mayor often receives the largest reward or the highest percentage off a purchase. All rewards are determined and set by the business owner.

A user becomes “Mayor” if he or she checks in more frequently at a location than other Foursquare users. And can be ‘ousted’ as mayor if someone checks in more frequently than the current mayor.

 Will you be the next Mayor…of Walmart?

Check in at Walmart and you’ll earn points. Check in often enough and you’ll become Mayor. If you’re lucky (by achieving certain milestones), you’ll get a badge. Sounds a little childish, I know. (Besides the mayor part. Who wouldn’t want to be Mayor of Walmart?) But there is actually a benefit to checking in. Many retailers are embracing Foursquare as a way to connect with customers. A small but growing percentage of businesses on Foursquare are even offering discounts or Specials for checking in. Watch for this to expand rapidly as both smartphone adoption and Foursquare use increase.

Foursquare’s message to businesses:

“As a business owner, you can use Foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with foursquare ‘Specials,’ which are discounts and prizes you can offer your loyal customers when they check in on foursquare at your venue. Don’t forget to show extra love to your venue’s Mayor! Additionally, if you offer foursquare Specials to your customers, you will be able to track how your venue is performing over time thanks to our robust set of venue analytics — for free!”

 Well isn’t that Special?

From my home in Bellefonte, Pa (Foursquare specials vary depending on location) I can view 18 Specials nearby including: Gordon’s Jewelers – Check-in and unlock $50 off your $300 purchase; Radio Shack – Check-in and get 20% off your qualifying purchase; Penn State Book Store – A free Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Pack when you check in. Forever Tanning – Free tan or 10% off a hair cut with every third check in.

You’ll see there are both national chains and local businesses taking advantage of Foursquare Specials. In a post on Sept. 3, 2010, titled, Finally a reason to be on Foursquare, I first looked at Foursquare’s growth in my area (State College, Pa aka Happy Valley).

 New and improved

Foursquare has rolled out new versions over the last three years, each update improving upon the last and bringing new features to the table. The current version features five main categories on the mobile application:

Places: showing businesses and landmarks around a user’s current location. After selecting a location, this is where users check in. And choose to comment and/or share with Facebook and Twitter. A new feature to the check-in is the ability to take a picture with a smartphone and upload it to Foursquare. The photos are then displayed on both the user’s page and on the location’s page.

Friends: displaying the user’s friends; much like Facebook, friend requests must be sent and then accepted. Here users can view a friend’s Foursquare feed, displaying all of his or her check-ins.

Explore: a service similar to Yelp (founded in 2004), showing nearby businesses in a given industry like Food, Coffee, Nightlife, Shops and Arts & Entertainment. Like Yelp, Foursquare Explore finds your location with your smartphones built-in GPS. Once a category and location is selected, say Pizza Hut, Explore will tell you how many of your friends have checked in, and name them specifically. Explore also displays how many times you’ve checked in to the location as well as what Foursquare calls Tips (essentially comments) made by your friends.

To-Do: the to-do tab is a bookmark, allowing you to note a location and what you’d like to do there the next time you’re around.

Me: serves as the Foursquare user’s Dashboard (showing total number of Check-Ins, Badges, Mayorships, Points, Leaderboard, Most Explored Categories, Top Places, Tips and Friends).

The Leaderboard on the Foursquare Dashboard (the ‘Me’ tab) ranks you among your friends by total number of points over the last seven days. It offers a fun way to gauge your Foursquare influence among your friends. Points are awarded for checking in, adding a new venue or traveling.

 Who’ll come out on top?

Foursquare is gaining fame at a fast rate. And where there’s success, imitators won’t be far behind. With the introduction of Facebook Places and other location-based services like Whrrl, which was acquired by daily deals service Groupon in mid-April, companies are copying Foursquare’s model. And vice versa, as evidenced by Foursquare’s recent inclusion and emphasis on its Yelp-like service directory Explore.

Our favorite services are attempting to do it all by folding social networking, location applications and daily deals into one. What will win out? User base or functionality? Quantity or quality?

For a direct link to Foursquare’s business page, click here.

Source: Foursquare.com, Mashable.com, Foursquare application, YouTube

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The Twitterati

Twitterati: The Tweet elite, whose feeds attract thousands of followers and whose 140-character spews capture the attention of the rapt who doggedly monitor them.                 -As defined by Urban Dictionary

Twitter, a mircroblogging site launched in 2006, is a triple-threat source for news, gossip and social networking. (That sums it up in 140.)

Recent reports estimate that 90 percent of tweets are generated by less than 25 percent of Twitter users. Let’s call them the Twitterati. The USA Today broke them down into four categories: media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers.

Twitter is trying to change that and increase its Twitter appeal among a wider user base. Last week, Twitter announced it will be making its homepage more user friendly. More accessible for those who haven’t yet made the Twitter jump; for those who are on Twitter but don’t often tweet; for those who don’t quite understand Twitter. (And those who have no connections to the Twitterati.)

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who returned to the company in late March, is in favor of a more mainstream website. Dorsey served as Twitter’s first chief executive, then took a step back in 2008 and handed the CEO duties to co-founder Evan Williams; the two essentially switched roles. Dorsey is now back in the fold as executive chairman.

Jack Dorseys Twitter account, announcing his return on March 28, 2011

Per Reuters, Dorsey wants to focus on users “that don’t really understand what Twitter is and see Twitter mainly as a consumption experience.”

“We have a lot of mainstream awareness but mainstream relevancy is still a challenge,” Dorsey was quoted on Reuters.com, from an event in New York hosted by the Columbia Journalism school.

I noticed the home-page change Thursday, April 14. Here’s a screenshot I grabbed. The tag has been changed to “Follow your interests,” more in-line with way most people use Twitter. Subtitle: “Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.”

The new home page hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet. In fact, I visited the site two days later and saw the old page. Which offers only “Twitter. The best way to discover what’s new in your world.”

The change might seem subtle, but for someone new to the site and the service, the re-design definitely accomplishes what Dorsey wants. And it could be the difference in Twitter gaining mass appeal.

Dorsey started Twitter in 2006 with co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. In addition to his return role at Twitter, Dorsey serves as chief executive at mobile-payment startup Square.

Rumors were also floating around the web that Twitter is planning to redesign its Brand Pages, which as of right now are no different than user pages. The said move will make Twitter Brand Pages more like Facebook Pages.

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news.

I’m new to the Twitter scene. One of the aforementioned ‘on Twitter but don’t often tweet’ users. But now, I’ve decided, I’m in. I made the plunge a few short weeks ago. Actually, the specific moment was after I attended a lecture by John Andrews, Founder and CEO of Collective Bias.

“Collective Bias is an emerging media firm focused on the intersection of mobile/social media and social shopper marketing. Through our proprietary Social Fabric shopping influencer group, we build dedicated communities for our clients designed to foster the shared conversation between consumers, brands and retailers, creating an advocacy platform that fosters organic dialogue and strong brand relationships and ultimately enhanced loyalty and sales.” – From Collective Bias handout at Penn State University in March, 2011. Collective Bias is based in Southfield, MI; Bentonville, AR; Scottsdale, AZ; NYC.

Andrews recently visited Twitter headquarters to get a first-hand look. See his visit on Whrrl.

“I must admit that my opinion on Twitter has changed greatly since visiting,” Andrews told me via email after returning from his trip.

“Twitter is doing some great thinking on products.  Their point of difference is focusing on the interest graph vs the social graph.  I think this is a very powerful marketing tool when you think about the connection of people sharing their interests actively (like a google search with friends and family connected).”

In the NFL, Denver Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway announced the team’s new head coach on Twitter before anywhere else. John Fox was announced as coach @johnelway on Jan. 13, 2011. It was retweeted by @Denver_Broncos soon thereafter.

Twitter has successfully evolved into a full-fledged news outlet, from the sources themselves. That’s powerful stuff.

“I believe that small media wins ultimately and search levels the playing field,” Andrews said. “Media is decentralizing away from brand control to consumer control.  Content still wins, there is just no longer barriers to who produces that content.  Search, to which I include Twitter, allows the consumer to decide what content is important vs. the channel owner.”

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news. Twitter is on the map. And I think it’s here to stay.

If it’s accomplished this in only four years, where is it headed? What’s next for Twitter? And will it mean the fall of the Twitterati?

Source: Twitter, Urban Dictionary, CNet, Mashable, USA Today, NYTimes, Reuters, Adweek, Fast Company, Ad Age, Collective Bias, Reuters, John Andrews, Twitter.com/johnelway. Twitter screenshot from sageisland.com, @jack screenshot from Mashable

Amazon is taking over the web

What started out as an online bookstore is now not only the largest online retailer but also the company to beat in the digital world. Amazon is building a river of digital services across the industry board including retail, music, entertainment, movies, mobile applications, storage and e-commerce.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has shown no hesitation to enter a new industry. That makes Amazon an exciting company to follow and, from a competitor’s standpoint, one to be afraid of.

Graphic compilation by Eric Zimmett

With the Amazon Kindle, Audible.com, Amazon mp3, the Amazon App Store, Amazon Instant Video with Amazon Prime, the recently announced Amazon Cloud Player, and, of course, Amazon.com itself, the company is becoming a go-to source for online shopping and entertainment.

Amazon Cloud

I’ve been testing out the Amazon Cloud since last week and, so far, I’m very impressed. A simple (and free) download is all that’s required to get started. Then just upload your media files. I’ve found the music storage alone to be well worth the download. The Cloud lets you access your music on any computer or any android device. So I was able to delete music files from my Droid, freeing up much needed space.

With the free version of the Amazon Cloud Drive and Player, you’ll get 5GB of free storage. For more, you’ll have to pay. Though right now I have 299 songs on my Cloud and I’m using only 1.3 GB of storage, 26% of the alloted 5 GB.

By the way, what is a “Cloud”? A Cloud is basically a hard drive in the sky, a hard drive on the internet that users can access from any computer, or compatible mobile device, with an internet connection without hauling anything around. In a way, your email service is like a cloud. Gmail serves as a cloud for your email by storing your messages on the web and thus being accessible from many devices with an internet connection.

The Cloud lets you store Music, Documents, Pictures and Videos. Whether it was purchased from Amazon or not. Here’s a breakdown of the additional storage plans, up to 1000 GB of space.

For more on the Amazon Cloud, click here.

Amazon Prime & Instant Video

Amazon Prime membership offers users on Amazon.com unlimited free two-day shipping for $79 per year, billed annually. That was until Amazon announced in February that Prime users would also have access to unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows.

Amazon Instant Video offers little differentiation from Netflix with a smaller library but the bonus of free two-day shipping. Though Amazon claims 5,000 titles are available, I’m only able to see around 3,000 titles including TV and movies. I’ll keep checking on this.

Free shipping and a library of videos to stream instantly to your computer or TV for about $7 per month is a solid deal, especially for frequent amazon.com shoppers. Price compares to Netflix, though Big Red is billed monthly. Netflix offers an unlimited streaming plan (though no discs by mail) for $7.99 per month.

Audible.com

Your favorite books. On audio. I’ve tested this out, too, though I haven’t committed just yet. I enjoyed my free two-week trial period, downloaded a couple of audiobooks. The service also offers magazines, radio shows, podcasts, stand-up comedy and speeches.

How it works: Audible.com offers two plans: Gold and Platinum. With either subscription, you receive credits that can be used to purchase audiobooks or other audio content. Both plans have a monthly and annual option.

Audio files purchased from Audible.com can be accessed from your computer, burnt to a CD, played with the Audible.com app, as well as iPod and more than 500 other devices per Audible.com. For a list of compatible devices, click here (you may have to navigate to the “comaptible devices” window).

Living Social & Woot

In December of 2010, Amazon made a $175 million investment in local-deals site LivingSocial. The service operates much in the same way as Groupon, offering heavily discounted items and services.

“To be the biggest player in the local commerce space there is no one better to work with than Amazon,” LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy said in a statement on the company’s website, announcing the investment. “As the social shopping space continues to heat up, LivingSocial is committed to staying focused on providing the high level of quality that consumers and merchants have come to expect when working with us.”

LivingSocial does things a little differently, however. Whereas Groupon requires a specific number of people to buy a deal for it to be valid, LivingSocial makes it easy. Buy the deal and it’s yours.

But LivingSocial adds another layer to the daily deal. Once you buy a deal on LivingSocial, you’ll receive a unique, sharable link. Your deal becomes free when three people buy the deal from your unique link, giving you extra incentive to share the deal. Both Groupon and LivingSocial offer mobile apps to get deals on the go.

Prior to its investment in LivingSocial, in June of 2010, Amazon acquired deal-a-day site Woot. Woot Services, LLC is actually a bunch of sites under one wootbrella. There’s the main Woot.com, which operates like Groupon and LivingSocial, offering one deal a day from a variety of sources and services. But its sub-sites offer specific products, like T-Shirts on shirt.woot.com; or kids products on kids.woot.com; or wine on, you guessed it, wine.woot.com; and more.

Woot is a bit of an odd-ball deals site. Maybe Woot CEO Matt Rutledge give you a better idea of what Woot’s about, in a letter to his employees:

“We think now is the right time to join with Amazon because, quite simply, every company that becomes a subsidiary gets two free downloads until the end of July, and we very much need that new thing with Trent Reznor’s wife on our iPods,” Rutledge wrote in a letter to Woot employees on June 30, 2010.

“Other than that, we plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot – with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture.”

So that’s Woot for you, a site that’s 50% humor and entertainment and 50% great deals. It’s worth a look. If nothing else, you can buy a Woot Shirt.

LoveFilm

LoveFilm is a British subsidiary of Amazon.com offering movie and video-game rentals by mail (or should I say ‘by post’?) and online streaming of movies in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia with a library of more than 70,000 titles. Founded in 2002, LoveFilm is essentially Britain’s Netflix. (Netflix was founded in 1997 and serves the U.S. and Canada.) LoveFilm streams content through a computer, through the Playstation 3 video-game system, or Internet-connected Sony or Samsung TVs, much like Netflix. Build your queue, get your movies, return when you like with no late fees or watch instantly online. My free trial was denied because of the whole distance thing. Don’t think I’d qualify for ‘free first-class post.’

What LoveFilm offers:

  • DVD and Blu-ray by mail
  • Streaming instantly to your PC, PS3 or Internet-connected TV
  • On-Demand content (pay-per-view)

Sound familiar? Besides the obvious Netflix similarities, it’s essentially what Amazon just rolled out as a bonus to its Amazon Prime membership. Minus the discs by mail. But, hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon started renting discs by mail. What better a way to make money from older movies nobody wants to buy from Amazon.com? Rent them through Amazon.com.

Amazon has had ownership stake of LoveFilm since 2008, but it wasn’t until January of this year that Amazon took full control of the company. And in February, Amazon announced its Amazon Prime members would have access to Instant Video content, streamed to their PC or a number of TV-connected devices.

Could LoveFilm set up shop in the U.S.? Former LoveFilm COO William Reeve thought it could compete with Netflix, but reportedly didn’t receive the backing from LoveFilm venture capitalists. Reeve left LoveFilm in 2008, before Amazon was a part of the plan. Now that Amazon’s in full control, would it bring LoveFilm over and risk competing with, well, itself?

What’s next?

Amazon is claiming stake in every conceivable digital media category. Including rumors within the last two days of an NFC-based mobile payment service. (NFC stands for Near Field Communication, a short-rage wireless service that allows NFC-equipped cell phones to pay for items at brick-and-motor stores without a debit or credit card, just using a phone.) The NFC tech talk is just another way Amazon is moving with technology and moving in on competitors. Smart business strategy by CEO Jeff Bezos.

I’d watch for more acquisitions. Amazon’s made a habit of acquiring companies and rolling them into Amazon’s umbrella of services.

Amazon reported net sales of more than $34 billion in 2010 (up from 24.51 in 2009) and net income of $1.15 billion. International sales, representing Amazon’s UK, German, Japanese, French, Chinese and Italian services were $5.74 billion, according to the company’s financial statements, up 26% from fourth quarter 2009.

Two sectors where I predict growth for Amazon in 2011: Social Networking and Instant Video.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Just putting pieces of this Amazonian puzzle together: Amazon Prime members, Audible.com, Mobile, Instant Video and a growing list of services. Watch for Amazon to roll out a social network of sorts, not a Facebook competitor by any means maybe just a mobile or TV hub that connects all Amazon members (and its subsidiaries). You’d be able to see what your friends are watching instantly, or what items they’ve rated on Amazon.com, What they’re listening to from Audible.com (opt-in, of course).

In 1998, Amazon acquired PlanetAll, which was one of the first online attempts at social networking. PlanetAll connected users with classmates and colleagues as well as providing calendars, address books and groups all in one service. Amazon shut it down in 2000, however, and absorbed part of the PlanetAll service into its Friends and Favorites area where customers can set up ‘wish lists’ and share them with friends. But Amazon got the social-networking fever again in 2008 and filed another patent for a “social networking service.”

In June of 2010, The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon with a patent for a social networking system, the one it filed for in 2008. I don’t see them sticking with the PlanetAll title if it’s re-introduced. I imagine they’ll roll it into the Amazon name and connect it with all of Amazon’s services and subsidiaries. The trademark office lists the Inventors of this patent as Brian Robertson and Warren Adams, the founders of PlanetAll.

The verbiage from The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent No. 7,739,139

Social networking system
A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.

Instant Video

I’d watch for Amazon Instant Video to bulk up its offerings. I’m going to keep an eye on LoveFilm. LoveFilm is similar to Netflix in operation, pricing and even layout and iconic red packaging. With one key difference. In LoveFilm’s £14.99 plan (about $24), the service offers unlimited Movies, TV and Video Games by mail. A comparison here would be pairing Gamefly with Netflix. I’d love for Amazon to incorporate this into its Amazon Prime membership, as part of new tiered membership options.

One final prediction: How about Amazon selling streaming devices, possibly through acquiring a company that makes them? Amazon could then sell the box at a discount with an Amazon Prime membership or even give it away with an annual membership to Amazon Prime.

If Amazon’s history is any indication of its future, watch for the company to continue expanding its services, moving into new industries and increasing its user base.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has shown no hesitation to enter a new industry. That makes Amazon an exciting company to follow and, from a competitor’s standpoint, one to be afraid of.

Sources: Amazon.com, United States Patent and Trademark Office, TechFlash, Mashable, LoveFilm, Reuters, cnet, Realdeals.eu.com, Audible.com, LivingSocial.com, Woot.com

A mobile Facebook

I watched The Social Network yesterday. It was my second time watching the Facebook-inspired biopic. It’s a great flick, however true-to-life it was. The film is bringing even wider publicity to the social networking site — originally called The Facebook as the movie accurately depicts — and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Screenshot of Facebook’s initial layout, The Facebook

It’s a communication vehicle, a networking resource, and so much more. In the movie, after Facebook had taken over at Harvard University, they make reference to the term “facebook me.” I guess it’s today’s version of, um, “look me up in the phone book.” But it’s definitely a sign of universal adoption, similar to Google’s climb to the top. “Google it.” Or Photoshop, which has become synonymous with photo editing. Becoming a verb is the ultimate goal for a company.

Users, all 500 million of them around the world, are spending more and more time on Facebook. At work, at home and on the go via smartphones. Even the term “on facebook” does not refer to http://www.facebook.com anymore with the adoption of Facebook application for smartphones and the new Facebook phone itself.

Mobile is taking over my life. I’m on my Droid all day. And night. I’ll often be surfing the web on my Droid with my laptop right next to me. I use Facebook on my smartphone almost as much as I am on my laptop and my work PC.

I wrote some of this blog post on my Droid. Yep, with my recently installed WordPress app. In fact I’m writing this sentence on it.

I’ve read more news on my Droid (my first smartphone) in the last six months than probably the previous six years with access to newspaper and TV. Smartphone news apps like New York Times, USA Today, CNET News, Engadget, NPR News, CBS News, Yahoo! News, The Huffington Post and many more. Text-based and videos. In some cases, the same news videos that air on TV.

The world is becoming increasingly mobile. And the brands and companies that move with that shift will prosper. While those that don’t will have to play catch-up.

Smartphone users are on the rise, 60 percent higher at the end of 2010 than it was a year ago.  Smartphoners are ready to eclipse the number of feature phone (dumbphone) users. That should occur sometime in 2011.

In the three-month period between September of 2010 and December of 2010, nearly 25% of mobile subscribers accessed a social networking site.

Rockmelt web browser. Powered by Google’s Chromium, Rockmelt is like Google Chrome with full Facebook integration (as well as Twitter). I’m typing in it right now. The browser window looks the same. Tabs, the same. But my Facebook friends are in a side bar to my left. Facebook status updates pop up at the bottom of the screen from time to time, telling me what’s happening in my friend circle.

I can chat with my friends without opening a new tab, or without going to Facebook.com. I just click on a friend’s name in the left panel and the chat bar slides open.

Below is a screenshot I took while composing this post. You can see my friends on the left panel.

Facebook application. The Facebook application on smartphones is a quicker, slimmer version of  facebook.com. It launches faster than opening a browser on your smartphone and is basically a mobile version of the website. You can navigate all of Facebook’s features on the application, like the News Feed, your Profile, your Friends, Messages, Places, the new Groups feature, Events, Photos and Facebook Chat. Facebook chat on your mobile phone is a nice feature, essentially a free texting service. And an untitled photo stream, similar to the news feed but with only photos uploaded by your friends. And then there’s Facebook’s new messaging service.

The Facebook phone. Facebook itself is not building a phone, that we know of. But other manufacturers are building phones that integrate the social networking site into its phone (similar to Rockmelt’s inclusion in its web browser). One Facebook phone manufacturer is INQ (pronounced “ink”). The company has actually introduced two versions of its Facebook phone, the Cloud Touch and the Cloud Q.

“We want to have every user in every market using Facebook– we’re investing in smartphones and at the same time as in mass market phones because we believe with great features and great integrations, every phone can become sociable.” – Henri Moissinac, Facebook’s Head of Mobile Business

HTC (pronounced, um, HTC) is also developing a Facebook phone, set to be introduced this month according to reports. The phone will have a dedicated Facebook Button that will take users directly to Facebook. “It’s one of HTC’s main pushes for this year,” a person familiar with HTC’s strategy told Financial Times.

However the Facebook phones turn out,  one thing is for sure: this is only the beginning.

Facebook is integrating itself into every aspect of our lives. On the web, on our phones and on the go via status updates, photos, tagged friends and events.

Facebook’s “Like” feature, as Zuckerberg likely envisioned, stretches all across the web, making Facebook the center of it all.

And we all know it’s not over. Facebook is not done expanding, evolving and becoming even more entrenched in our personal and business lives. I, for one, welcome the intrusion.

Source: comScore, comScore MobiLens, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology, http://gizmodo.com/