2011 was a year of Social Surprises. From the land rush of Google+ to the meteoric rise and fall of Charlie Sheen.
So what made this year so full of fun? Here is my list:
2011 Top 10 Social Surprises
- Charlie Sheen.
March 2011: The world watched in awe as Charlie Sheen imploded, then exploded, and with the help of #tigerblood and Twitter captured everyone's attention like a deer-in-the-headlights-car-wreck. 5.4 million Twitter followers and 1.8 million Facebook fans have undoubtedly shared their opinions about the former Two and a Half Men with you personally. And even now, in December 2011, AOL reports that Charlie Sheen remains the top-searched celebrity on their service. #winning.
If you didn't get your Google+ account within days of the June 28, 2011 launch, you no doubt got it soon thereafter. The site garnered more media attention than any other high-tech launch, and in just two weeks, had 10 million members. In four weeks, that grew to 25 million members, and currently has around 40 million users. Some are heralding Google+ as a success, and others are calling it another in the string of social media failures launched by Google (remember orkut, Google Friend Connect or Google Buzz?).
- Facebook Changes.
Facebook rolled out some pretty significant changes this year. While some like Timeline are still coming, others have made their way into the zeitgeist of our Facebook experience. It seems like only yesterday that the Stream was rolled out, to furious users. With Google+ chomping away at Facebook's lead, they made some positive changes to Lists, adding additional privacy, and enhancing features like Photos, Subscriptions, and video chat. At the end of the year, it seems that Facebook is earning its reputation as the place most Americans visit online.
- Groupon's IPO.
Okay, to be fair, GroupOn was in a "quiet period," the weeks after an IPO that they're not allowed to say anything that would affect the stock price. But in the weeks leading up to this Christmas, there's concern that online "deals" have become commonplace, and there's not much of a competitive advantage for GroupOn, compared to rivals LivingSocial, Google Offers, Eversave, Bloomspot, DealFind, FatWallet, LevelUp, and a bunch more. Businesses are finding that the loss leading deals aren't attracting the right kind of customers, and customers are becoming so used to the deals that they won't pay retail prices for things they know they can get deals on. Currently, GroupOn stock is trading below its initial public offering price, not a good sign of things to come.
- Email Lives On.
Email is dead! Long live email! Despite the fact that email has been predicted to die much more quickly than it has, email remains a cornerstone of online activity. In August, Pew Research released the results of a survey of Internet users that shows that search and email remain the most popular activities online. A couple of things are striking: Email and Search are holding steady, despite those that think social media is leading to their demise. At the same time, Social Media continues its meteoric rise.
- Facebook Places goes nowhere.
At the beginning of the year, there were predictions that Foursquare would be eclipsed by Facebook Places. But in August, Facebook announced that it was quietly killing the feature. Maybe killing is a strong word. The feature has evolved to be the way you tag an activity in Facebook, allowing users to say where they are, who they're with, along with what they're doing. In a surprising move, Facebook recently hired the team behind Gowalla, but didn't acquire the technology. Gowalla announced that they're shutting the service down in January 2012.
For the life of me, I still can't figure out why Nutella is in the Top 20 Brand Facebook Pages. I understand why Coca-Cola has 36 million fans, Disney is creeping up on 30 million fans, and Starbucks has 26 million fans. But it's still hard to guess why Nutella has 11.8 million fans. A few months ago, they finally began paying attention to their Facebook Page. They averaged a few posts a month until recently, and began to pick up the pace in August, but they remained one of the top brands on Facebook. Don't get me wrong. The stuff rocks. My daughter eats it like it's, well, Nutella. But for those who offer social media advice to brands, the only explanation is that a great product with a loyal customer base can do a lot of word of mouth marketing with or without the help of the brand.
- Arab Spring.
The social unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain,Syria, and Yemen, are all being fueled by the pervasive use of social media. Never before in history have people been able to work together to enact social change. It's true. The world is flat.
Ivan Cash did this topic justice, when he published the "Infographic of Infographics." Or if you're like Phil Gyford or ThinkBrilliant, you might just think it's a bit too much. Do you agree with VentureBeat, that " Infographics have jumped the shark?" Ya, me too.
- Social ROI stillnot defined.
Social Media is not new. It has become a solid staple of marketing plans for every business. And nearly everyone understands that social media is an important part of how people share information. So how much is a tweet worth? How much should a company invest in getting someone to "Like" their brand on Facebook? What is word of mouth worth? Despite 74% of CMO's predicting 2011 as the year Social Media ROI would be defined, it's still a moving target. Our advice to clients? Start by mapping social media goals to organizational goals. Maybe it's sales, maybe it's customer retention. Or maybe it's awareness. Once you've defined exactly what you want to do, knowing whether you've done it through social media is a lot easier.
2011 has been an amazing year for those of us involved in social media. I'm proud of the work I've done with clients, and we've seen a lot of progress across all fronts. More than anything, though, I've seen that a lot of what we all predicted hasn't happened the way we thought it would.
Bottom line: Stay flexible. Remain vigilant. 2012 will have even more surprises, good or bad.
Need help riding the rapids of digital marketing? Metia has offices in Seattle, New York, London, and Singapore, and we have teams of designers, developers, analysts, and project managers to help create engaging brand experiences. We'd love to be a part of your plans.
Hackathon Dallas tomorrow