GivingTales Children’s Storybook App Launches With Famous Narrators

GivingTales has announced the release of its children’s storybook app of the same name. Created in association with goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Sir Roger Moore, the GivingTales app aims to entertain children with modernized versions of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, narrated by famous actors and celebrities.

While free to download, GivingTales will donate 30 percent of the app’s revenue from in-app purchases to Unicef UK.

In each illustrated story, children can read along with the narrator thanks to highlighted text on the screen. Stories will progress automatically, and are condensed into a few minutes in length, but readers can pause or return to a previous page at any time.

At launch, Giving Tales features the voice talents of Sir Roger Moore, Ewan McGregor, Stephen Fry and Dame Joan Collins. The app features a single story for free, The Princess and the Pea (narrated by Sir Roger Moore), while additional stories are available for $3.99 each. These include The Emperor’s New Clothes (narrated by Dame Joan Collins), The Little Match Girl (narrated by Ewan McGregor) and The Ugly Duckling (narrated by Stephen Fry).

In a statement, Klaus Lovgreen, chairman of GivingTales, commented:

We’re overwhelmed by the initial support we’ve received, both from the celebrities affiliated with our project, as well as our ongoing relationship with the Unicef UK. Together, we hope to make a difference in the lives of many children around the world.

GivingTales is available to download for free on the iTunes App Store, Google Play and the Windows Phone Store. GivingTales plans to add additional stories and actors to the platform in future updates.

Microsoft, Google, and Harvard Business Review Among Top Brands on LinkedIn (Infographic)

Content marketing is an increasingly important tactic, and many marketers it is the most important digital trend for 2015. LinkedIn recognizes this trend and has been working to better tools for marketers using the platform. One such tool is the Content Marketing Score, and an infographic from Linkedin shows which global brands have ranked highest since the score launched last year.

The data was compiled by looking at six months of the activity of companies’ content marketing efforts on LinkedIn. The Content Marketing Score is based on a number of factors including company page updates, employee shares, Sponsored Updates, activities in Groups and Influence, and employee posts through the LinkedIn Publishing Platform.

The top 10 were mostly technology companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Google. However business publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Inc. magazine placed high overall.

When examining individual countries, local corporations tend to get better traction than international organizations. KLM Airlines in Netherlands, L’Oreal in France, Ericsson in Sweden, and BP in the U.K. all placed higher than worldwide leaders like Google.

These top companies all exhibit similar traits that have brought them to the top, such as engaging employees in the content marketing process, and posting updates about their company. Other recent study data supports the notion that engaging employees can be powerful motivator for brand advocacy.

To see top brands in other countries, or to see data on the habits of the most successful brands, view the infographic below.

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Facebook Testing ‘See First’ News Feed Customization Feature

Facebook continues to experiment with ways to let users customize their News Feeds, and See First, which appears to be an expansion of a test that was spotted in April, is the latest example.

In late April, some Facebook users began seeing a box with an animated puppy and the prompt, “See more of what you love,” which led to a screen with bubbles containing the profile pictures of friends and pages they had interacted with the most.

At that point, users were able to select which pages and friends to prioritize over Facebook’s News Feed algorithm.

Thursday, Josh Constine of TechCrunch shared the screenshots above and below of a feature called See First, which is appearing on select profiles and pages.

As the title suggests, See First allows users to specify that they want to always see content from the selected profiles or pages. Options also appear to unfollow or return to the default (the News Feed algorithm, presumably).

A Facebook spokesperson told Constine:

We are always exploring new ways to improve the Facebook experience, and we are currently running a small test of a feature that lets you indicate that you’d like to see posts from a specific person or page at the top of your News Feed.

That quote matches nearly word-for-word a statement Facebook provided to SocialTimes in April.

Readers: Would you like to see Facebook roll out this feature, or something similar?

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PBS NewsHour’s Facebook-First Video Series Is Brief but Spectacular

PBS NewsHour Thursday launched Brief but Spectacular, a video series that will appear on Facebook before going on-air.

Brief but Spectacular was created by Steve Goldbloom, and the debut installment featured spoken-word poet Sarah Kay. The segment will air during the broadcast of NewsHour Thursday evening.

Future guests on the series will include:

  • Transparent showrunner and director Jill Soloway
  • The Atlantic journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Comedy Central Broad City stars Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer

Goldbloom said in a release introducing Brief but Spectacular:

I find it refreshing to have an interview without the interviewer, so I am delighted to be working behind the scenes with my producing partner, Zach Land-Miller, on this project. I think of the series as a protein-packed news segment that will play well on television as well as through native video on Facebook. Working with NewsHour has been an enormous privilege and helps ensure high editorial standards for the series.

PBS NewsHour executive producer and WETA senior vice president Sara Just added:

A lot of us missed the essay segments on NewsHour, and we are happy to be bringing this feature back in an updated, digital first way. Steve’s style is modern and engaging and will introduce you to provocative voices and ideas.

Readers: Will you check out Brief but Spectacular?

How present are you in each moment of your life?Spoken word artist Sarah Kay explores time and place in our premiere of #BriefButSpectacular – NewsHour’s new Facebook-first series that every Thursday morning brings you snippets of insight from today’s artists, leaders and thinkers.

Posted by PBS NewsHour on Thursday, June 18, 2015

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Is Twitter’s Top-Secret Project Lightning Out To Kill Your Timeline?

Twitter, as has been written before, has a bit of a relevancy problem. Prominent investor Chris Sacca has written about it. Other investors are worried about it. The company is at an interesting stage of its evolution, following the resignation of CEO Dick Costolo.

Could Project Lightning be the answer for Twitter?

According to BuzzFeed … maybe.

BuzzFeed published details of Project Lightning, a topic and event-based browsing experience, rather than reverse chronological as Twitter has now. Sacca, in his post, noted that Twitter needs to make the experience easier for novice users who are looking for tweets around a certain topic or event, such as the NBA Finals or Orange Is the New Black.

Here’s what Project Lightning could be, but it’s still a few months away from launch, BuzzFeed writes:

On Twitter’s mobile app, there will be a new button in the center of the home row. Press it and you’ll be taken to a screen that will show various events taking place that people are tweeting about. These could be based on prescheduled events like Coachella, the Grammys, or the NBA Finals. But they might also focus on breaking news and ongoing events, like the Nepalese earthquake or Ferguson, Missouri. Essentially, if it’s an event that a lot of people are tweeting about, Twitter could create an experience around it.

A BuzzFeed artist created an image of what Project Lightning could look like:

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This would take a common problem with Twitter and turn it into a strength — a collective, event-based experience without having to commit to a follow. It would make Twitter much more easily accessible, gaining readers and potentially users who might find the initial setup of Twitter confusing.

Kevin Weil, senior vice president of product at Twitter, talked about Project Lightning with BuzzFeed:

There’s a beautiful connection to our strategy of reaching users on every platform. It’s not just logged-in Twitter, it’s logged-out, and it’s syndicated on other websites and mobile apps. This reaches all of them. The collections are a core part of our logged-in experience — that’s the point of being in the center tab. But you can easily imagine them as logged-out experiences telling about something happening now out in the world. And you can imagine them — and this is new — as collections and syndicating them across any website or mobile app.

Readers: If you’ve avoided Twitter, would this interest you?

Images courtesy of BuzzFeed.

Facebook Makes Ads Manager, Power Editor Easier to Use

Facebook Thursday announced significant updates to its Ads Manager and Power Editor tools to create and manage ads on the social network.

The changes are aimed at enabling advertisers to more easily buy, optimize and manage ad campaigns on Facebook, and updated versions of both Ads Manager and Power Editor will begin rolling out Thursday to “a small percentage of advertisers,” with a wider rollout “in the coming months.”

The social network outlined the changes to both tools in a Facebook for Business post, saying of Ads Manager:

Ads Manager continues to be the single destination for advertisers to create, edit and analyze Facebook ads, and now it features a streamlined layout that brings performance metrics to the forefront of the tool. That means advertisers can quickly reference how their ads are performing in the same environment where they create and edit them.

The Manage Ads section is the Ads Manager homepage and shows the ad account’s spend over the last week. When you click into a campaign, ad set or ad, the graph at the center of the page shows performance, audience and placement results. Advertisers can adjust the date range and filter performance data by ad objective, metric, delivery status and other custom options. Plus, they can automatically save and send reports at set intervals, so they don’t have to manually run and distribute reports.

Within the same environment, advertisers can create and edit multiple ads at once, speeding up the creation and editing process. Bulk editing makes it easy to change the targeting or budget of multiple ads at the same time, and the “create similar” tool helps advertisers quickly duplicate an ad, ad set or campaign.

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As for Power Editor:

Power Editor is designed for large businesses that need to create and track many ads at once. The new version of the tool offers a larger and more functional layout for creating ads and improvements to advanced search and bulk editing, so advertisers can easily find and edit existing ads and create new ones.

Power Editor’s new layout has an edit pane that gives advertisers more working space for editing ads and viewing campaign information. Plus, multiple ad selection helps advertisers edit ads, ad sets and campaigns faster.

Advertisers can find ads, ad sets or campaigns faster by searching by name or ID or by filtering by delivery status or objective. There are also new “recently edited” and “recently uploaded” filter options, so recent work is easy to find.

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Facebook director of ads product marketing Matthew Idema said in a statement emailed to SocialTimes:

We’ve been working closely with marketers and agencies of all sizes to understand what they need to improve the process of buying, optimizing and managing their ad campaigns. These significant upgrades to Ads Manager and Power Editor reflect our commitment to drive measurable business objectives.

Advertisers: What are your early impressions of the updates to Ads Manager and Power Editor?

2016 Candidates’ Announcement Days on Twitter (Infographic)

The announcement Tuesday by Donald Trump that he was throwing his hat into the ring sent the 2016 presidential season into high gear, but how did Trump and the other early favorites, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, fare on Twitter?

Social relationship platform provider Spredfast analyzed Twitter mentions within the first 24 hours of the announcements by Trump, Clinton and Bush, as well as the top associated hashtags.

Findings by Spredfast included:

  • Clinton edged Trump in terms of tweets on the days of their respective announcements, with Bush lagging well behind.
  • Bush was also the only candidate to see the most-used related hashtag have a negative connotation: #nomorebushes.
  • Trump’s comment during his speech about paying $3 for websites drew a lot of attention.

Readers: Who do you see as the early favorite?

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2016 election image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Garfield Turns 37, Receives New Mobile Games

Animoca Brands is celebrating Garfield’s 37th birthday in a big way, releasing two new games on mobile devices, while also offering users of existing Garfield games free in-game currency. Finally, some originally paid Garfield titles will be on sale (or even free) for a limited time.

The first new game, Garfield’s Epic Food Fight, is now available to download for free on Android. The match-three puzzle battle game challenges players to make matches with food symbols to help their team of heroes attack aliens. The game features 13 franchise characters at launch, including Jon, Liz, Nermal, Odie and more.

Meanwhile, Garfield Chef: Game of Food is now available for free on iOS. Another match-three game, Garfield Chef offers level-based gameplay, and sees players making matches with ingredients to prepare meals for Garfield. Levels become more challenging as players progress, and users have access to power-ups to help them out. Pooky, for instance, clears all ingredients in a chosen row and column, while a pot shuffles the board, and so on.

Until June 30, 2015, players of select Garfield mobile titles can claim gifts of free in-game currency worth approximately $5 for each game. This lineup includes Garfield’s Diner, Garfield’s Defense, Garfield’s Pet Hospital and many others.

In terms of sales, on June 19, 2015, iOS gamers will be able to download Feed Garfield, Feed Garfield HD and Garfield’s Escape for free, while Android players can download Garfield’s Escape Premium, Feed Garfield Premium and Home Sweet Garfield Live Wallpaper for free from now until June 19, 2015. Those three apps will be available for just $0.10 from June 20 to June 27, 2015. Finally, from June 19 to June 25, 2015, players on Amazon devices can download Garfield’s Escape Premium and Feed Garfield Premium for $0.99.

Animoca Brands has been developing and publishing Garfield mobile games since 2011. Those games have surpassed 45 million total downloads worldwide.

In a statement, Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands, commented on this success:

Our partnership with Paws, Inc. to develop and publish Garfield mobile games has proved not only highly advantageous but also great fun. We’re absolutely delighted to have the fat lazy cat in our brand portfolio and we look forward to making plenty more games based on him and his companions.

Mobile Enables Sharing of ‘Personal, Relevant’ Moments via Facebook, Instagram

Facebook IQ examined how the emergence of mobile technology has change the way people share moments, and how that sharing has become more personal and relevant.

The social network’s insights arm pointed to the shift from the “rigid 15-, 30- and 60-second frameworks” demanded by television ads to the types of sharing that occur via mobile devices, saying in its introduction:

People have always had these moments in their lives. But marketers never had the opportunity to take part—until mobile. Mobile has given us the opportunity to capitalize on these very important, highly personal and uniquely relevant moments. It has never been easier to find the right people or the right moments.

In the time it takes us to take a breath, there are 1 million moments of mobile discovery happening on Facebook and Instagram—that’s well over 20 trillion moments of mobile discovery each year. On the surface, some of these moments may feel ordinary. But dig deeper, and they belie extraordinary insights.

Facebook IQ also offered up the following examples:

Take the moment experienced by many new parents, for instance: the up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-when-you’re-feeding-or-rocking-your-baby-back-to-sleep moment. Through our research, we found that new parents in the U.S. are active on Facebook in the wee hours, with their first mobile sessions of the day starting as early as 4 a.m. and peaking at 7 a.m. We also found that new parents in the U.S. overindex 1.5 times on mobile versus non-parents. With a baby in their arms and a phone in their hands, mobile is new parents’ connection to the wider world and a medium they can readily consume.

Or take the moment when people discover a new TV show. We found that, for many people in the U.S., that moment of discovery is now happening online. This is especially true for millennials, three in five of whom go online to discover new TV shows. What that means is they are no longer discovering entertainment content solely on the screens where they consume it. And Facebook is playing a part in that, with two-thirds of adults saying that they discover TV shows on Facebook.

Then there are seasonal moments like summer, which is about to officially begin in the U.S. Our research found that people’s No. 1 summer association is “relaxation,” yet they say that their No. 1 goal for summer is to get in shape. Summer hashtags related to #fitness on Instagram highlight people’s #motivation to #exercise, #eatclean and make #healthychoices. As people unwind by taking advantage of the many activities that summer has to offer, expect to see the rise of “relaction”—relaxing through action.

Finally, Facebook IQ offered the following takeaways for marketers:

  • Be personal: Thanks to mobile, people are connecting around millions of personal moments every day—from wedding announcements to birth announcements, from birthdays to beach days and from training for a marathon to watching a TV marathon. By understanding more about moments that matter to people, brands can deliver highly creative, personally relevant experiences that matter more to their consumers.
  • Be precise: Thanks also to mobile, people are creating and consuming many little moments in rapid-fire succession. To resonate and stand out among the multitude of moments, brands need to be precise in their messaging and targeting—delivering the right creative to the right person at the right moment, like byte-sized, image-heavy content that delights a new mom rocking her baby back to sleep in the middle of the night or encourages millennials to go out or chill out in summer.
  • Be persistent: People are sharing—and sharing in—their own and each other’s moments every day and everywhere, especially on mobile. As moments play out on the device that is omnipresent in people’s lives, brands need to establish a persistent mobile strategy. By being personal, precise and persistent, marketers can leverage these ordinary moments to make their brands extraordinary.

Readers: What did you think of Facebook IQ’s findings?

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Pinterest Announces Marketing Developer Partners for Ads

In April, Pinterest announced its Marketing Developer Partners program, giving a few companies at launch special access to the site’s platform. Now, Pinterest is opening up its ads application programming interface (API) to select companies.

Pinterest announced that 4C, Adaptly, Ampush, Brand Networks, HYFNKinetic Social, SocialCode and SocialFlow are the first Marketing Developer Partners using the company’s ads API, blogs Pinterest’s Jyri Kidwell:

We selected these partners because they’re building tools that address the immediate needs of Pinterest marketers and share in our vision of creating a better discovery experience for Pinners.

Pinterest is already seeing advertisers enjoy success via Marketing Developer Partners. Lingerie brand Adore Me has seen a 4,000 percent increase in Pinterest-referred revenue after working with 4C.

Adaptly, one of the limited beta partners of Pinterest’s ads API, has used the technology to help clients such as King’s Hawaiian, Framebridge and WedPics. Adaptly was so excited to work with Pinterest that employees created a real-life “pin board.”

Nikhil Sethi, the company’s co-founder and CEO, commented on the news in a blog post:

We are pleased to be partnering with Pinterest on the launch of their MDP Ads API and are excited about the progress we have already made together. We are confident that we have the most robust and powerful software solution for Pinterest advertising.

Ampush has also been using Pinterest’s ads API with clients such as Twice.

Jesse Pujji, Ampush’s CEO and founder, is excited to be part of the program:

Pinterest’s immersive experience and highly engaged, rapidly growing global user base makes it a no-brainer for marketers seeking to grow their businesses. This integration advances our strategy of providing one platform with which the CMO can buy media across mobile first, identity-based, in-feed ad platforms. We can’t wait to unleash our powerful marketing software and unbeatable expertise for customers eager to perform on Pinterest.

James Borow, CPO of Brand Networks, described how this will help clients gain traction on Pinterest:

Pinterest understands the value of incorporating relevant advertising content into the user experience. Pinners are already posting and sharing products that inspire them and branded content can help connect those users with the companies that can bring their ideas to life. Essentially, Pinterest can become a one stop shop for both discovery and purchase. With this new MDP program, Pinterest is leveraging the best partners to help monetize the platform, without sacrificing user experience. We believe that opening the API to partners creates an ecosystem of innovation, to help bring Pinterest to the next level for marketers and consumers.

4C CMO Aaron Goldman:

Pinterest has proven to be a strong source of consumer engagement for brands and opening up an Ads API to partners like 4C makes the network even more accessible. One of 4C’s clients, eBay, has seen a step change in qualified traffic from Pinterest since adopting promoted pins through our platform. Another client, Adore Me, quantified the lift at 4000% in revenue from Pinterest after using 4C to manage its ads. And yet another, Demand Media, saw improvements in metrics like click-through rate and cost-per-click by using 4C technology. It’s clear that Pinterest has become a key channel that all advertisers need to consider as part of their paid media plans and today’s announcement should help accelerate that momentum.

AdRoll Launches Prospecting, A Customer Acquisition Platform

AdRoll, a Facebook Exchange partner, announced Wednesday the launch of AdRoll Prospecting — a new way for marketers to acquire customers.

AdRoll Prospecting allows advertisers to pool first-party customer data, creating a set of potential customers in the AdRoll IntentMap. So far, more than 1,000 advertisers have opted in, ranging from small businesses to large enterprises. This gives them access to more than a billion diverse (yet anonymous) user profiles.

AdRoll president and CMO Adam Berke talked about the new development in a press release:

This launch represents a new chapter in AdRoll’s mission of helping performance advertisers. AdRoll Prospecting and the IntentMap represent a new way for marketers to leverage their valuable customer data, using it as a currency to gain access to high value audiences. When diversified first-party data is pooled at scale, our entire network benefits with better performance and incremental new customers.

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Once an advertiser has opted-in to participate in AdRoll’s IntentMap, the Prospecting platform targets the net new user that have similar behavioral patterns to the business’ existing customers — essentially opening up a Lookalike Audiences-type targeting to AdRoll clients. AdRoll notes that when one person is in the market for a product, they’re often a good candidate for similar, complementary products.

Advertisers using Prospecting have seen an average of 10 percent lift in engagement, compared to organic. ZenPayroll, a beta client, saw an 8x lift in retargeting clicks and a 20 percent rise in conversions.

Karl Newlin, PPC marketing specialist at ZenPayroll, has been satisfied with AdRoll Prospecting:

Our experience to date with AdRoll Prospecting has been great. We target small businesses and AdRoll has been able to deliver us high quality leads right from the start of our campaign. Not only is Prospecting exceeding our cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goal, but the new audiences generated by these campaigns see an 8X click-through-rate (CTR) on retargeting campaigns compared to other sources. The big benefit of Prospecting is the unique data set, which allowed us to easily reach our niche of potential customers in a way we couldn’t with other platforms.

Top Markets by Percentage for WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat (Infographic)

WhatsApp is to South Africa as Snapchat is to Ireland as WeChat is to China.

GlobalWebIndex determined the top markets for those three messaging applications, in terms of percentage of usage by online adults.

GWI said in an email to SocialTimes:

A service like WhatsApp is typical of the 15 or so chat apps we track globally in that fast-growth nations that tend to dominate the top 10. South Africa posts the highest figure of all, an impressive 68 percent, but Malaysia, India and Mexico are not far behind. That’s a result of online populations in these countries being skewed towards young, urban and affluent demographics, which are at the very forefront of smartphone usage.

Snapchat is something of an exception to the prevailing geographic pattern, though, with mature Internet markets accounting for the majority of the top 10. Usage among teens is also much higher than these overall adoption figures.

Elsewhere, the success of WeChat in the Asia-Pacific region is typical of this being the region where Facebook’s two messaging apps face their biggest challenge. In fact, Line is tops in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand; BBM is wildly popular in Indonesia; Kakao Talk leads in South Korea; Zalo is significant in Vietnam; and WeChat has the Chinese market sewn up. All this makes it pretty clear that APAC is the region yet to fully succumb to WhatsApp and Messenger.

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E3 2015: 3 Queens Reveals Creeping With the Crudashians for Mobile

At E3 2015, 3 Queens released its first match-three game, Creeping with the Crudashians, in invite-only beta. A parody of the popular television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the game stars characters including Cym, Crusty, Crassy, Crawley and more, with the game having a bit of fun with the major life milestones and events in the Crudashians’ lives, based on their career timelines.

In each level of Creeping with the Crudashians, players have an overall goal of gaining more talent and fame, which serve as currency. Since the game is supported via in-app purchases, players can purchase additional fame, but can’t purchase talent. Levels will become more difficult as players progress, and fame can be used to purchase special items to aid in progression.

3 Queens is an all woman-owned game development and publishing company, based in South Carolina. In a statement, Cara Florence, co-founder of 3 Queens, commented:

To see all of the team’s hard work come to life is a great feeling and we are excited to unveil the game exclusively to those attending E3. Although Creeping with the Crudashians is a fun and creative game in its own right, our goal is to also use this opportunity to inspire other women to successfully compete in a predominately male industry.

Creeping with Crudashians is expected to release to the public on iOS and Android in July 2015.

3 Queens is hosting a social media campaign at E3, and will be giving away a Phantom Drone to one lucky entrant who has downloaded the game and logs in through Facebook, or who follows the game’s Twitter account and tweets this phrase: “I want the drone, @Crudashians! #CreepingWithTheCrudashians #CrudDrone #Booth2843 #E32015.”

Check out more of our E3 2015 coverage:

Here’s Why It’s Important That Social Networks Are Opening Up Gender Preferences

There’s a refreshing shift in social networking today, as many sites are going beyond male and female, allowing users to include the gender with which they truly identify.

Facebook was an early pioneer in this (despite controversy over mandating that users have their real name), and Pinterest recently updated to let users put in a custom gender.

The facet of true box-less self expression helped launch Ello into popularity, and Google+ and OKCupid also cater to those who don’t feel comfortable labeling themselves as either female or male. Twitter does not ask for a gender in the registration process.

Tilde Pier, a software engiqueer at Pinterest, discussed with SocialTimes why it is important for social networks to allow users to identify with the gender they truly feel represents themselves:

lwtThe right to self-identify in a way that fits you is a basic human right. Most people see gender as binary, and are more or less comfortable in one of the boxes. For folks who don’t, even small things such as finding a bathroom you can use comfortably are a struggle. Online spaces are particularly important for gender-variant folks. The relative anonymity and privacy of the internet makes it possible to explore and play with aspects of one’s identity in ways that aren’t possible in the physical world. Anything we can do to make Pinterest and other sites a safer space for marginalized groups of people is important.

Pier said that enabling a custom gender option was a “fairly straightforward feature,” taking only a few weeks to develop and implement:

This is just a first step for us, and we have additional improvements in the works that are more ambitious, and will hopefully provide an even better experience for Pinners.

As more and more LGBTQ people around the world join and become active on social sites, these companies are recognizing that it’s important for them to be accepted members of the community.

Google+ introduced custom gender options in December, as Google’s Rachael Bennett posted:

For many people, gender identity is more complex than just “male” or “female.”  Starting today, I’m proud to announce that Google+ will support an infinite number of ways to express gender identity, by giving you the option to customize the way your gender is represented on your profile.

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Last February, Facebook took a key step by allowing users to identify as gender-neutral. Facebook users can determine if they want to be addressed as a male, female or neutral.

Facebook’s Diversity page posted about this ability, developed in collaboration with leading LGBT advocacy organizations:

Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own. As before, you can add up to ten gender terms and also have the ability to control the audience with whom you would like to share your custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.

The site also has privacy settings in place so users can determine how public their gender preference is within their network. Later, the site added gender-neutral options for family members and a free form for users to identify however they wish.

Ryan Beaver, the operations manager at The Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County (roughly an hour east of San Francisco), is excited about the work done by social networks to accommodate those who don’t feel right selecting male or female:

It is very validating to be able to be your authentic self online. Its an important step in the social transition process to be able to change your name, pictures, pronouns, and identity categories when you feel ready. For many people, social transition in the work world doesn’t yet feel like an option due to fear of rejection, transphobia, and social stigma.

For some folks, the online community might be the only place they get to transition. So having a space to do that with the support of friends can make all the difference in someone’s life, and the structural organization of a site in allowing for more options can go a long ways toward that!

He noted that while major networks such as Facebook and Pinterest have established these guidelines, inclusion of a custom gender option is a key factor for those who want to be active on smaller networks.

Beaver talked with SocialTimes about how, even with custom gender options, many LGBTQ people are skeptical of social networks. The value of free expression often comes at odds with the need by companies for demographic-based ad targeting to users with accurately-represented profiles. Facebook has come under fire for its real name policy, as people have seen profiles suspended or closed because of pseudonyms. Groups such as #MyNameIs have protested Facebook in person and online about this issue.

But for queer or trans* users whose preferred name isn’t always on their driver’s license, this poses a problem, Beaver said:

The trouble is that it is difficult to get verification of a preferred name for trans* spectrum folk before name change paperwork has been filed, because most of the verification options (driver’s license, credit card, school records also reference legal name and are resistant to changing without a legal name change.) This can make it hard to be your authentic self on a site like Facebook, because they will lock down your account if you aren’t able to meet their verification standards.

Readers: What else do you feel social networks need to do to be more accommodating?

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.