As the calendar year draws to a close and our attention turns to spending time with family and friends over the festive break, I like to take a moment to look back on the 12 months past to reflect on how much has changed.
Most progress is gradual, it takes time to build, leaving many of us unaware of how much our lives are changing. For people working in the digital marketing arena constant change has become a way of life, but even we are prone to forgetting just how radically different the world is today, thanks in large part to technology and shifting societal norms.
During 2012 we saw Facebook hit a billion active users a month and it remains head and shoulder above any other social network. Twitter blasted through the half a billion user mark with Google+ not far behind. But those stats mask the fact that many of Twitter and Google+’s registered users are inactive. Google+, for instance, has a little over 100 million active users.
Advertising through social network platforms also evolved with Twitter’s sponsored tweets in widespread usage and Facebook’s sponsored stories now starting to appear in wall streams. And Pinterest also bolstered its monetisation credentials with some retailers reporting that it draws in more—and higher value—customers who convert to sale better than Facebook. Whether this will be sustainable for a mono-dimensional (if very beautiful) user experience like Pinterest remains unclear.
Instagram was gobbled up by Facebook for $1billion, although the actual price paid fell to $730million in line with Facebook’s struggling stock price. How the Instagram service will evolve from here remains unclear and recent privacy and copyright changes have called into question CEO Kevin Systrom’s assurances that “the Instagram app will still be the same one you know and love.”
Google updated its search engine algorithms repeatedly as its Panda updates cracked down on dubious SEO techniques like below the fold content and web spammers. And choices for legitimate PPC advertisers grew again with numerous improvements including enhanced sitelinks, AdWords for Video, improved location targeting and Google Shopping listings moving to advertiser only content in the US, extending to other markets soon. The latest killer tactic, search re-targeting, which allows advertisers to serve display ads based on a user’s search keywords, is now live in beta on Google in the US and looks set to be rolled out in other markets soon. Similar facilities are available on the new Yahoo! Bing network.
The device and tech gadget world had another immense year of innovation with the arrival of the iPhone 5, Mini iPad, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 920, Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and Fire HD, amongst many, many others. The smartphone battle lines are clearly drawn between the two leading players, Apple and Samsung, with vicious patent claims and counter-claims dominating the headlines throughout 2012. And in the old school world of desktop/laptop operating systems we saw the birth of Mac OS X v10.8. “Mountain Lion” and a radical departure from Microsoft with its dual type/touch operating system Windows 8. The Redmond giant has even started manufacturing and direct selling its own devices with Windows Surface RT appearing in October and a Pro version due out soon.
We’ll be looking ahead to 2013 in the New Year. Expect to hear about topics like Near Field Communications, Co-creation Strategies, Automation, Wearable Tech, Real-Time Personalised Manufacturing and more asset-light crowd-funded mega-brands as the year unfolds.
But for now, please take a moment to reflect on your personal journey and achievements. As Fatboy Slim wisely remarked, “we’ve come a long way baby”…