Social media networks continued to grow, expand and sometimes even explode during this past year. New apps were added, new functions created, new networks launched in a frenzy of competitive emulation.
But was it all really necessary? Aren’t people overloaded with social networking itself – let alone coping with change after change, new launches and other new shiny social baubles?
So what has changed globally about social networking? What made 2012 a landmark year?
Here is a social media review of 2012:
Global Shifts and Changes
First let’s take a look at the most notable shifts and changes.
- Went public, opening at $38 per share
- Launched Timeline world-wide
- Bumped Orkut from the #1 spot in Brazil
- Still claims the top spot in global social networking, with 845 million monthly users at last count
- Frightened Facebook more than the latter expected with a Google+ popularity gain
- Saw more people using Google+ Group video chats
- Shut down PicNik photo-editing
- Ferociously tightened up its terms and policies
- Parted ways with LinkedIn and (temporarily) Pheed
- Lost thousands of referrals over the LinkedIn separation
- The “best new start-up in 2011” continued to grow, with a 75% female user base
- Added Pinterest business pages
- Caught on quickly with the rise in infographic and photo popularity
- Was acquired by Facebook for one billion dollars
Visual media such as Pinterest and Instagram experienced a volcanic rise in 2012, causing (or perhaps responding to) a major shift in social networking habits and the collective consciousness only partially explained by the corresponding rise in mobile device use.
In fact, Pinterest “referred more new business than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+,” according to British firm, The SEO Company.
Meanwhile, the rocketing popularity of photo-sharing resulted in Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm (which weights photos more highly than any other type of media) becoming public knowledge.
Popularity also brought along problems: Email viruses purporting to come from Facebook rose noticeably. And while other social networks grabbed a satisfactory share of the market and improved their platforms dramatically, Facebook was still the star of the show, as The SEO company clearly demonstrated, based on Mashable findings.
Let’s take a closer look at Facebook’s most notable developments during 2012…
Facebook: Messenger for Windows
This was the year people found out that Facebook had officially released Messenger for Windows 7, allowing Windows 7 users to access Messenger without a browser (and thus pushing back competition from Google Gchat).
Using it is like chatting on Facebook, except you can do it from either your System tray or your home screen. (It was actually released late in 2011, but the world didn’t start adopting it en masse until 2012.)
Facebook: Disappearing Cover Photos
Part of the new Timeline organization of personal news-feeds involved a new header area, consisting of tabs, a Cover Photo (background photo) and a Profile photo (head-shot or logo). Facebook was firm in its guidelines – no promotional items or text in the Cover photo. But it wasn’t long before people started ignoring that.
Recently people started reporting blank spaces in Facebook Eggshell Blue where their cover photos used to be. No explanation has yet been given, but a common thread is emerging in the type of photos removed:
- Any photo featuring a recognizable celebrity (even if that’s you standing grinning as said celebrity personally puts his or her arm around you)
- Any promotional content – logos, recognizable brand names, prices, calls to action, etc.)
- Popular background images from download sites
- Any copyright content – For example, movie shots, album covers or original artworks from well-known artists (or artists with a strong web presence).
So no more featuring your head-shot against a backdrop of Hobbits trudging through the snow; or against your favorite band performing onstage; or cozied up to Royalty.
In fact, if you attempt to upload any “copyright” photo (i.e. belonging to someone else), Facebook becomes eerily smart and will most likely slap you with a notice like this one when you try to re-upload it, according to at least one person who blogged about the phenomenon:
Facebook acquired the rights to the facial recognition software it had been using, according to an announcement on Face.com’s blog in June 2012.
You are already familiar with Face.com through Facebook’s photo-tagging process. Face.com already reputedly supplies certain other Facebook apps, including Photo finder (what you use when you locate tagged photos of yourself and un-tag them. So the acquisition seems a logical step.
But what are the implications?
Well, potentially, you could find Facebook “recognizing” every photo you’ve ever appeared in – whether these belong to your account, other peoples’ accounts or institutional accounts/Facebook pages.
Not everybody is comfortable with that option, as can be seen from just two of multiple negative responses to Face.com’s June 18, 2012, blog post:
Yes, Facebook did get rid of “Gifts” a couple of years ago, but like Heather O’Rourke says in the movie “Poltergeist”, “they’re ba-ack…”.
Well, at least for some people. If you have gifts enabled, you’ll see the present-box icon beside friends’ birthdays or with their posts, if you check their walls.
Face it, the ability to collect money directly from your credit cards for gift was most likely just too tempting for Facebook to let die, so Facebook has resurrected gift-giving along with a whole new raft of willing partners, including:
- Baby Gap
- Dean & Deluca
- Random House
(And that, of course, doesn’t include all those “Facebook credits” for games.)
Gifts functionality doesn’t yet seem to be enabled for everyone. If you aren’t yet able to give gifts, the gift icon won’t appear; and if you go to the gifts page, you’ll see this announcement:
If you can see the gifts icon, this Facebook help page further explains the process.
Google+: YouTube Developments and Integration
Facebook isn’t the only social network determined to push ahead. Google has been doing its best to go one step further than its gigantic rival – particularly with visual sharing.
One sore spot among Google+ users concerned with branding and SEO was the way people creating new accounts on YouTube could apply their Google+ user names to their channels. Existing YouTube users could not. So now there’s a fix for that. Those using YouTube for business purposes will appreciate the branding opportunity of syncing Google+ and YouTube accounts; plus the increase in Google searchability.
Facebook: Instagram Acquisition
Facebook purchased mobile photo-sharing network Instagram – reportedly for one billion dollars.
Hard on the heels of this purchase, Facebook began to make unmistakable noises about eliminating user voting on its “governance policies”.
There has been alarm over the idea of Facebook building user profiles using data shared between its own network and Instagram’s.
Facebook has gone on record as saying that storing Instagram “server logs and administrative records” on its own systems is “standard for the industry”. Prior to this, Mark Zuckerberg himself went on record as saying Facebook was “committed to building and growing Instagram independently”.
Instagram’s acquisition was reportedly in the works prior to Facebook shares going public.
Pinterest: Business Pages
And now the development we’ve all been waiting for – Pinterest business pages. Not only can you now join Pinterest as a business, you can create a Pinterest business page.
If you already have a Pinterest account, you will have to convert it from personal to business. Pinterest then walks you through the page creation process.
- Verify your website
- Embed buttons and widgets
- Select a custom URL for your page
To sum up 2012, it’s been all about three things, with social media:
- Mobile integration and sharing
- Photo and video sharing
- Making money
And it seems as if the social media world has finally woken up to these facts. That being said, only one thing seems consistent about social media networks in 2012.
They are constantly changing and growing along with their users.
 Don’t open any email saying it’s from Facebook if it has an extra “o” in its Address (e.g. “faceboook.com”)
 Further tips on managing rich snippets: http://www.bestrank.com/blog/the-trick-to-getting-your-rich-snippet-author-photos-to-show-in-google-results