2012: This Year In Social.

By Rob McNair

Facebook IPO

2012, otherwise known as the year for Mark Zuckerberg. He’s got a ring on his finger and set the biggest tech IPO ever, the third largest IPO is U.S. history, second only to Visa and General Motors.

In the weeks leading up May 18th everyone scrambled to buy much anticipated Facebook shares. When the day came, Facebook (trading as ‘FB’ on the NASDAQ) sold 421.2 million shares for $38 each. However, once the first trading day ended, the IPO appeared to be a huge flop. First, technical glitches on the NASDAQ exchange delayed initial trading for almost half an hour and problems continued throughout the day. The main confusion was for investors as to whether their investment were even successful, not the best start for Facebook. By August, the price-per-share dropped to $20, nearly a 50% loss from the opening value. Although there was some light at the tunnel for Zuckerberg, at the end of November the Facebook share price fought back to just $27 a piece, although still a 28% percent loss from the IPO. What nearly became a huge flop has now been turned around, and it looks promising for the worlds largest social network.

Ultimately, does the weak stock market performance from Facebook raise doubt about the business value of social media companies? Foursquare, the largest check-in social network has struggled to attract any investor attention. Now more than ever, social media companies need to figure out how they can monetize in order to regain investor confidence, and it’s now become obvious with Facebook pulling out all the stops.

Twitter Redesigns Profiles

It feels like it’s been a while since the new Twitter profiles came out, but it was only in September Twitter launched this. Along with the desktop site, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo unveiled a new look for Twitter profiles and announced a makeover of the companies’ iPad, iPhone and Android apps. The biggest change we saw was more photos in prominent places, a change Twitter pitched to help users “express who you are more meaningfully on Twitter.”

They took a page out of Facebook with a large header photo. Along with the new header image, any uploaded photos now get more prominence in the new profiles. On the left hand side photo streams will now appear below anyones most recent Tweets on iPhone, Android and iPad. Overall it’s obvious that Twitter are putting heavy emphasis on photo and video content on the website. Can you even remember the old design? If, not brace yourself for a flash from the past…

4 More Years

A second term for Barack Obama and a new Twitter record was set this year. Just moments after he realised he’d won a second term in The White House, the president shared a celebratory tweet, accompanied by the words ‘Four more years’. This lead to speculation it could be the most shared tweet in the history of Twitter, and believe it or not it came true. It has  now been confirmed that this is in fact the most RT’ed tweet ever, currently standing at 818,929 tweets. It wasn’t just Twitter Obama posted this image on,the Facebook image has now gained over 4,000,000 likes itself.

It was only right for Obama to turn to a social network as both had used social networks heavily, with some arguing that this was a huge factor in how Obama won.

Facebook Purchases Instagram

Back in April, Facebook bought the photo-sharing smartphone app for $1bn (£629m). The app that was only launched in October 2010, was initially just for the iPhone before being offered as an Android app a week before the sale. Zuckerberg pledged to develop Instagram as a separate brand from Facebook, allowing it to post to rival networks (although this has since changed). The hugely popular site now has more than 30 million users, who upload 5 million new pictures everyday!

At this time Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page: “We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.” He also added, “This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all.”

This hasn’t been the only news for Instagram this year, they’ve also had several other changes. They’ve launched their own web profiles for brands, which allows a user to view a brands or individuals pictures in one place. It came as no surprise that these brands pages looked very similar to the Facebook timeline design. In recent months Instagram have caused quite a stir with several other changes, including their changes of service and removed Instagram preview from Twitter streams. Later in 2013, Instagram will introduce ads to their photo-stream, well you didn’t think it was going to be ad free with Zuckerberg in charge?

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy arrived with heavy-duty social media coverage! The storm was embraced, especially on Instagram where users turned to in order to share their stories. It became their biggest event ever as 1.3 million storm-related photos were upload, peaking at 10 Sandy-related photo uploads per second. In comparison to this, #Superbowl pulled in just 85,000 photos. Time Magazine even sent out photojournalists to cover the storm via Instagram. Their photo gallery soon became one of the most popular ever.

As always what comes with images of natural disasters is users trolling and hijacking certain hashtags. Throughout the storm viral photos had been photoshopped from scenes like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. Soon users were unable to actually understand which tweets and stories were true. Twitter users in particular @ComfortablySmug started rumors such as ‘the New York Stock Exchange was flooded’, which put fear throughout the Twitterverse. The troll, later revealed as Shashank Tripathi, apologized on Twitter and resigned from his position as campaign manager for New York congressional candidate Christopher Wight. Was this the first social storm?

Gangham Style

We’ve all heard, watched it, done the dance… ok maybe just me then. It’s Gangham style the first video on YouTube to surpass one billion views. In the days up to the record on the 21st December, it continued to receive over 6.5 million views per day, that’s 76.4 views per second. The previous record by Justin Bieber ‘Baby’ of 803 million won’t surpass the 1 billion mark until late 2014, according to projections by Next Big Sound. YouTube’s global platform shows the how a song can go viral so easily, removing something a trivial as a language barrier. PSY the artist behind song has generated over $8.1million in advertising deals and hit more than 2.9 million in song downloads since July. The song doesn’t seem to be slowing down either… will it be the first to hit 2 billion?!

Tweeting From Mars

In August, the NASA Curiosity Rover landed on Mars and the Twittersphere exploded with joy. Although it won the hearts of geeks worldwide what was more remarkable was that the whole event was live tweeted from Mars, yes Mars. When it frist landed the truck tweeted:

It was moments later, the account paraphrased Neil Armstrong, by posting the first ever twitpic from an alien planet:

The whole reaction and sheer incredibleness of the landing may have seemed hard to match, but was trumped by one man and a skydive. We’ll discuss that later…

Facebook Hits 1 Billion

 In October it was announced that Facebook hit 1 billion active users, that’s one in every seven people in the world. The announcement came as a welcomed distraction for the disastrous IPO. The milestone meant Zuckerberg achieved his state ambition of reach 1 billion active monthly users, just two years and three months after the social network reached the half billion mark. Facebook so far has recorded 1.13 trillion likes, 140.3 billion friend connection and 219bn shared photos since it launched in February 2004. There are now also more than 300m photos uploaded everyday and 62.6 million songs played!

“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life,” wrote Zuckerberg in a Facebook timeline update on his personal account. “I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.”

Facebook has also had a very busy change with their platform, which includes several new advertising features, including paid posts, which allows users individuals to pay roughly £4.30 to promote their news in their friends’ timelines.

Social Media Olympics

London 2012 was the first true Olympics with fully integrated social media. The news throughout the games was dominated in one main venue, not the Olympic park or the Aquatics centre, but the Twittersphere. Whether it was the latest gold medal winners, or the abuse Tom Daley received, Twitter (along with Facebook) was a central part of many breaking stories during the games, claiming to be the first true social media Olympics.

The first story that broke out from the games was when Greek Athlete Voula Papchristou was excluded from the Olympics team for what was deemed to be a racist tweet. This was even before the games began. Just one day into the games the International Olympics Committee asked tweeters to limit their output, as he said a failure in broadcasting during the cycling road race was due to a throttled GPS signal on the streets of London, which negatively affected the radio signal with the bikes. However it wasn’t all negative, from a fan perspective it was definitely the most interesting social media Games yet. It was certainly the most mobile games ever, with 60% of access to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’s digital assets being accessed by mobile devices. Although the majority of focus was put on Twitter, Facebook have revealed the most talked about Olympians from UK Facebook users. Unsurprisingly, Usain Bolt was at the no. 1 spot, in a close second was a Brit with Andy Murray taking to the podium.

Felix Baumgartner, The Man Who Fell From Space

We like to save the best till last. The man who was lifted with a helium balloon for nearly two and a half hours before he jumped made social media history and history for that matter. The jump, a 23 mile free fall set records, stunning and amazing the majority of people around the world. The majority of talk happened across Twitter with 54%, 26% on Facebook, 6% on blog and 14% on video sites. This giant leap for social media bought engagement levels to a whole new height. The jump was also streamed on YouTube received 7.3 million live viewers at the time of the jump. All credit fto Red Bull, they truly deserve the crown of social media brand of the year.

And incase you’re wondering, the Austrian sky diver broke three records; the highest balloon flight, the highest free fall and the fastest speed. And gave us a ride we’ll late forget.

Well that’s the year of 2012, what will the future hold in 2013…

This post was written by Rob McNair

Rob has experience advising some of the worlds most iconic brands. He thrives on helping improving social media knowledge within organisations with the ultimate goal of making theirs brands more social, transparent and accountable.