2012 – The year social grew up

Blog posted by Peter Wood
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Peter Wood, UK Social Media Director at Steak, explains why social media began to be taken seriously in 2012.

2012 for me was the year that social media grew up. With a little help from Google, a little push from native advertising and a giant shove from social listening, we’re finally here.

Social media is being taken seriously. It’s all grown up. It matters and we can finally stop having that awkward question around ROI.

So what happened?

Coming from an agency with a heritage in search, the biggest thing to happen to social media was the Panda / Penguin updates. Google could finally hear what was important to the people. Website to website linking wasn’t the only factor that contributed to page rank. It was about the people consuming the data. Those much maligned likes, retweets and shares were now tangible currency. All of that content marketing we’ve been pushing for years? Well, it finally had a purpose outside showing Google you’re adding new pages to a website.

As we head into 2013, will Google crack sentiment analysis? Will they conquer people using bad social to game their algorithm? How will authorship affect ranking? Will authors become a commodity like links were way back when in 2011? Who knows? All I can say is that I loved the update. It put the challenge back on the digital marketer to create meaningful content that...and wait for this...actually interests the consumer.

Native advertising on the major social platforms also took a massive leap in the right direction this year. Twitter for me have taken social advertising to levels traditional display marketers could only have dreamed of. 1-4% engagement levels? Incredible stuff. We’re not only experiencing great engagement, we’re seeing conversions exceed expectations as well. Facebook have been busy as well. They’ve had the Cheryl Sandberg treatment this year and some of their advertising options are inventive and engaging. They’ve hit mobile hard, almost to the point where it interrupts the user experience (If I see another Tough Mudder advert...), but it’s paying dividends. The share price is on the way up. LinkedIn are also monetising at a rate of knots.

Overall, we’re seeing a de-fluffing of social media paid advertising. The big names in social platforming are moving away from the freemium model onto a paid eyes version. Great news for them, an expensive challenge for the agency / client. However, with social becoming a layer that sits over the web more than a channel, it’s becoming hard to ignore the need to invest.

The final big moment has come from the data. Everyday people are sharing their thoughts freely across forums, blogs, tweets and Facebook updates. We’ve been able to harvest this information and turn it into meaningful insights for years. Creative ideation underpinned by social data is how I see the future. We’re already seeing some superb executions of this idea, the 360i Bacon Barter challenge used the social noise around bacon (and there was masses of it) to send a comedian around America with nothing more than a van load of Oscar Mayer bacon. He used this as currency with the American people. The campaign was a rip roaring success both online and offline. 2013 is going to see more campaigns like this. Social listening is the biggest thing to happen to marketing since consumerism was invented.

So overall, I’m pretty pleased with how things have gone this year. It’s onwards and upwards. What will it look like this time next year? Who knows. All I know is it’s still the most exciting place to be in marketing.

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