WeChat app to be available on Blackberry 10 soon
China’s WeChat has made a pledge on its Malaysian Facebook page to launch a Blackberry 10 version soon.

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This move to support Blackberry's latest model, a few months after WeChat launched its Blackberry app, will help WeChat's expansion plans in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. WeChat's 300 million strong userbase is largely from China but the company is setting its sights on the international arena. The heatmap below shows WeChat's global penetration as of January 2013.

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Tencent WeChat to open office in America
China's Tencent has confirmed that it will be opening an office in America in 2013 as part of its move to take its successful chat app, WeChat, global.

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Originally launched as Weixin in China, the chat app has seen exponential growth following the creation of its English brand, WeChat in April 2012. Though a precise date or location for WeChat's US office hasn't been revealed, the company says that the office serve as a customer relations department. WeChat will face fierce competition from other Asian rivals such as Line while working to convert entrenched WhatsApp users. Tencent already has offices in San Francisco for its online gaming operations and has seen a growing ratio of overseas WeChat users though the company declined to reveal numbers.

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Google+ woos Indian users with government linked initiatives
With more than 60 million Facebook users, India is the third largest country market after US and Brazil for the social network. This makes it a natural target for Google which is seeking to get a foot in the door through the use of Google+ Hangouts to get the nation talking about the 2013 Budget. On February 28, Google streamed a live feed of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's presentation on YouTube's IN conversation channel. To make the conversation more interactive, a Google+ hangout was held yesterday. A panel of economists joined the Finance Minister in fielding questions from Indian citizens who were selected after submitting questions using the #askthefm hashtag on Google+. Users were also encouraged to upload video questions using the same hashtag via the IN Conversation YouTube channel or via the google.com/+GoogleIndia page. Hangouts enable ordinary citizens to get closer to key events thus demonstrating the power of social media in helping the man in the street get involved in events that matter. What's the upside for Google? Any new users who sign up or  existing users who rediscover Google+ through these initiatives may help to contribute to the network's daily active userbase.

Automobile companies engage Indian social media influencers
Social media influencers are being pursued by automobile companies to test drive their vehicles for a day or two and to talk about it via social media channels. India is no exception with automobile companies such as Ford, Mercedes and Tata engaging with influential social media users, running contests and offering free cars at their disposal for a few days. The intent is to allow the influencers the opportunity to enjoy the comfort and luxury of the cars and to share their experience on their social media channels.  The payoff? The influencers posted pictures and wrote about their experience on their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds creating buzz and reach as their fans jumped into the conversation.

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Twitter partners with Japan's DoCoMo to launch a Yellow Pages-like index 
DoCoMo and Twitter's partnership has seen the launch of the Twitter Yellow Pages Japan site. Created for mobile users though accessible via PCs, the site contains lists of recommended Twitter accounts based on categories such as food, shopping, sightseeing, local news, celebrities and sport teams.

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In addition to Twitter's list of recommended accounts, users can filter each category by location to discover other accounts that may be relevant to them. This tie-up is a win-win solution for both companies as Twitter garners more users making it more attractive to advertisers and DoCoMo chalks up increased mobile data usage with the potential to sell more smartphones.

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Viber has 3.5 million users in Vietnam
The mobile messaging app battle in Vietnam seems to have a clear winner with Viber registering a userbase of 3.5 million. Competitors, Line and KakaoTalk, have a million users each while WhatsApp has not confirmed any user numbers. This growth is impressive considering Viber has not been actively promoting the app in Vietnam or anywhere else in the world. With a userbase of 175 million worldwide, of which a third are from Asia, Viber is a source of concern for rival apps such as Line, KakaoTalk and Zalo.

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Marketers set to more than double social media spend
Over the next five years, CMOs will more than double the percentage of their marketing budget that is spent on social media, according to 500 surveyed. Currently, social media makes up 8.4% of that total; this is set to increase to 11.5% in 2013 and reach 21.6% in the next five years. Consumer goods companies are set to lead the way, seeing an increase from 9.6% to 24.6% in the same period.

How Twitter affects UK mobile and tech shoppers
A study of 6,000 UK Twitter users has looked to establish the network’s effect on mobile and tech shoppers. From the  graph below, it can be seen that exposure to a brand’s tweet increases the percentage of users visiting a brand’s website, up to 62.7% in comparison with 45.6% of Internet users or 50.5% of those on Twitter not exposed to the tweet.
Tweets drive in-market shopper traffic
A key point to be taken from the research is that the likelihood of a user visiting a brand’s website increases with higher frequency of exposure to branded tweets.

How to gain Twitter followers?
The Georgia Institute of Technology have had their two cents on how to gain Twitter followers, analysing a selection of 500,000 tweets based on a number of factors including sentiment, engagement and readability. They concluded that those who posted shorter, happier tweets & engaged with their followers using RTs and mentions exhibited a higher rate of follower growth. Also effective was retweeting interesting pieces of news; those who did so gained more followers than those posting about themselves.

Facebook’s Insights fix will definitely affect reach
After the fixes to Facebook bugs affecting reach that we reported last week, tests by Edgerank Checker on 1,000 pages have shown an increase of over 30% across different types of Facebook reach:

ERC Facebook reach

It is worth reading the full post for its detailed analysis, including a breakdown of the effects by page size.

Facebook acquires Microsoft’s Atlas
The result of a long-mooted deal, Facebook has announced its acquisition of Microsoft’s ad-serving platform Atlas at a price thought to be under $100m, based on former bids in the $30-50m region. Facebook have claimed that their intention is not the construction of an external advertising network based on their social data, but instead that their interest lies in improving measurement tools, citing Atlas’s new tool for richer measurement of ad impressions. In light of the deal, Adweek conducted an interview with Facebook’s director of product marketing, Brian Boland and Dave O’Hara, CFO of Microsoft’s online services division, in which they discussed their plans to build a stronger relationship between the two companies. Boland said:

When we look at Atlas, it is a full acquisition where we are acquiring the technology, the people, the expertise and the client relationships. So this is a great accelerator for our aspirations around measurement.

Facebook working on redesigning Newsfeed
Last week, the Verge, amongst others, announced that Facebook had invited press to ‘come see a new look for News Feed’. The event will be held at its Menlo Park, CA headquarters this Thursday, 7th March at 10am PST. As for the expected changes,Business Insider claim to have a source close to Chris Cox, Facebook’s VP of products, with whom Mark Zuckerberg has entrusted the product. From this source, they have ascertained two important differences: firstly, News feed will know more information about you and use this to tailor what content you receive based on your likes, what you’ve viewed and even items you’ve bought. Secondly, News feed will look to pull content from a wider range of sources, as Facebook hopes to integrate sharing tools directly into company websites, allowing them to work more like pages. Rumour also has it that a radical redesign is coming to the mobile News feed, with a more vivid text-overlay and full width images taking over from the current format. A (sort of) artist’s impression below gives the gist of how the layout will work.

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Facebook testing new actions in Open Graph apps
Facebook are testing a new set of actions in Open Graph apps, including ‘rate’ and ‘quote’ for books, as well as ‘want to read’ or ‘want to watch’. The below example displays how the ‘Goodreads’ app is already using the ‘rate’ system, though it is worth noting that no announcement has been forthcoming from Facebook.

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Had good news? Facebook will suggest your friends send you gifts
For a while now, Facebook have been suggesting gifts for occasions like birthdays or engagements. However, they have now decided to add the ‘Give A Gift’ button to posts containing good news. Interestingly, it seems the feature is now using natural language processing, rather than just specific events, in order to make suggestions.

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Instagram now has 100m active monthly users
The image-sharing platform Instagram has announced that it now has 100m active monthly users, up from 90m just a month ago. This displays incredibly fast growth; it took Facebook four-and-a-half years to reach such a level. According to AppData, Instagram is now the third-highest rank Android app and the 17th top free iOS app.

Google+ launches ‘Sign In’ and ventures into e-commerce
Google have launched an attempt to rival Facebook ‘Connect’, with their own ‘Sign In’ feature, along with an impressive list of partners that includes Banjo, Fancy, Fitbit, OpenTable, and Shazam. The below video explains the feature, along with some of its key elements, including the importance of privacy, control over sharing and easy mobile integration. In many ways, it mirrors and attempts to improve on Facebook’s concept of frictionless sharing from open graph actions.

It is then left up to the various partners to decide how they use the feature. From the Shazam example, you can see full extent of interactive sharing available:

Shazam G+ example

The Fancy have chosen to integrate a buy button into shared content, providing another example of how brands can use ‘Sign In’. The following example displays how such posts will look.

Google+ Fancy

Foursquare partners with Mastercard and Visa
In a bid at further monetisation, Foursquare have partnered with card giants Mastercard and Visa for providing discounts. Having enjoyed success from a similar deal with American Express, the social network has launched a new deal for all three cards, offering a saving of $1 for every ten spent with a check in at Burger King.

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Vimeo ‘Looks’ to add Instagram-style filters to video
Video-sharing network Vimeo has further expanded its appeal to filmmakers by offering filters, known as ‘looks’, through a partnership with GenArts and use of their ‘Vivoom’ app. Each filter, or ‘look’, applies a different effect to video content, offering a straightforward method to alter a film’s appearance.

Vimeo looks

The feature, which marks Vimeo’s first external partnership, is set to be free for users for the first 90 days, after which a charge will be applied. Pricing structure is as yet undecided.

Pheed becomes number one social app for iOS
Last week, Pheed overtook the likes of Facebook and Twitter as the top social app for iOS. The network, which allows sharing of all sorts of content from text, photos, video and audio to voice or live broadcast, is believed to owe its expansion to positive reviews by high-profile teens on Twitter and Instagram. It also includes a number of interesting features, including the ability to watermark images, or put certain content behind a paywall. With such impressive growth, Pheed is definitely one to watch in the coming months.