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Summary:

For third-quarter social media and real-time technologies, most of the action was in consumer services, and much of it — from social gaming to location-based services and advertising dollars — was influenced by Facebook. Here is a brief look back at the NewNet action highlights from last quarter.

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Social media and real-time technologies — what we call NewNet — produced mostly consumer-oriented activity in the third quarter of 2010. Cloud computing services delivering ERP and collaboration functions adopted some NewNet-style user interfaces, but as I write in my quarterly wrap-up in GigaOM Pro, most of the action was in consumer services and much of it influenced by Facebook. Lets take a look at some of social media’s highlights from last quarter:

Social Media Advertising on the Rise
With widespread social media adoption established in the U.S., advertisers started opening their pocketbooks again. Forecasters project $2 billion in near-term spending, but few marketers are actually exploiting the unique characteristics of the medium. Facebook’s advertising sophistication is already separating it from the pack. In fact, eMarketer says Facebook is collecting half of all ad dollars in social media. Twitter and others, meanwhile, are scrambling to catch up.

Where are the Big Guys?
Among those scramblers are the traditional online and technology leaders like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Google’s NewNet strategy is blurry, but it launched key initiatives this quarter. Apple built a walled-garden social network that hints at the future of social commerce. AOL made some acquisitions, but they’re pretty squarely in the traditional online media space. You can talk about the innovator’s dilemma, pandas and lobsters or just incompatible corporate DNA. Whatever the “why,” the big guys need to figure out some kind of “how” or they’ll cede technology leadership to the new guys. Failing to deliver in NewNet technologies weakens their platform-based ecosystems and will ultimately cost them potential revenues and customers.

Location on the Rise
While location-based services remain a minority activity, they’re getting a lot of attention. Facebook justified the category when it launched Places in August. Will that service grow user awareness of the category, or just kill off the competitors? Early indications point to the former. Foursquare, for instance, bragged that it had its biggest day ever in terms of new user sign-ups after the Places announcement.

Signs of Facebook Social Media Dominance?
MySpace became the latest company to acknowledge Facebook’s audience domination, and in late August, it introduced Sync with Facebook. A month later, Facebook announced that 2 million web sites were using Facebook social plugins like its Like button, activity feed display, recommended articles and widgets for photos of your friends on the site. Even The Gray Lady herself — the New York Times — adopted Facebook Connect.

Each quarter, the NewNet industry bemoans the fact that so much innovation and control seems to come from so few companies. The third quarter was no different. Facebook remains the chief beneficiary of this centralization, and seems to cause panic even when it doesn’t introduce something. Say, a phone, for instance.

Read the full report here.

Image source: flickr user mararie

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