Mobile internet usage is massive in Western Europe
According to eMarketer research, nearly half of all Western European mobile users will access mobile internet at least once a month in 2014. That figure is up from 40.0% in 2013, expected to rise to 66.0% by 2017. Scandinavia looks set to lead the way in 2014, with Norway's figure of 63.5% in first place, followed by Denmark and Sweden.

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Organic Facebook reach dropped throughout December
Analysis of the 28 day period either side of the 2nd December by EdgeRank Checker has shown that Facebook's organic reach dropped considerably in that period. On average, organic reach dropped from 10.15% in the earlier period to 7.83% afterwards, with statuses and videos most affected, as shown by this graph:

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As Facebook may well have hoped, in a separate study by Locowise, the use of paid post promotion on the platform increased throughout December. An examination of 1,000 pages found that 25% more of them were using ads in December than previously and, in 53% of the cases where organic reach had increased, promotion had also been used.

Facebook leads for social logins
Facebook remained the leader for social logins in Q4 2014 according to Janrain, with 45% of all social logins throughout the web. Google+ is not hugely far behind, with 35%, while Yahoo and Twitter follow, both on 6%.

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Facebook scraps Sponsored Stories
Facebook has announced a change to its current advertising format: the network is axing Sponsored Stories. These ads, which suggest pages that a user might like based on their friends' interactions with that page, have been controversial in the past, including a law suit accusing Facebook of misappropriating users' likes and comments without consent. However, they've also been fairly successful, and are currently Facebook's 'simplest' ad format, allowing first-time marketers an easy way onto the platform. You can find out more about the move in our own blog post on the subject.

Facebook acquires link-sharing Branch
Facebook has acquired link-sharing service, Branch, for a figure believed to be around $15 million. The web-based service seems to make sense as a purchase, given Facebook's recent interest in developing the importance of news stories on the network. To quote Branch's CEO, Josh Miller:

We will be forming Facebook's Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests.

The acquisition also includes Branch's latest app, Potluck for iPhone, which offers users small pieces of news, which they can discuss with friends in-app, as shown below.

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Updates to ads on Tumblr
Yahoo has announced some changes to advertising on Tumblr, the platform it acquired last May. Sponsored Posts, now be known as 'Sponsored Posts Powered by Yahoo Advertising', can now be targeted based on gender or geolocation, and advertisers will only pay when their adverts cause some sort of action, whether that be a reblog, follow or like.

Use Gmail to message Google+ contacts
Google has updated its email service, Gmail, to allow users to email their Google+ contacts directly. Now, when a Google+ user writers a message via their Gmail account, they will see the details of their G+ contacts appear as options in the address bar, without having to know their email address. It is an opt out system, with the ability to limit those who can find you via Google+ to certain circles, or block the process entirely.

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Branded Google+ 'Helpouts'
We've all heard of Google+ Hangouts. Recently, the network launched 'Helpouts', which allow individuals, as well as five branded partners, to offer live video help to consumers, whether it be for free or at a price. Weight Watchers, for example, offer free health advice, while Sephora charge $15 for 15-30 minute beauty sessions. Three other partners are One Medical, Redbeacon and Rosetta Stone, though we may expect to see more in future.

Social at the Golden Globes
The Golden Globes used their star-studded audience to full effect last night, with a set of 360 degree Vines straight from the red carpet. Usher (below) was joined by some other A-listers, including Mike Tyson and Sean Combs.

Brands were also keen to get in on the action, with some examples embedded below. L'Oreal's tweet about a GIF hair tutorial was clearly much better than CVS's attempt to get involved.

Cinemax creates Vine mini-series
Cinemax is using Vine to promote season two of 'Banshee', with a complete series of 6-second Vines that reveal the hopes and fears of characters. It's the first time that a TV programme has created a full series in this way, and will be supported by comic-book content, using the hashtag #BansheeOrigins.

BT's Twitter #GuessThePrize
BT is promoting its £7.50 per month 'BT Infinity' sale with a Twitter competition, dubbed #GuessThePrize. Running every day from 12-4pm, users have seven minutes and 50 seconds every hour to guess what the prize might be, with options ranging from an Xbox One to Premier League football tickets.

Zizzi's #ReasonsToSmile
Italian restaurant chain, Zizzi, has launched a campaign called #ReasonsToSmile. Video content, which focusses on Zizzi's 'Smile Makers', is being supported by prize giveaways in social throughout the month.

Hobgoblin recruiting #Goblineers to its map
UK beer brand Hobgoblin is using Twitter's geo-location to create a map of the obscure places that it is drunk, asking users to post a tweet with the hashtag #Goblineers. There are also a set of challenges, from which 25 overall winners will be selected to receive a prize including a personalised Hobgoblin tankard and access to the brewery.

Clorox produces some top reactive content
When a hashtag arose poking fun at the names given to American college football games, cleaning brand Clorox came up with the below. A great piece of reactive content on Twitter.

Brands hijack the Polar Vortex
A side effect of last week's Polar Vortex was a lot of branded content. Some of it was good, some of it really wasn't. You can decide for yourself on the below examples.

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The UK government's Facebook gaffe
Michael Gove, the UK Secretary of State for Education, was in trouble last week when a Facebook post from the Department of Work and Pensions posted advice on its Facebook page about how to look good at interviews. This may not have been too controversial, had the quotation included not come from a company owned by his wife. Gove claims to have no knowledge of the promotion; if this was a genuine mistake, it shows the importance of doing proper background checks on any social content.

The relationship between one man and a brand
Chip Zdarsky, a Canadian journalist and comic book artist, enjoys trolling brands in his spare time. Fair enough. However, when he came across the Applebee's Barrie account, it felt so lonely that he decided to try and build a proper relationship. Naming the project Applebee's & Me on his Tumblr, some of the results from his burgeoning friendship can be found below.

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