Social Media Shakeout
• Google+ is unique in that much of the social activity shared on the site takes place on other Google properties, outside of the network itself. Many considered Google+ dead in the water as 2011 wrapped and it hadn't managed to tempt Facebook users away from that platform. Yet Google+ was the little network that could in 2012. Google wisely positioned it as a social layer over Google Search, YouTube and other more popular sites, rather than as a standalone platform. With more than 500 million users, 135 million of whom participate in the stream on the site itself, Google+ proved itself a contender for social media marketers in 2012.
• LinkedIn had a banner year, reaching 200 million members and transforming the site from a job-searching network to a multifaceted marketing platform. LinkedIn Company Pages launched in July 2011, but a 2012 update gave marketers enhanced targeting in advertising and organic messaging, alongside greater multimedia capabilities.
The launch and improvement of a number of social analytics and monitoring tools, alongside the meteoric rise of niche social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest, also shaped today's social Web. Yes, in 2012, we saw a definite maturation of social media marketing. The networks themselves have made many improvements, though they've really just struggled to keep up with an increasingly tech-savvy and mobile consumer.
In November 2012, smartphone penetration topped 50 percent in the U.S.; 119.3 million residents now have smartphones, the majority of those on Android, iOS, BlackBerry or Windows handsets. Eighty-three percent of marketers believe social media is important to their business, with good reason: The mobile consumer uses social to shop for deals, compare products and pricing, leave reviews and even complete purchases (Opens as a pdf).
Consumers have become more demanding, with 42 percent indicating they expect a response time of one hour or less when communicating with a brand through a social channel (bit.ly/WOoCXL). Almost 80 percent of consumers have at least one social networking account, though only 5 percent consistently post original content or take the time to respond to the posts of others (ibm.co/WOpwn1, pdf). For brands, this means a small portion of users wield great influence, while the majority of fans listen, watch and form opinions without actively engaging.