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Last week, Yahoo brought together a panel led by Patrick Albano, VP Sales of Social, Mobile and Innovation, to talk about how Yahoo is using its own content across social media.

The panel focused on the integration of Facebook’s Open Graph into their home page and the use of Social Bar, a tool that allows advertisers to ask consumers questions through the ads themselves.

Yahoo, like most brands, is looking to harness the power of social content. Yahoo's social media goals are pretty much the same as most brands. Deepen audience engagement, bring users back to the main website whenever possible, amplify messages, stimulate positive sentiment, and anchor marketing programmes and big events into its social media campaigns. But why is this important for Yahoo to do?

Yahoo’s main audience until now has been 30-40 year olds which makes sense as Yahoo would have been their main news source when they were in college. People grew up with Yahoo. Since using Facebook's Open Graph on its homepage to help users navigate content that their friends are reading on Yahoo, the company has found that 70% of people using this are under 30. This is obviously a big change for Yahoo and could help it become more relevant to a new audience if they innovate.

As for advertising, Yahoo is looking to create socially active ads and is exploring how social amplification and ads go together. This puts ads as a part of a sharing element and not just as a logo on something unrelated. This is why they've created the Social Bar. Brands can ask a user a question and they can engage with the ad. The interaction is then in their Facebook feed and is sharable, as is the nature of Facebook. So far there are 25 million users with social bar installed.

Is this going to bring Yahoo back to the forefront?

What Yahoo demonstrated is interesting but isn't new or exciting. Other content providers are doing the same as them and more.

Yahoo have spent the first five years of social connecting people and the next five years is going to be about the crazy things they can do with them. Maybe what they are doing is enough for its current users, but Yahoo doesn't appear to be going out on a limb. Robin Zucker, Yahoo's marketing director, commented that social is not just Facebook and Twitter. She said Yahoo is experimenting with new social platforms but it appears that its integration is mainly based around Facebook at the moment.

Yahoo are looking to innovate on its own site through editorial, social and the personalisation of those but it feels as if the company is now following instead of leading. It has no plans to create its own social networks, which would be fine, but Yahoo currently owns social platforms such as Flickr. The photo sharing site once had great potential as a social platform but is now, for most people, falling off the radar.

As brands move further into mobile and original video content, the question is, will Yahoo pick up the pace or will it continue to play safe and stay one step behind. According to Zucker, "Social is at the big kids table," but it appears Yahoo may be looking to retain its seat.

Heather Taylor

Published 27 February, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

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