2013’s Social Media Trends

2013 is coming to an end, and Social Media stats from around the Internet are rolling in! Many social sites saw impressive number gains this year, and the statistics make for very valuable marketing tools when planning for 2014. I have gathered what I think are some of the most important facts and put them into an infographic for all of you to reference.

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10 Ways to Humanize Your Brand Through Social Media

Many people will Like a brand on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter, simply because they love what the brand has to offer. Some won’t stick around unless the company has valuable messages to deliver. In the end too much repetitive information and not enough humanized content can make community members bolt quickly, so it’s very important that your brand finds a unique voice and keeps it consistent. Not only do you want to stand out but you want your fans to feel like they’re talking to someone they can trust – not a company CEO who can’t relate to them. Here are ten tips for humanizing your brand on Social Media, and some advice on what to avoid.

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2012’s Social Media Trends

2012 was a big year for Social Media – we saw some venues flourish, some flounder, and some explode with news distribution. It’s important for us to look at such statistics whether we’re seasoned Internet analysts or average users, so that we can stay on top of these fast-changing sites. Which were stars and what trends stood out the most? Let’s find out!

Statistics

facebookAccording to Huffington Post, in 2012 a staggering 1 million websites integrated Facebook as part of their Social Media stash. Even better for businesses, 80% of Facebook users prefered connecting with their favorite brands through Facebook and 23% of them checked their feeds five or more times a day, widening the door to better communication and more efficient customer service. [source]

twitterHuffpost also saw some interesting numbers for Twitter which marketers should consider. A sizable 56% of Tweets from consumers to businesses were ignored, and while it can be impossible for larger companies to answer every message, it is indicative of how Twitter can fail as a customer service tool with users getting lost in the shuffle.  [source]

google_plusGoogle+ had some good and bad results from 2012, because while websites using that +1 button saw a 350% increase in traffic, a hefty 70% of users want to learn more about Google+ with only 40% actually using it. This tells us that many marketers don’t yet see the value of Google+, or that the sharing site itself isn’t quite user-friendly enough for companies. In terms of average consumption it fared very well; 625,000 people joined Google+ every day and the +1 button is hit 5 million times per day! [source]

instagramInstagram saw booming growth, though they didn’t end 2012 with a bang. Traffic increased by 724% for this popular photo sharing service, and in 2012 an average of 5 million photos were uploaded every 24 hours, with 575 Likes and 81 comments every second. The most popular hash-tags according to Huffpost were #Love, #Instagood, #Me, #TBT, and #Cute, which indicate an overall positive environment for users.  [source]

pinterestInterestingly for Pinterest, 80% of pins were repins which tells us that users spent more time on their feeds than on other sites looking for things to pin to their boards. We also learned that 50% of Pinterest users have children and 80% of them are women, which greatly defines the audience for businesses. Considering 57% of pins are food related, Pinterest would make an excellent tool for companies that are food-driven and speak to young mothers in 2013! [source]

Trends

Looking back at 2012 for Twitter, they’ve packaged their trends and hot topics for us to review. The top two ‘Golden Tweets‘ came from President Obama Tweeting “Four More Years” during the 2012 Presidential Election, and from Justin Bieber Tweeting “RIP Avalanna. i love you” about a six year old fan who passed away from a rare illness. What makes them ‘Golden Tweets’ according to Twitter? They were the most re-tweeted messages of the entire year. The biggest conversations on Twitter, or the ‘Pulse of the Planet‘, were about the Summer Olympics, the Presidential Election, Superstorm Sandy, and much more – generated from the most Tweets, Re-Tweets, and general discussions. Twitter also has a neat set of events that they’ve coined ‘Only on Twitter‘, with unique events such as “Live, from Mars” in which NASA live-tweeted Curiosity’s adventure to Mars, and the London Olympics Live Pool Camera that gave users a rare view of the swimmers from below.

Twitter has also neatly presented their biggest hash-tag trends and categorized them into various topics such as Conversation Starters, Politics, Sports, and TV. In similar categories, their ‘New Voices‘ page lists the most popular newcomers to Twitter from television, sports, film, and more – with convenient Follow buttons for easy one-click connecting. Finally, Twitter partnered with Vizify.com to give you a personal look at your 2012 year on Twitter. Simply visit their site, download the app, log in, and voi la – you’ll receive a “stunning graphical bio that shows the best of you.”

Facebook has a less comprehensive 2012 review, but they still nicely display various categories and topics that trended heavily this past year. Showcasing memes, events, songs, movies, check-ins, books, politics, and more, clicking on a specific topic will show you the Facebook rank for different trends – all very similar to Twitter’s hottest trends. You can also see trends from all over the world, peeking into different cultures and comparing what was most talked about across the globe. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is their built-in ‘Your Year in Review‘ feature that, with one click, will show you your 20 biggest moments based on comments, Likes, photographs, and events. It’s much simpler to access than Twitter’s application, and more visually heavy, which some users prefer. Once you’ve had a look, you can hit the Share button and let all of your friends see what you were up to in 2012.

Googles Zeitgeist 2012 encompasses everything that was searched for using Google for 2012. Hot trending topics and searches were for Whitney Houston, Gangnam Style, Hurricane Sandy, One Direction, iPhone 5, Michael Phelps, the Olympics, and much more. Google, like Twitter and Facebook, neatly packaged these trends into various categories and ranked the most popular topics within. Because venues like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook can be sources of news that often pique interest and send users to search engines for more information, we can use Google as a highly informative window into the most interesting topics of 2012.

Summary

Overall what were the memorable trends across all sharing sites? The Election, the Olympics, Whitney Houston’s death, and Superstorm Sandy were some of 2012’s biggest hitters. It was a year like years past; driven by social and political movements, entertainment shockers and events, sports and world news – though it was unique in Social Media consumption and some sharing sites surprised us when they pulled ahead of the pack. You may wonder why you should pay attention to these trends and statistics when the year is dead and gone. The answer is quite simple – before you can be a Social Media Marketer, you have to be a Social Media lover, so look back at your own trends and the world’s sharing habits from 2012. These are the very patterns that will drive you and your organization through Social Media in 2013!

Why Buying Fans is a Bad Idea For Businesses

Many new organizations on Social Media channels are often too tempted to purchase their followers in hopes of giving their pages the appearance of popularity, and to avoid looking brand new. While it’s true that visitors often gauge the value of a page by how many Likes, Followers, or Fans they have, in the end what matters most is engagement and good content – which you’re not going to get from purchased communities.

There are plenty of websites out there offering Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers for small fees. If you were so inclined, you could purchase 1,000 Likes for as low as $50, but at what risk? Facebook and Twitter frown upon bots, which is what you are generally getting from these companies. If they’re not using bots to generate new Fans for your pages then they are outsourcing to an army of people who Like and Follow for some sort of a reward, but then do very little for your pages after the fact. Either way, you’re getting a handful of hollow Fans.

facebook-crowdEmpty Followers are not the only reason you shouldn’t purchase your communities. Buying Fans is like lying to your potential audience during a time in which you want to practice good business ethics so that you can build trust. Savvy Social Media users (i.e. the majority of the Internet) are going to see that you have thousands of Likes on Facebook, but very few comments and no participation. They’ll put it together pretty quickly that you’ve bought your community of drones and perhaps find you less trustworthy because of it.

Another excellent reason to avoid this practice is that it will throw your statistical information way off. When the Likes and Follows start to trickle in, your stats are going to skyrocket and any valid participation from your genuine community will be skewed. During the first year of an organization’s online presence, this information is extremely vital for discerning how your audience functions and what types of audiences you attract. So, by purchasing a large chunk of your community you will void important statistics.

Also good to consider is that Facebook generally frowns upon such activity. If they grow suspicious of a sudden influx of new Likes on your page, they may review it and try to determine whether you are violating their terms of service. Though the majority of companies willing to sell fans are careful about this and allow the Likes to filter in slowly, it’s still a risky practice and could result in your organization’s page being banned from Facebook. In addition, every so often Facebook will batch-delete accounts they have deemed fake, and you could end up losing money.

It can be frustrating to get your pages off the ground and creeping towards popularity, but there are ways to do it and the struggle will be worthwhile.facebook-like Here are some ideas for growing your community of fans the genuine way:

  • Integrate your online and offline marketing by putting links to your Social Media pages on fliers, mailings, and advertisements.
  • Attend or sponsor events, using word-of-mouth in public to promote your pages and direct people to your Social Media channels.
  • Include links to your Social Media pages in the signature of your emails.
  • Entice consumers to visit by running contests and giveaways, using sites like Punchtab which require Social Media participation.
  • Invite friends and family and ask them to invite anyone they think might be interested. Warning: don’t spam them, that’s annoying!
  • Install some fun Facebook apps like a ‘Top Fans’ tab that will rank your Fans and let them compete in a friendly manner.
  • Find similar sites or blogs and purchase advertising space, linking back to your website or your Social Media pages.
  • Visit online forums and other communities with similar themes, and supply links back to your pages. Warning: be sure to mind their rules!
  • Most importantly, provide engaging content with value. Don’t speak to your audience, speak with your audience and provide them content that they’ll want to share to their hundreds of online friends.

The bottom line: purchasing your fans may seem like a good idea at first and you may think that it’ll give your page a more well-rounded appearance, but you won’t be able to fool the average Social Media user and you risk tarnishing your image. Getting Likes and new Followers is only the first step to growing your pages; you want them to return and contribute so that your community thrives. In the end, purchasing your audience will do nothing for you, your statistics, or your website as a whole.

Instagram’s Latest Folly – Updated TOS has the Internet abuzz in a bad way

Just one week after Instagram and Twitter announced they were severing an important tie, it seems that the photo-sharing app’s maintainers are looking to displease even more users. Yesterday they announced an update to their Terms of Service – which will include more information in January – and has the Internet abuzz with distaste for the service changes. instagram

Now Instagram can share users’ photos with advertisers who can then use those photos and general user data to promote sponsored content. This means that, in theory, you could someday see your Instagram’d photo of a heart-shaped pizza pie on a Valentine’s day advertisement for Pizza Hut and you wouldn’t see a cent, dime, or single pepperoni as payment.

The update states explicitly, “…To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.” This is par for the course when it comes to the TOS of some other sites (like Facebook for example), though the general response from the Internet has been negative. A plethora of former Instagram users  have openly said that they’re leaving the service – which isn’t very pleasant to do if you’ve enjoyed your time Filtering prized snapshots.

Getting rid of your Instagram account requires a few steps, and there’s no way to undo the process or sign back up later on with the same username. If you’re worried about Instagram selling your photos then deactivating your account or removing all of your pictures is the only way to keep them from doing so. Before taking such a drastic step, I recommend backing up your photos with a service like Instaport (which seems to be running slow today due to an influx of traffic) or Copygram and downloading them to your computer. To preserve your username, simply delete your photos one by one and then leave your account vacant, should you want to reinstate it in the future.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 1.20.52 PMIf you’re looking for a new service many shutterbug folks are flocking over to Flickr’s improved photo app crafted by Yahoo. It has everything that Instagram does and then some – filters, Social Sharing, geo-tagging, groups, and the ability to search millions of beautiful photos from all over the world. If you’re going to make the switch, this app is currently your best option.

As the dust starts to settle, it will be interesting to see how many people leave Instagram in fear of creative violation. One thing is certain; ever since Facebook purchased Instagram and it became a chess piece in the game of Twitter vs Facebook, things have been on a downward slope for this once glamorized photo sharing tool. Are you leaving it behind?

Update 12/18/12

In response to this backlash, Instagram has released a statement on their blog addressing some of their users’ concerns and redacting changes to their TOS. According to the post, “The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience.”

The question remains; are they sincerely undoing the changes or simply back-tracking to save face and keep their users? To me it seems like a combination of both, but we can’t blame Instagram for wanting to fix such a tangled mess that has undoubtedly tarnished their once shiny image.