Top 10 Social Media Moments of 2012

The 2012 year has been incredible for social media. We’ve seen new social networks come to the fore, old ones reborn and big ones getting, well, even bigger. But in 2012, there was more to social media than just the networks we communicate through. There were some profound movements from Google to synergise its search offering with social media and for it to play a true part in the discovery of content.

There were also the usual gaffes we’ve come to expect from companies with limited experience finding their feet in social media and there were also some mighty fine examples of brilliant use too.

When you look back over the year, the other thing that stands out is just how much of a role social media now plays, not just in our daily lives but how it influences people, governments, companies and organisations around the world. Whether it’s helping to channel a worthy cause, complain about oppression or crowdsource for a charity, social media has become the “go-to” service to get things done quickly.

With the amazing potential of social media comes the problem of the very public arena it all takes place in: this is particularly a bit of a problem if you’re a Premier league footballer, apparently. But those same issues also help bring people together and several major (mostly sporting) events certainly did that in 2012.

No corner of the earth was left untouched by social media either, whether it was reporting on the death of a superstar faster than any newspaper or website could report on it or spreading the word about a crazy guy jumping to earth from space, social media was at the heart of everything that mattered this year. Even in music, social media broke down the usual cultural divide experience by – of all things - Korean pop music, and turned Psy in to a global sensation with nearly 1 billion views of his “Gangnam Style” video.

So we look back on 2012 in social media with just a small fraction of the stories that could have made it, we just don’t have room to fit them all in, but these are among our favourites. It’s also worth noting that we’ve gone for a slightly different approach. You’ll find a real mixture here between social media stories (things like Google+ and Facebook) and events that were fuelled by social media that hit the news. If yours doesn’t feature, tell us about it in the comments below. If we’ve learned anything about our industry this year it’s that what matters to one person, doesn’t always matter to the next guy.

10. Belfast City Council fail at social media

When a brand or company, or in this case a government organisation makes a mess of its own PR, it usually spells trouble. When that same organisation makes two huge blunders in the same year, you have to wonder if the tax payers’ money would be better spent on some new marketing staff.

Belfast City Council made the social media news for all the wrong reasons in the first half of 2012 when they announced they would be “humanely putting to sleep” a dog called Lennox. The dog was deemed a pitbull by the Council, but DNA tests proved he was a half breed, and therefore not on the dangerous dogs list. The news hit social media after the Council refused to acknowledge posts made on their own Facebook page. Indeed, they deleted many posts which just gave rise to even more ferocious comments.

The Council eventually decided to ignore the comments and post as if nothing was going on. More than 5,000 comments were added to their “Guestbook” but more than 100,000 joined the “Save Lennox” campaign on Facebook with another 200,000 signing up to an online petition to stop the dog from being killed. Celebrities also came forward to offer solutions but the council decided to put the dog to sleep on 11th July much to the dismay of supporters who flocked to social media to complain. More than 1,500 comments were made on the Huffington Post site alone and the story trended for a few days, some even accusing the council of killing the dog long before the announcement due to the fact it would not allow the family one last visit to say goodbye and refused to send the remains back or even its collar.

9. A president and the Pope

Last year saw The Queen of England joining Twitter and since then all manner of high profile celebrities and important people have taken up social media. This year was no different and despite already using social media for some time US President Barack Obama took a step further than most by attending the infamous Reddit AMA session. The AMA (Ask Me Anything) is a popular post on that allows users to ask those who post the original absolutely anything they like and the idea is, they are supposed to answer the question (not be selective).

Obama was obviously on a mission to be re-elected, but his AMA was so popular it actually took down the entire site!

Later in the year, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter but despite holding possibly the most recognisable title in the world, he didn’t gain as many followers as Gary Barlow did when he joined. The Pope is well known for his lengthy encyclicals but would appear to be trying brevity now. That said, he needs some training on usage of Twitter. No tweets in 9 days, then seven in a single morning followed by another seven day itch with two more tweets added. He isn’t answering the awkward questions or engaging with his flock either. This all led to some rather comedic reactions including one from the usually righteous Telegraph.

8. The rise of Pinterest

Perhaps in December it’s hard to remember a time without Pinterest, but back in January it was only just starting to gain traction, albeit in closed beta. Those lucky enough to have an account waxed lyrical about its brilliance and the traffic they were getting from it back to their websites. Soon, it was the darling of the social media world and women all over America adopted it for cooking, fashion and photographs of needlework and it exploded.

Before long the “pinning” fascination had spread globally and before February was out it had over 20 million users. Once it came out of beta and opened for everyone it was well on its way to being one of the fastest growing social networks of the year.

Odd then, that at the end of the year, stories about its growth and adoption have almost died out, but back in January, it really was the talk of the town.

7. LinkedIn gets hacked, password meltdown

In early June there were public rumblings that LinkedIn had leaked user passwords and a few days later the company admitted the site had been compromised. Few panicked however until the social network announced that the exploit had allowed a hacker to retrieve 6.5 million hashed passwords!

With such a large password breach, LinkedIn moved quickly to alert users of the breach and pages sprung up all over the internet to allow you to check if your pass was one of them. Naturally, some of these were malicious too. It was a crazy couple of days of not knowing whether your account had been compromised or not. LinkedIn took the precaution of securing those accounts affected and forced users to change their passwords immediately, thus protecting their account. Others were not so lucky, particularly those who used the same email and same password on other networks.

Overall, only 5% of all LinkedIn users were affected by the breach but the lack of faith in LinkedIn rumbled on for days on other networks.

6. Google+ Search Plus Your World

Despite the awkward title, Google really did go full social in 2012 with the launch on multiple products on its already established social network G+. Search Plus Your World was the first public hint that Google was no longer just a search company, but had moved very much front and centre of the “Social Search” universe. No longer would search rely on automated bot decisions, but instead would include help from us humans, real decisions on what we liked and shared.

Google also moved its Places service inside G+ and renamed it Local. It added Communities too and has constantly updated and improved G+ throughout 2012. Barely a week goes by without a new option, update or improvement being mentioned on their blog.

Frankly, it’s taken the entire year to get G+ to anything worth resembling a challenger to Facebook and while it might not actually do that, it’s certainly going to be important in 2013.

5. Social Media Users Rocket

As in previous years, the rising number of users on social networks continued in 2012 and several important milestones were reached by the top dogs.

In February Twitter went past the 500 million user mark, though it made no significant announcement of the momentous occasion, perhaps fearing the inevitable “but 250 million are spam bots” replies. Still, despite all the spam, the milestone is a significant one.

Facebook however did comment on its own landmark in October, after reaching 1 billion users. They did draw criticism from some quarters, especially over the claim of “active users” (as opposed to “accounts” which many felt was more realistic) especially since earlier in the year Facebook told us they had 87 million fake accounts.

It’s still an incredible achievement though considering that’s a seventh of the entire population of the world and that figure was 100 million just four years ago.

Google weren’t to be outdone on the bragging rights either with their own social network G+ soaring through 400 million well before the predicted end of the year mark. In December they boasted an impressive 500 million users. That makes Google+ the fastest growing social network of all time, faster than Facebook or Twitter to 500 million users.

4. #KONY2012

There were many viral stories on a par with last year’s Arab Spring uprising, but perhaps the one that reached most was #Kony2012 and not just the hashtag it spawned. In March, Invisible Children (an organisation formed in 2004 to bring awareness to the west of the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda) released an emotive movie titled “Kony 2012”. The video called for an end to the rule of Joseph Kony (cult and militia leader of the LRA) in Uganda and for the coerced military youth service to be disbanded.

The video went viral in March, bringing the main website down with it but chalked up more than 90 million views on YouTube and 16 million on Vimeo, garnered widespread support from all corners of the earth via various social networks and eventually led to President Obama taking action in Central Africa to help the situation saying he would “remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield”.

Invisible Children released a second movie titled “Part II beyond famous” that wasn’t as popular as the first, but still gained 2.5 million views as support continued throughout 2012.

3. The year of Facebook

There are plenty of candidates for “most news events from a social media network” this year, but Facebook has to take it thanks to three monumental announcements. Firstly, back in March Facebook made the biggest change to its service since it began in 2004 by moving everyone (even if they didn’t like it) to the new Timeline system. Initially, as expected it spawned a multitude of “give me my old Facebook back” groups on Facebook and generally people were very unhappy with the changes, but as with everything Facebook does, over time, people have calmed down.

April saw the largest purchase of an internet application since time began thanks to the (initially anyway) $1billion deal for Facebook to purchase Instagram.

In May they held their initial public offering (IPO) allowing all of us to grab shares in the company. The IPO was the single biggest in internet history with a peak market valuation of $104billion. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, with a botched launch and Zuckerburg disappearing a few days after to get married. Share prices droped drastically from the initial $38 buy mark to just $26.81 a week after the launch.

Whichever way you cut it, Facebook really has had quite the year.

2. The social media Olympics

Despite the doom-mongers predicting arrests and legal action for posting anything Olympic related on Facebook or Twitter, the 2012 London Olympics really did turn out to be the most “social” Olympics ever.

Before everything kicked off, there were athletes being banned for Twitter abuse and others asked to remove branding from their status updates. Then when it did kick off, our first real taste of a social media Olympics came via similarly negative events: Tom Daley, darling of the British diving team, was viciously attacked on Twitter by a troll suggesting his 4th place finish had “disappointed [his] late father”. Tom replied and then all hell broke loose with the Plymouth man making death threats, leading to his arrest. This opened a can of worms that led to many more Twitter abuse arrests and sparked debate about freedom of speech and the use on social media that may well rumble on for years to come.

On the positive side though, Olympic related trends were witnessed on all social networks. Twitter really came in to its own during the London Olympics as THE place to be for up to the second news of gold medals and amazing displays. With many working and others unable to access television coverage (American viewers had to deal with various time delays), Twitter quickly become the “go-to” place for the best coverage. When someone produced something extraordinary, it was impossible to keep up with your newsfeed on Twitter, such was the intensity of the tweets.

1. The year social media defined music

In recent years our pop charts have been filled by acts , promoted via television and TV talent shows especially. We’ve got used to seeing ordinary people turn in to superstar pop singers on our TV’s and then seen them have huge success in the charts as a result.

In 2012, thing may not have changed too much, but social media has taken an even bigger role. Korean pop music (or K-POP) has long been popular with underground scenes and dedicated fans, but it’s hardly been big outside of the Far East. That was until 2012 when the gaming scene (which has huge links to Korea) jumped on a well-known Korean rapper/singer by the name of Psy who’d developed a song about a suburb in Korea full of “nice ladies” using a mix of Korean and English throughout the song, set to a catchy beat.

Gangnam Style became a massive viral hit through YouTube and was shared millions of times on other networks. Psy became the biggest international musician of the year, despite having had more than a dozen years in the industry behind him. In the UK, a few months after the YouTube video broke 500 million views, it hit the number one spot, helped by campaigns on British radio stations to get it there. The song has now been a number one in more than 30 different countries and has won a slew of important music awards the world over.

As good as the song is however, it’s the video and in particular the dance moves that have really helped take the song viral. With President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron performing the dance at various public outings and a ton of parodies produced, Gangnam Style is one of those rare songs and videos that has transcended cultures, ages and religions and seemingly has no boundaries when it comes to the dance moves!

As if that wasn’t enough proof that social media really can power music influence, earlier in the year, it had another viral sensation thanks to Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” which also sparked many parodies and many other versions of the song performed by unexpected collections of people (the Harvard school union for one).

Touring with Justin Bieber and having him lip sync the song in a video all helped towards making the song a huge success and until Psy came along, it looked like being THE hit of the year, all thanks to social media sharing.

As we approach the end of the year, Psy’s Gangnam Style video has become the first video ever to pass 1 billion views on YouTube. Social media really does drive music.