The CloudTimes Year in Review – And 2013 Cloud Predictions

2012 was very big year for social media, with many of the industry leaders gaining a much more solid and larger foothold in the market, as well as being more ingrained in the mainstream culture. Facebook in particular, has proven itself to be one of the most influential players and a fairly adaptable service as they started to venture towards a more visual model, with the implementation of their Timeline feature.

However, the question now should focus on what will happen to the data that we store on public clouds by 2013. There are a lot of moves that are supposed to protect our data but we all know that technology is moving faster than legislation. Let’s take a look the possibilities on how public clouds, such as social media, will use our data.

2012 Review

Social Media in 2012

2012 sees Facebook starting to make its move towards mobile, seemingly downgrading desktop to second priority, as they start to realize that the number of people who go online via portable devices has already exceeded desktop users. They have also started to move towards being a visual platform, acquiring Instagram in the process.

One significant move by Facebook this year is the implementation of paid promotional content, as the company has started to take a more proactive approach to monetizing. This put a crimp on the plans of many would-be Internet marketers, as the previously free exposure provided by Facebook now costs money, and it doesn’t come cheap – the network effectively limits the number of people who will see a status update. The “Promote this post” increases the number, but it costs money. On the other hand, this is a boon to large companies that have the budget for Facebook marketing, as it greatly reduces the amount of competition.

So far, Facebook has had a healthy 2012, and has posted a significant increase in userbase, particularly from Brazil, Russia, and India. China is still out of the picture, though, and it’s probably not going to be for a long time, if ever.

Instagram vs Twitter

2012 also sees a high profile spat between two visual platform giants, namely Twitter and Instagram. Nobody really knows where the conflict started, but it’s probably an amalgamation of several factors, such as Twitter’s desire to move towards a more walled-in environment, and Instagram being acquired by Facebook. Basically, Twitter closed their API off to Instagram, and developed their own similar automated filter features. Twitter has also made moves to keep everything in-house, and to find more revenue streams and monetization models.

Rise of the Visual Media Platform

Another milestone for 2012 is the continued growth of the visual format. This can be easily seen not only with the battle between Twitter and Instagram, but also with the increase in popularity of Pinterest and the resurgence of Flickr. Pinterest in particular, has become one of the largest drivers of traffic this year, mainly due to its user intuitiveness.

It’s very easy to setup a number of pinterest boards these days, as it doesn’t require any tech knowhow nor financial investment. It originally started out as an easy means of virtual scrapbooking, but eventually evolved into a very powerful planning area for a lot of users, regardless of topic or niche. It has become a very powerful and cost-effective means of driving website traffic, second only to search engines. Their mobile platform is very robust and can be used even for social shopping.

Pinterest is definitely one social media service that brand owners should keep a close eye on, since it is already showing how effective it is. For example, the Philadelphia police department is already using it to raise awareness and warn people, by posting mugshots. A lot of local businesses have already leveraged Pinterest’s established userbase. In the right hands, it can provide a solid brand image, as well as web real estate.

Another visual platform to watch out for is Tumblr, which has seen a massive increase in popularity this year, owing in part to its close-knit and friendly community. In a way, visual platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, and others are starting to gain traction because they represent a friendlier part of the web. Mainly because it’s not as reliant on text, that it’s harder for snark to proliferate. Compare this with Youtube, which has a comments section littered with juvenile rants, with trolls, and flamewars, and you’ll understand why people who are no looking for trouble tend to gravitate more towards the friendlier, more intimate community in Tumblr and its ilk.

LinkedIn – The Dark Horse of Social Media Platforms

LinkedIn has gone public before, and their stock is doing quite well. They may not be as popular and as talked about as Facebook and twitter, but they’re no less influential. They just have a very different target, as instead of social bonding or sharing of memes, their niche lie in career-oriented networking and publishing of content related to business, finance, and the economy. In fact, while they have rolled out a variety of social media-oriented features this year, their main draw is still their newsfeed, which aggregates content from various business and financial publications all over the web, such as

Google’s Offerings

2012 sees Youtube starting to shift towards original content, what with the continued crackdown on copyrighted content, as well as the campaign to reward and fund popular original content. It has also entered into partnerships with various broadcasters and content providers, such as Walt Disney, Cartoon Network, Viz Media, and others. It’s also proving to be a powerful promotional tool, second only to its mother company when it comes to providing a strong web presence.

Google’s social media offering, on the other hand, is moving stealthily. A lot of people have written Google+ off as a failed attempt to compete with Facebook, but it actually managed to gain traction in a different aspect. A lot of really big brands have been using it effectively, particularly their hangout feature. The hangout feature is currently being used by many brands as a social CRM tool, as it has the ability to highlight the experts in the company. A lot of recording artists have also used it to launch albums or hold virtual concerts.

Youtube and the +1 button, in particular, have huge effects on search engine visibility, and companies who ignore Google+ and focus solely on Facebook are missing out. This year has seen various social media functions and search engines meld into a single effective marketing tool, and companies really need to at least dip their toes into every single one in order to get the full effect.

Big Trends in 2012

2012 is also the year of Big Data, as everybody on the social web managed to generate massive amounts of data in a single year. In fact, that was one of the problems encountered by people this year: they managed to generate so much data, yet very few knew what to do with it.

Some of the more astute organizations realized that they can use it as a means of generating massive amounts of feedback from existing and potential customers, using it to improve their products or services. However, companies need to realize that it is not limited to feedback, and actually runs both ways. By participating more, and by taking full advantage of the big data they collect they will not only manage to build a stronger relationship with their userbase, but also have a small amount of control over word of mouth related to their brand, as well as their image on the Internet.

Another big trend for this year is memes. Thanks to social media sites being a natural breeding ground for memes, this year so the rise in their number. Meme-centric sites, such as 9gag, have managed to gain a lot of traction. Youtube has also seen a lot of musical-related memes, with a lot of acts gaining worldwide popularity after people started making memes about their songs and videos. Notable examples of this are Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style”. Another example of a company taking advantage of memes is Oreo, which celebrated their 100th anniversary by creating various spoofs of current news with Oreo being in the center.

Shift in Dynamics: Hashtags

Twitter has become so ingrained in mainstream culture this year that we’ve seen a remarkable shift in dynamics, particularly with regard to traditional media. For example, a few years ago people would watch newscasters and then tweet what they were saying, but this year saw the balance shift, resulting in newscasters now reporting popular tweets, and even incorporating hashtags into their segments. Traditional media has finally smelled the coffee, and acknowledged that social media is an extreme version of word of mouth, and can be a powerful means of attracting viewership and improving relationship with viewers.

Predictions for 2013

A Community Based on Personal Data

We’ve already seen marketing shift more towards community building instead of direct selling, so social network management will only continue to grow in 2013. This will result in a lot of digital media agencies receiving business from companies that want to outsource their social media engagement campaigns to able hands. The biggest implication of this paradigm shift is that the most effective marketers in 2013 will be the consumers, as social media will magnify the reach and effectiveness of word of mouth, with friends’ recommendations and reviews working better than commercials or million dollar marketing campaigns.

Marketing to Individuals Over Mass Marketing

As mentioned above, the impact of personal on the conventional marketing industry is undeniable. And while it will not happen overnight, 2013 may see how individuals will dictate the products that will be come out in the market because facebook, ebay, and other sites have allowed customers a platform where they can buy customized and specifics products.

It is only now just a matter of time until more people discover the comfort and advantages of buying directly from manufacturers.

Less Dependence on Big Media Companies

The past couple of years alarmed content creators as there were signs that volume can beat clarity when it comes to visibility on the Internet, resulting in more noise than signal as far as content goes. However, this year saw a lot of organizations recognize and embrace the fact that fresh, relevant, and quality content will still win out over spam, especially now that Google and other search engines, media platforms, and social networks have started cracking down on poor quality content and spam. 2013 will be a good year for out of work journalists, reporters, content creators, and writers as there will be more opportunities for people with their skillsets.

Video Will Continue to Dominate

Video is already popular now, but 2013 will see it play a more important role, thanks to the direction that technology is taking. Over 50% of consumers in the US nowadays have a smart phone or tablet, and bandwidth is readily available. The increase in the number of people with the means to capture and post videos, as well as the speed in which they are able to do it will see a marked increase in the amount of commercial and personal videos published on the web. 2013 will see many businesses, regardless of size, try to leverage videos in order to stand out among the competition.

Promoted Tweets and Sponsored Stories May Replace Traditional Ads

Obtrusive advertisement formats, such as banner ads and pop ups, have already overstayed their welcome, and 2013 may see them get replaced by sponsored stories and promoted tweets, which appear seamlessly with other pieces of user-generated content, enabling brands to reach out to customers on their own terms, instead of turning them away with annoying and irritating methods. The basic idea is that 2013 will see a convergence that leads to quality content serving as advertisements, and vice versa: advertisements serving as quality content.

Reigh of the More Personal Device – Mobile

If Facebook and other social network sites’ campaign to promote mobile usage of their services is any indication, it’s that 2013 will see mobile internet users start to overtake their desktop counterparts. Even computer manufacturers are aware of this, as many desktop OEMs are now trying to stake a claim in various mobile segments of the market, whether it’s tablet, ultraportables, or smartphones. They can see a growing trend among people, who want to be able to go online anywhere and anytime they want, instead of being tied to a desk and a chair.

Public Data for Company Marketing

Many of us remember the days when Facebook was constantly being blocked in our office firewalls, but 2013 may see that practice become antiquated. Social media has already proven itself to be a very effective marketing and community building tool, but a recent report from McKinsey proves that there is as much as $1.3 trillion in untapped value from social technologies due to its ability to improve collaboration and communication within and across organizations. Companies will start to embrace social media as an office productivity tool, much like they did with email in the late 90s.

There are already a lot of practical and mission-critical uses for social media in offices right now, such as HR departments using it to find job seekers and streamline their hiring process, while sales teams also use it to find leads and track clients. Operations and distribution departments can also use it to forecast supply chains, and management can use it to for research and brainstorming product ideas. 2013 will see social media gain a reputation as a serious business tool.

Companies Will Start Devoting Resources to Social Media

A lot of brands these past few years have demonstrated the huge benefits afforded by big data and social media, which is why 2013 will see a lot of companies take it seriously, leading to the creation of entire departments and command centers – staffed by multiple employees – devoted to leveraging big data and social media for the company’s benefit.

There are already many examples of this in 2012, but the next year may see the technology and infrastructure behind these social media command centers become more streamlined and accessible to higher ups and executives, allowing key decision makers to take active part in their organizations’ social media campaigns.

This year saw Morgan Stanley and its army of 18 thousand advisors enter the Twittersphere. This is a remarkable development because their decision to enter the social media platform isn’t as easily taken as, say, a celebrity deciding that they want to tweet and promote their projects, as the firm still has to comply to the same strict SEC rules that govern their communications with the public and stakeholders on various mediums – from print brochures to magazine ads. Social media is not an exception, so every single tweet and facebook post these advisors make is a lawsuit waiting to happen if they aren’t careful.

It’s not unique to financial services, though, as any sector that complies with strict regulations for its communications, such as food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and the government, must take steps to ensure that their social media practices are compliant. Normally, this represents a big hurdle for companies who want to take advantage of social media, but 2013 will give them a huge boon as technology is starting to keep up.

In 2013, more and more companies start turning to business-grade social media management systems in order to comply with any regulations that govern their practices. For example, new tools will be devised that allow for archival of messages for longer periods than what publicly available services allow these days (as many industries require all messages related to work be archived for at least 3 years), as well as built in tools that provide training and webinars intended to keep employees up to speed on industry-centric compliance issues.

New Challenges will be Posed by International and Niche Social Networks

A lot of companies and brand owners have already mastered doing business on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, but 2013 will see the arrival of new networks. In fact, this year already saw the growth of Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr into bonafide social media platforms in their own right. Simply offering deeper functionality to their existing userbase has allowed these services to break through and position themselves among the other social media giants in a matter of months. You can expect more companies to do the same in 2013.

At the same time, International Social Networking is also seeing dramatic growth. It is expected that social media users in the Asia Pacific region, including China, India, and Indonesia, will grow by 21.1 percent in 2013. This means companies that rely on social media will have to do some monitoring and relearning in 2013, as they have to engage in an expanding ecosystem of social networks, as well as find new ways to streamline, budget, and automate the process.

Marketers Will Need to Implement Crisis Management Processes

This year saw the rise in popularity of social media mob rule, with people using social media to form virtual pitchfork mobs directed at whatever is currently the flavor of the month for mob hatred. One example is the prank call by an Australian radio station that resulted in a nurse taking her life – this incident resulted in huge numbers of people taking to Facebook and Twitter in order to bombard the DJs responsible for the prank with abuse, insults, and death threats. There are numerous other cases, to the point that it has become the norm.

Brands and companies, too, have seen the dangers of these virtual pitchfork mobs, as it has become very easy for a misunderstood or even fabricated consumer complaint to become viral and ruin their reputation for the long term. Basically, this problem will only exacerbate unless social network companies design contingencies that will protect entities from unjust or falsified word of mouth. The companies and brands themselves need to be more careful with what they do online.

Integration of Paid, Owned And Earned Media Will Become a Must

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say, and Facebook knows this, which is why 2012 saw them aggressively try to look for different revenue sources. In 2013, this need to marry the concept of Paid, Owned And Earned social media will become mandatory.

Last But Not the Least, Expect the Unexpected

As with any prediction, there’s a huge chance that everything stated above will not come to pass. While the above predictions are all based on things that are already happening right now, it is in the nature of IT for things to suddenly do a 180 for no apparent reason, or for things to happen without any precedents. It is important for us to keep up with trends and monitor what is happening, but to avoid being too caught up that we get swept up into the hype of the “next big thing.”  Like any business or organization who wants to stay afloat, we need to look forward and anticipate what will happen in the future, but be flexible and agile enough to adapt if things don’t go according to our predictions and assumptions.

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