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Facebook Acquires Gowalla, Tests Negative Feedback Feature, Expands in NYC

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Gowalla mobile screenFacebook will acquire privately held social networking firm Gowalla for an undisclosed sum in a bid to improve its location-based networking operations.

Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams revealed the deal in a post on the company's official blog. Once the sale is completed, Gowalla, based in Austin, Texas, will begin to shut down its operations and transfer staff to Facebook's Palo Alto, California, headquarters by the end of January 2012.

Gowalla has stressed that it will not sell or transfer any user data to Facebook. Gowalla has 2 million users worldwide.

Ray Valdes, research director for Internet platforms and web services at Gartner, believes the acquisition is primarily based on bringing in Gowalla's engineering team and, to a lesser extent, intellectual property.

"Facebook is unlikely to replace its own Places service with Gowalla, so the acquisition is not driven by acquiring a product or technology," he told V3. "The company is acquiring skilled, talented engineers who have experience in location-based social networking."

Gowalla's monetization efforts have seemed flailing for some time. One year ago, it launched an ill-fated local ads platform called Stamp Calendar, ClicZ notes. And in October, Gowalla said it was pivoting away from Foursquare's niche and focusing on becoming a travel-oriented app.

Speaking of Foursquare, ClickZ also reported that Foursquare now has 15 million users, tripling its base since this time last year. Half of the users reside in the U.S., while the other 50 percent are international.

Facebook Tests Negative Feedback Feature For Pages

Facebook is testing out a negative feedback measurement feature for its recently upgraded Page Insights product. When page administrators - who are in the test pool - click on the "engaged users" metric, they'll see the number of Facebook users who responded negatively to a brand post.

Facebook confirmed the test status of the feature via an email statement to ClickZ:

"This is measuring the negative feedback options that exist on Facebook, which means reporting on clicks that occur on News Feed stories (so any time a user hides or reports a News Feed page post as spam). We're showing which Page posts get some negative feedback from people because it helps Page admins know what type of content resonates best with their customers, so that they may improve their Page posting strategy long-term."

The test seems to potentially represent a shift from Facebook's perspective. When asked about negative sentiment analysis in October, David Baser, a product manager for the digital giant, told ClickZ News, "When we've researched this, we have found the vast, vast majority of content is positive. So we don't believe today there is any need for us to get into sentiment analysis products."

Facebook's NYC Expansion Includes Ad Talent

Most of the focus of Facebook’s announced New York City expansion focused on the hiring of more engineers, but tucked into COO Sheryl Sandberg's comments about hiring a slew of new technologists were her brief remarks that Facebook will also expand its ad sales and marketing team at its Madison Avenue office.

ClickZ News spoke with Carolyn Everson, Facebook VP of global marketing solutions, who confirmed that her company wants to bring aboard more marketing rainmakers, whether they are ad sales pros or creative talent.

"I'm really looking for people that understand marketing and business and who can help clients problem-solve," she said.

Even though it's still early in this last month of 2011, Everson's comments put a fitting bow on a year when Facebook aggressively began reaching out to brands and agencies - or "clients" - as a marketing consultant option for its own platform.

Facebook Studio was launched in April, providing Facebook marketers with a case study-driven community to exchange best practices. During August, Facebook's partnership with Nielsen culminated with a new so-called Gross Rating Point for online advertisers. Marketers using Nielsen's "Online Campaign Rating" service can know - based on Facebook data - the age and gender of up to 50 percent of the people seeing their web ads.

Facebook collaborated with Nielsen to hopefully make its ad units - especially Sponsored Stories - more attractive to marketers. Throughout 2011, Facebook repeatedly met with the agency world to discuss why social context ads can be effective, as well as brainstorm how they can be improved.

And it's hard to argue with the results - major brands have cottoned to the social site. Diageo, Walmart, and American Express are just a few of the big names that deepened their marketing relationships with Facebook during the past year.


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