The nine top social media stories of 2011

The nine top social media stories of 2011

With even the Pentagon getting their feet wet with social media this year, the industry saw major growth – and growing pains in 2011. Here are nine of the biggest social media stories of the year. What are your picks?

1. Photos finish first

While Google Plus got most of the hype, photo-focused social sites quietly stole the show in 2011. Visual hub Pinterest, launched in March 2010, commanded attention by year’s end, commanding almost 11 million visits a week. Ubiquitous photo app Instagram passed 14 million users in late 2011 and is growing at 2 million new users a month. Meanwhile, established social networks also bowed to the pull of photos, with Facebook enlarged images in its social stream and Twitter enabling native image sharing this year.

2. Social media mishaps multiply

In a year when everyone was getting on the social media bandwagon, there was bound to be some roadkill. While some stories had feel-good endings (witness the Red Cross’ #gettingslizzerd gaffe), tone-deaf blunders from brands like Kenneth Cole and Ragu showed just how easy it is to offend on Twitter. On Facebook, Chapstick landed in hot water for deleting fan comments while Lowe’s had the opposite crisis when social media managers were slow to remove hate speech from the brand’s page. Social media mess-ups are likely to be a constant theme from now on, so it might be a good time to invest in a social media crisis plan. Just in case.


3. The steak heard ‘round the web

Think your Twitter customer service is top notch? Just try and top steakhouse Morton’s, who received a PR boon when a server met social media influencer Peter Shankman at the Newark airport with a steak after reading his Twitter plea. The deed’s legend grew online, inspiring other over-the-top acts of kindness – that, perhaps not coincidentally, come with their own good press from social media bigwigs. How much longer can the goodwill last? Who knows, but we do list our address on the Raven Tools’ site for those who want to send gifts.

4. Music goes social

If your music taste tends toward guilty pleasures, you probably had a bad year. Between the zeitgeisty success of everyone’s-a-DJ service in the spring of 2011 and a splashy U.S. entry for social music-streaming app Spotify in July (don’t forget our beloved Rdio), there was nowhere to hide your karaoke favorites as a new wave brought music collections into the social sphere.

5. Twitter turf wars

How much is a Twitter follower really worth? And who owns company social media accounts: the business being posted on behalf of or the employee posting? Those questions were on lots of minds at the close of 2011 as a lawsuit emerged focusing on a company suing a former employee for “keeping” his Twitter followers when he left. The lawsuit, yet to be settled, could establish new precedent in the online world relating to the ownership of social media accounts.

6. Klout backlash

With a growing population communicating on social media came a growing interest in measuring influence. This year, Klout gained momentum to fill just that need but found itself facing a backlash after a major algorithm change dropped the scores of many using the service. Angry tweets called for the social media community to #occupyklout, while bloggers took to their keyboards to wonder whether Klout was a worthwhile metric at all.  The uproar “was a great kick in the pants for the team,” Klout wrote in a reflective year-end blog post. “We thought we had our bases covered in terms of transparency and communication. But it’s clear we didn’t do enough.” Our take? Klout can be one of many factors in determining whether social media efforts are working, but your value doesn’t hinge on one figure.

7. ROI growing pains

As new brands struggled to find footing in the growing wilds of social media, companies clamored for solid facts to make sure they were “doing it right”. Enter data scientist Dan Zarrella, whose “Science of Social Media” helped HubSpot break the record for the world’s largest online marketing seminar. But one marketer’s “best time to tweet” doesn’t work for everyone, and other bloggers argued for a more advanced, personalized approach to social media data. In the end, the “ROI of social media” is as elusive as always if you don’t know what you’re measuring for your brand.

8. Facebook Timeline and Open Graph

Tech media could not have been more psyched for Facebook’s big reveal at the F8 conference this year, with Mashable throwing out phrases like “mind-boggling” and telling us it would “change the world of social media” before we even got a glimpse of Zuckerberg. What resulted, of course, was Facebook’s still-new Timeline and the wider introduction of the Open Graph. Now “liking” is joined by “reading” and “listening to,” with more to come. It’s a move some have decried as ruining sharing with overkill, but it could shape up to be a boon for marketers.

9. Google+

I’m sure we’ve all read plenty about Google Plus, so we’ll let the Muppets sell this one instead. (If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve probably seen this commerical a LOT.)

What social media stories did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Photo courtesy ralphandjenny on Flickr

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Courtney Seiter

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.