At the start of 2011, who would have predicted that Mubarak and Gaddafi would be gone by the year end, so would the News of the World, that we’d see riots on the streets of London, a Euro zone on its knees and that David Cameron would have a more peaceful Christmas break than the leader of the opposition. Predictions really are a mugs game.
In the fast-moving digital and social media world it’s probably a safer bet to stick to nebulous trends. Having said that, most of the forecasts about likely developments in 2011 have turned out to be pretty spot on. 2011 will likely be remembered as a year of incremental progress in various social media platforms.
The biggest event was the summer launch of Google’s latest attempt at a social network, Google+.
Most estimates put the number of users around the 50-60 million mark, however, according to Global Web Index, Google+ has already reached 150 million active users, making it the third largest social network in the world.
(million internet users globally, GWI.6 November 2011)
I expect that 2012 will see a breakthrough for Google+ and would recommend any company or organisation starts now to understand how the platform works. It has two major advantages over Facebook, in my view;
- The ability to personalise content for specific audiences. Features such as ‘Circles’ allows me to share content such as this post with work friends while mercifully saving my old school chums and family members from such tedium.
- Data from Google+ will show in search results. For brands, this means having a presence on Google+, sharing content with those in your Circles, will help your search engine optimisation.
The big game changer for Google+ is likely to come from its integration with the fast-growing Android smart phone platform, which will drive Google+ further forwards in the year ahead.
Facebook has proved amazingly resilient in 2011 with active users growing to more than 800 million. The recent changes to the platform, such as the introduction of Timeline and Smartlists, may keep people engaged but I tend to agree with Adam Clark Estes of the Atlantic Wire, that the Facebook backlash has already begun.
With 100 million active users and as many as 6,000 tweets per second, Twitter became truly mainstream in 2011; Twitter remains the social platform of choice for media, politics and business and played a high profile role in the Arab Spring and London riots. The company opened an office in London and started running ads – with the latter causing no discernable damage to its reputation.
So how will we use Twitter in 2012?
We will see further integration of Twitter with TV and also with live events, via the ubiquitous hashtag. Some of this is old media ‘window dressing’ but not all. A recent survey by Carat showed how Twitter is now as influential as the X Factor judges when it comes to how people vote on the show. The 2015 general election will be a much bigger test for Twitter.
Twitter is also becoming more serendipitous. The platform realises that many users want to go beyond their own timeline so the new version includes a “Discover” feature which identifies stories and trends based on your connections, location and language.
For communicators, the New Year will see the acceleration of the power shift of media influence from traditional to social channels. Intelligent tools and metrics now make it easier to spot, track and influence your influencers. Businesses and organisations should dedicate more time and resource to establishing the key voices in their sector and then trying to convert these people into advocates. As ever, we at Portland are happy to help!
Enjoy the rest of the break and may I wish you a happy and prosperous 2012.