OBL Death & Royal Wedding Mark High Points for Social Media, Advertisers Take Notice


Last Monday at 10:25 PM EST, Keith Urbahn, a former aide to Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted:

Figure 1: The Tweet Read ‘Round The World

Source: Twitter

From 10:45 PM – 2:20 AM EST, 27.9 million tweets were generated, breaking the record for the highest sustained rate of tweeting at an average of 3,000 Tweets Per Second (TPS).  During President Obama’s address, the rate of tweeting peaked at 5,106 TPS.  Notably, the record rate is 6,939 TPS which took place at New Years 2011 in Japan (a country with advanced smartphone technology).

YouTube views of President Obama’s speech exceeded 5.5 million views (his White House Correspondents Dinner speech got 7.2 million in five days, the most ever for a Presidential speech).

Figure 2: News of OBL’s Death Yielded Highest Sustained Rate of Tweeting Ever

Source: Twitter

While Urbahn’s tweet spread viral news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, Sohaib Athar aka @ReallyVirtual had actually “broken” the story hours earlier, unknowingly live-tweeting the raid from his first person vantage point in Abbottabad, Pakistan:

Figure 3: @ReallyVirtual Tweets OBL Raid Play-By-Play


Source: Twitter, via Namesake

Since his tweets were discovered, @reallyvirtual’s Twitter account surged to over 100K followers, from less than 100, and prompted the IT consultant to release a humorous FAQ page where he could direct countless inquiries.

Figure 4: @ReallyVirtual Has Attracted Over 100K Followers Since Tweeting His First Hand Account of the Raid


Source: TweetDeck

The previous week witnessed another occurrence of social media’s growing impact on real world events.

Mainstream media took advantage of the content being produced through social media by integrating the user-generated content during the royal nuptials.  Most notably, ABC broadcast the royal wedding live direct from its Twitter feed, while attempting to create an interactive experience between social media and its broadcast.

Figure 5: While The Internet Loved The Royal Wedding, The Flower Girl Was Less Enthused

Source: Today.com

ABC and Twitter came up with hashtags such as #RoyalSuccess and #RoyalMess to describe people’s reactions to dresses and to describe the #RoyalKiss.  Messages posted on both Facebook and Twitter were read from the screen, and a TwitterTracker was used to gauge user engagement in different aspects of the coverage.  As an ABC News executive commented, “Social media isn’t a novelty anymore, and you can’t treat it as such.  It’s not something you can even just do.  You have to constantly iterate and push things forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Figure 6: ABC Integrated Social Media To Provide More Complete Coverage of The Royal Wedding

Source: Twitter

Large scale planned events like the Royal Wedding or the Super Bowl attract new users to social media platforms and encourage enhanced interactions as users congregate to engage with the event.

Additionally, advertisers are increasingly embracing social media to insert their brands into the conversations around these major events.  We were particularly impressed by Unilever’s Magnum Ice Cream usage of the #RoyalWedding hashtag.

When Twitter users clicked on the #royalwedding hashtag, they were directed to the day’s Promoted Trend, which was sponsored by “Magnum Ice Cream.”  Clicking on “Magnum Ice Cream” then directed Twitter users to Magnum’s Facebook page (which now has over 1 million fans).

Figure 7: Unilever’s Magnum Ice Cream Social Media Campaign Yielded Massive Earned Media Impressions

Source: Facebook

Figure 8: Unilever’s Promoted #RoyalWedding Significantly Outperformed @ClarenceHouse’s #RW2011

Source: Twitter

Figure 9: Unilever’s Campaign Has Resulted In Owned Audience Which the Company Can Reach & Impact

Source: Klout


Facebook Dominates Social Networking Landscape, Surpasses 250mm Mobile Users

Facebook’s dominance of social networking is on full display in the below chart recently released by Pingdom which shows every social network with over 1 MM daily visitors.


We expect Facebook’s membership to continue to grow, particularly in the less saturated demographics (55+) and in countries with lower penetration.  But we also believe that there are massive opportunities for other networks that either offer a unique communications platform (e.g. Twitter), or meet vertical needs (e.g. LinkedIn for work, Badoo for dating).


Also this week, Facebook had several major mobile announcements.  The announcement that got the most press was the revelation that Facebook had surpassed 250 million mobile users.


The second, and more meaningful, was the rollout of a major upgrade to its mobile platform (m.facebook.com).


On March 31st, Facebook announced:


“Today we’re excited to start rolling out a major upgrade to m.facebook.com that delivers the best possible mobile Web experience no matter what device you’re using. Previously, we solved this problem by building multiple versions of mobile Facebook: m.facebook.com for less feature-rich mobile devices and touch.facebook.com for touch devices.

There are two major problems with this approach:

  1. 1. We were limited by the lowest common denominator for each site. We couldn’t use JavaScript and had device specific file size limitations on m.facebook.com. Supporting a wide array of touch phones of varying quality on touch.facebook.com limited our ability to use modern CSS and JavaScript APIs.
  2. 2. Every time we launched a new feature, we had to build it multiple times across different code bases: once for facebook.com, then again for m.facebook.com, touch.facebook.com, and in native applications as well. Honestly, we weren’t very good at doing this, so certain features were missing on different devices.

With the new m.facebook.com, users with high-end touch devices will see a rich touch-friendly interface; for users with feature phones, the site will look and work great.”

The bottom line is that the world’s dominant social network has a keen appreciation for the global secular trend to mobile, and is operating its business accordingly.

As a Facebook spokesperson stated: “We think it’s important to provide an excellent mobile Web experience.  Now, whenever we launch new features on the mobile site, they’ll be available on any mobile browser, presented in the best possible experience. We’re excited to roll out the new m.facebook.com site to everyone over the next few weeks.”

Facebook Continues to Build Its Washington Presence

Undoubtedly, one of the major risks to Facebook remains government regulations.  Anytime a company gets as big and powerful as Facebook, the company attracts government scrutiny like moths to a flame.  Facebook clearly recognizes this.  In fact, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is a former Clinton administration official, and Facebook’s General Counsel (Ted Ullyot) is a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  So it’s no surprise to see Facebook continuing to take the appropriate measures to make sure that Washington understands and appreciates their perspective, and is best able to place Facebook’s actions in the right context.


The latest rumored addition to the Facebook Washington team is Robert Gibbs, the former Communications Director for President Obama.  Gibbs would bring an intimate knowledge of Obama’s agenda as it relates to the regulatory issues facing Facebook, as well as strong relationships within the administration.   Obama is widely perceived to be a fan of Facebook.  One of Facebook’s founders, Chris Hughes, played an important role in Obama’s campaign by heading the Facebook Connect integration.  More recently, Mark Zuckerberg sat next to the President at dinner as part of a group of tech titans that dined with Obama in Silicon Valley.


While the fight over talented programmers gets the most press in the Valley, recruiting the right talent in Washington D.C. may prove a similarly important key to Facebook’s future success.


Playdom Announces Expansion In Europe

Playdom has raised $43 million to date and made six acquisitions, including Acclaim Games, and has just announced their intentions to expand into Europe. They plan to create localized versions of their game titles such as Mobsters, Tiki Resorts and Big City Life in French, Italian, German and Spanish by the end of this year.

The first game to be localized is Bola, the 41st most popular application on Facebook according to analytics firm AppData. In aggregate, Playdom has more than 38 million monthly active users (MAU) and is headquarters down the street from Google in Mountain View, with studios in Francisco, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Eugene, Ore.; Chapel Hill, NC; Buenos Aires, Argentina and in South Asia.

Zynga has 50 games with over 8 games with 1 million or more daily active users (DAU) and 11 ames with 1 million or more MAU. By comparison, Playdom only has 22 games and 1 game with 1 million or more DAU and 9 games with 1 million or more MAU. So putting an emphasis on European and international users may be the right strategy to grow their reach and compete with Zynga.

Here’s an interesting point, in the last 29 days Zynga lost 7 million DAU according to AppData, which is more than 8x the size of Playdom’s total DAU. So the question is, how much of an impact can this expansion into Europe really have for Playdom?  We’ll see.

If You Build Farms, They Will Come? Second Life Is Restructuring To Become More Social

Linden Lab, the company that owns and operates Second Life, has announced today that they’re laying off 30 percent of their staff, labeling the move as “restructuring” and “reconfiguring”.

Their new strategy is to make Second Life more of a browser based experience, like Farmville, eliminating the requirement for users to download software. Second Life will also be available on “social networks” (basically they’re building a Facebook app), so it becomes more social.

Although their new strategy is three years late, it probably not too late. As of August 2008, Second Life had approximately one million active Residents with 40-60 concurrent users at any given time. Linden Lab was founded in 1999 and they’ve raised $19 million to date, so it seems a bit surprising that its taken them this long to make the switch to social gaming. According to their press release, since inception Second Life Residents have logged more than one billion user hours and generated more than $1 billion in user-to-user transactions.

It will be interesting to see their browser based version of Second Life and if the move can revive the business.

The Birthing of a Market

Writing about the social media revolution is so exciting because its changing the world, and that change is happening at a remarkably fast pace.  Another sea change occurring right before our eyes is the emergence of a secondary market for the shares in the companies driving the revolution.  Like Michael Milken at Drexel helped the junk bond market emerge as a rapidly scaling asset class, so to are companies like Second Market and Sharespost helping to lead the liquidity charge in the market for privately held shares. SecondShares is pleased about the role we’re playing in the ecosystem by writing research on social media companies  because thoughtful and readily available information  is another piece of the puzzle needed to increase liquidity.  It’s easy to highlight the pace at which this market is growing by simply looking at the growth in SecondMarket’s transaction volume this year (in millions of dollars):

That growth is beyond impressive, and it should warm the heart of every employee, Founder and VC that holds shares in meaningful private companies because there is an emerging third option to monetizing their shares.   Where once monetization largely occurred through IPOs and acquisitions, increasingly, shareholders can sell their shares in the emerging market for private shares.   In addition to total volume, Second Market releases data on the volume of transaction by company.  Not surprisingly, Facebook is the dominant volume leader, averaging 42% of the market the last 3 month (scale .6 =60%).

Such heavy concentration is emblematic of the embryonic stage of development of this market.   NYSE daily volume leaders  generally comprise around 2% of total market volume on a given day.

What SecondMarket doesn’t release much information on is the buyers or sellers.  That said, we do have a sense that the increase in sellers is being driven by the participation of VC’s, who are increasingly seeing the secondary market as a liquidity option.  It turns out, that while the IPO market kind of shut, and the acquisition market slowed, the limited partners of the VC’s still want to get cash returns, and the secondary market is enabling that.  As far as the buyers, while second fund pioneers like Industry Ventures remain important players, new buyers are entering the market, including both institutions and individuals (who have to be accredited investors).  If you’re playing in this ecosystem let us know.

As the secondary market grows and liquidity increases, volumes will not only increase exponentially, but volume share will dissipate dramatically.  By the end of 2010, we believe volumes will surpass $200mm per month and Facebook will have less than 10% of volume share.  While $200 million in a month kind of sounds like a lot, Google trades that much volume every 40 minutes of every hour of every trading day.  Point being, buckle your seat belt, its going to be quite a ride for anybody playing in this marketplace.

Second Shares

We launched Second Shares to cover the secondary markets for internet businesses like Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.  We will conduct video interviews with founders, employees, investors and relevant industry insiders.  We’ll publish research analysis of these companies our valuations compared to their current trading valuations.

Second Shares will cover the entire secondary market ecosystem for internet companies, including companies that are not currently trading within the secondary market, but drive the growth of the companies that are trading in the secondary market.