Having looked at what what 2012 holds for search, web analytics and e-commerce, now it's time to look at social media.

I've been asking some of our guest bloggers about 2011 in social media, and what they see as the major trends in the coming year. 

What were the most significant social media trends in 2011?

Jonathan Beeston, Global Marketing Director at Efficient Frontier 

There’s no doubt that this year UK brands have really started to take social seriously, especially Facebook.  

Brands have been quick to use a Facebook page as a call to action as well as, or sometimes instead of, a web site URL.  Though quite often, there’s still a lot to be desired for many brand pages, few are truly social or engaging.  

‘Having a Facebook page’ in 2011 feels a lot like ‘having a website’ felt in 2001.

Henry Ellis, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar:

I was relieved to see that 2011 was the first year where people gave up saying “What is the next Facebook going to be?” and instead concentrated on how they could actually use sites like Facebook and Twitter to better reach their audiences.

I guess that’s a sign that they’re truly here to stay. It also seemed to be the year when people finally realised the power of apps, with virtually every major brand releasing at least one in the past 12 months.

The notion of “influence” also seemed to strike a chord in 2011, with services like PeerIndex and Klout becoming flavour of the month, and agencies and brands alike actually listening to influencers rather than just hoping to attract them.

On the flip side, Google seemed to miss quite a few tricks in 2011, despite the hype around Google+, it failed to make any significant impact in 2011.

Location-based services also seemed to have a much quieter year than expected, perhaps due to their movement from being a novelty to actually mainstream players that needed to prove their worth.

Steve Richards, MD at Yomego:

Social is now becoming mainstream. It has proven its value in terms of customer service, customer engagement and brand now realise that positive advocacy equals more sales.

Streaming of live events in social spaces was a trend too (Milyoni). “Gamification” was also never far from the tip of everyone’s tongue this year, with many brands launching their own apps and games, and trying to use social mechanics and incentives to drive customers to action.

Results, however, were sketchy. I don’t think we’ve seen this trend peak yet.

What are your favourite social media campaigns from 2011? 

Jonathan Beeston:

Cravendale have done some great stuff, I particularly like Cats with Thumbs.

Steve Richards:

Firstly, the Innocent “Tweet and Eat” campaign. Some people have criticised the mechanic as being a bit spammy, but I think it’s interesting in a few ways. It’s an ongoing campaign, rather than a shiny piece of content that is heavily shared for a few days, then forgotten.

Also, it enables the brand to track redemption and attribute a clear and direct ROI from social media, which is obviously the holy grail for most social media marketers.

Another standout campaign was Intel’s “Museum of me”. It’s great to see a mostly B2B business with a very technical product running a social campaign that speaks to people on a personal level.

Mostly the big social campaigns we see are run by sexy FMCG brands, but this campaign breaks the mould and I think we’ll see a lot more B2B brands branching out in social in the coming months.

We also liked the Oakley facebook app where Rory McIlroy personally challenged you to a round of golf and you then shared so you could see if your friends fared any better.

Burberry’s sample store on Facebook, Heinz’s personalised cans and the Muppets Movie campaign (Google Hangout) were also noteworthy. All of these campaigns pushed the boundaries by harnessing new technology and this will also underpin the best campaigns of 2012.

How do you see social media developing in 2012? 

Jonathan Beeston:

I’m sure Facebook is going to carry on its momentum and continue to be the focus of many brands activities when they are thinking about social.  

However, there’s still a lot of work to be done figuring out the really value of fans, shares and interactions and how they translate to the bottom line.  But there’s no reason why this can’t done and we’ll start to see research on this pretty early into the year.

Personally, I think 2012 is a make or break year for Twitter. There’s still an opportunity for it to be a serious social player for earned and paid media, but right now it’s hard to see what that is.  

The success of Twitter's self-service ad product will determine whether it can be the next billion dollar internet media company, or the next MySpace.

Henry Ellis:

With the recent announcement of more structured “brand pages” on Twitter, I think 2012 will be the year when brands will finally be able to establish a truly integrated and consistently-designed presence across multiple channels.

Brands will begin to assign different functions to different channels, allowing consumers to share a more positive and rich experience with them across a wide variety of sites – Twitter for customer service, Facebook for community, Crowd-sourcing via a niche network, branding via Flick – etc etc.

I suspect mobile and social networks will also become much more closely integrated, with very little difference in the experience you receive on smartphone, website or tablet.

Tablet browsing will also become a mainstream thing, with brands realising the power of the tablet for “relaxed” or unfocused internet use – smart brands will use the tablet+TV experience to offer great Social TV tie-ups, as well as designing sites that actually utilise the uniqe functionality of tablets and smartphones to better effect…

Steve Richards:

One trend will be around brands segmenting audiences and providing dynamic content in social channels. Growth of f-commerce will also continue. 2012 also looks set to be the year of the Tumblr blog.

This year we saw them spring up in all manner of guises, and they were even used to help identify rioters. With Obama having joined the platform, I’m sure we’ll see a meteoric uprise in the number of users.

Social monitoring will also change in 2012. Clients are now thankfully wiser to the pitfalls of automated sentiment analysis and some clever young companies are beginning to use AI to help categorise and manage results.

Finally, crowdfunding and micropayments are also likely to be a popular subject next year, especially in terms of funding new business ideas / entrepreneurs (a la Kickstarter), and for fundraisers and charities using all manner of tools to collect small donations from large numbers of donors.

Winning in this space will involve simplifying the payment process as far as possible, and minimizing fees / costs. Virgin Money is now involved in the fundraising space, setting itself up as a direct competitor to Just Giving, and I’m sure there will be more entrants into the online charitable giving space before 2012 is over.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 January, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (3)

Sam Brown

Sam Brown, Digital Marketing Manager at Goal

Mine would be
1) Instagram to explode
2) 2012 to be the year of the unfollow.

about 6 years ago

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Rajiv

While 2011 was the year of social media boom in the proverbial third world, 2012 will be entrenching period for the brands, while the audience mature and explore more avenues through it! Top of which will be business networking, in which "glo-cal" networks like ApnaCircle (India), Tianji (China) besides the established player LinkedIn will expand and reach out to more and more people.

about 6 years ago

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Charles Clayton

My comments and hopes are:
Companies will revisit their website presence and improve their online offering.
Use social media in the correct way.
Think about ROI and not how good they look online (most companies are trapped in an online vanity exercise)
Use online marketing professionals.
Stop "having a go" at DIY online marketing.

about 6 years ago

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