2012 was the year that Social Media was no longer regarded as the ‘add-on’ service, or the ‘we should be doing it but we don’t know why’ service. It’s the year that its cultural and political influence was established, and its business potential was confirmed.
Social Media is inherent in all of our projects, whether it’s an ecommerce build or an SEO campaign, and this year we’ve had some fantastic Social Media successes for clients which have demonstrated its business worth.
We’re saying goodbye to 2012 by taking a look back on our five most memorable Social Media highlights of the year:
The growing popularity of Pinterest
In January this year, Pinterest hit 11.7 million monthly visitors, and recent stats have now indicated that Pinterest is the sixth most-used social network in the US. The social bookmarking site has enjoyed a surge of popularity this year, and its success has inspired the appearance and functionality of new social sites, as well as some ecommerce sites too.
The new Myspace for example, has adopted the Pinterest grid layout, and our Content Strategist Scott Mason identified that the blog sections on the sites of retail giants such as Marks & Spencer and ASOS have also incorporated the sleek design.
Branded3’s Social Media Strategist Fiona Dunphy comments on the impact of Pinterest this year, and how it fits in with the social media direction of 2012:
“Social networks are beginning to focus heavily on enabling users to share and collaborate on the kind of content we like to consume – pictures, videos and music – and are therefore becoming a lot less one-dimensional.”
Pinterest has also now launched pages exclusively for businesses, offering buttons and widgets for them to embed on their websites to encourage pinners to pin images or content from your site onto their boards.
Facebook’s many updates
It’s been a busy ol’ year for those at Facebook headquarters, with a whole heap of new features being introduced over the course of 2012. Branded3’s talented Social Media & Online PR Executive Georgia Halston took a look at these features on the blog last month, but below is a brief overview of what Facebook’s been busy with:
Facebook Gifts were announced in September this year, just in time to take advantage of the Christmas present-buying hype. The introduction of social commerce on the king of social platforms was always inevitable, and it helps users out by prompting them on special occasions to physically send a gift to a loved one.
The social network has also updated its ‘nearby’ tab on Android and iOS apps, allowing users to find places near to them based on the likes and recommendations of friends. Businesses especially stand to gain from this update.
Android and iOS Facebook app users can now also share content from their smartphones, the absence of this function was noticeable for some time, and now 600 million plus monthly mobile users can share posts, images and videos the same way desktop users can.
Reaching its billion-user milestone this year, Facebook is undoubtedly still a hugely influential social platform, but industry figures have noted its continual updates and tweaks as signs of desperation – are Facebook bosses fearing a Myspace-esque downfall is nigh?
The rise of live event Tweeting
2012 has unquestionably been a supreme year for the UK, and social media has been at the very heart of the country’s successes. July and August saw our capital play host to the 27th Olympic Games, and with Great Britain winning a staggering 29 gold medals, the whole country was behind the athletes in rapturous support.
In what has been described as the first ‘Social Olympics’, the games prompted 39% of UK adults to comment online during the events, resulting in more tweets in a single day during the London games than the entire 17-day competition in Beijing in 2008.
Thanks to Social Media, Olympics fans were able to get closer to the athletes than ever before, with the sporting heroes tweeting pictures of where they were, who they were with, what they were up to, and of course, their reactions when winning those coveted medals.
For the first time, the public were able to join in on their triumphs as they were happening, sharing their emotions and revelling in their patriotic joy.
But it wasn’t just the Brits who took to social media this year; the Twitter population was out in force during the US elections to show their support for either President Obama or Mitt Romney.
During the October debates, Romney’s Twitter and Facebook popularity grew with his fan base, and the amount of Twitter mentions both parties received were extremely close, but Obama brought it back during the final stages and won the social media battle as well as the election.
Obama’s popularity on Twitter soared in the aftermath, with his victory tweet becoming the most re-tweeted tweet this year within just a matter of hours.
Branded3’s Head of Content, Mark Bowering has picked this out as a particularly memorable highlight for Social Media this year, not just for the staggering statistics, but for its indication that social media really is the voice of the people.
The commercialisation of Social Media
With the sheer influential and cultural capacity of Social Media confirmed, businesses and brands have embraced its potential like never before, and the Social Media networks seem only too happy to help out this year.
Our Online PR & Social Media Specialist, Laura Crimmons, comments on this move towards commercialisation:
“The past 12 months have seen the most aggressive shift towards paid advertising on social media platforms than ever before. Spurred on by the Facebook IPO (the biggest in technology and internet history) back in May, Facebook has made a substantial effort to drive brands towards its paid advertising.”
Facebook’s ‘Sponsored Stories’ were introduced this year which offers an alternative to the standard Facebook Ads, enabling brands and businesses to boost the reach of their comments and actions by placing them on the right-hand side of the page.
However, a change to their EdgeRank formula back in October meant that ‘feed’ priority will be given to the posts from pages which have high engagement, meaning many small businesses won’t be able to compete with those pages of worldwide brands.
Whether this is a move by Facebook to encourage businesses to engage more with their customers, or persuade them to pay for Ads is an on-going debate.
Twitter Advertising also launched this year, allowing businesses and brands to either promote their accounts to gain followers, promote their tweets to extend their reach, or promote a trend; and all can be targeted towards specific demographics.
One question we’re always asked regarding Social Media is ‘how can I measure and demonstrate ROI?’ This year, social networks have increased how we can track engagement and reach. Alongside their Advertising, Twitter offers two levels of detailed analytics to advertisers showing the status of paid activity, and also organic activity.
Similarly, Facebook has made their Insights tool much clearer and detailed, tracking the virality of posts and demographics of ‘likes’.
The new Myspace
When the preview video was released for the new Myspace back in September, it sparked an email debate here at Branded3 between those who were optimistic about its new dawn, and those who disparaged that Myspace could ever shake off its embarrassing downfall.
When it was released in beta earlier this month, many applauded its sleek, fresh, responsive design; but were still unsure whether what was beneath the surface would entice people enough to persuade them to add Myspace to their daily social usage.
Trying to find its niche in the cluttered Social Media landscape, Myspace boasts horizontal scrolling, the ability to turn your whole screen into a search bar, and a swish Library feature where you can discover, listen to, and share music.
“It has the photo detail of Instagram, the micro-blogging aspect of Twitter, Facebook’s general connectivity and a facet of imagery attributed only to Pinterest. On top of that, the new Myspace has taken on a whole new over lying paradigm, that of music.”
In the unpredictable world of Social, there’s no knowing whether or not Myspace will ‘take-off’ and reach the dizzy heights of the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but we believe it offers everything to do just this, and we can’t wait to find out what 2013 brings for the platform.
What was your Social Media highlight of 2012?
Tell us in the comments below!