2012 was a significant year for Social Media with milestones such as Facebook reaching 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, the Pope joining Twitter, Red Bull Stratos pulling the all time greatest marketing stunt with Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, Obama’s “Four more years” being the most retweeted in history, and not least PSY’s Gangnam Style being watched more than a billion times on YouTube and danced all over the Globe. But 2012 was also characterised by being the year when visual content came into focus, as Sara predicted.
Today, the Timeline has become a natural element in brands’ visual communication on Facebook, but when we back in March switched from Wall to Timeline, it opened up for new ways to strategically work with how to portray and strengthen brand identity through visual storytelling and throughout time. The large cover image displayed at the top of your Timeline made it possible to showcase brand identity visually and creatively. As Timeline allows you to post back in time, you could now enhance past events such as your founding date, events you’ve held or a launch of a product to tell your story. Throughout the year, we’ve seen great examples of brands leveraging Timeline for visual storytelling and thus optimising fan engagement by encouraging fans to go back in time and explore the Timeline. Take for instance LEGO’s Timeline, which goes back to when the company was founded. The Timeline allowed them to create a great narrative about their brand by filling in content all the way back to 1932 when it all began.
Facebook & Instagram: success and turbulences
In 2012, the photo sharing platform Instagram became immensely popular, which proved that users are increasingly visually focused. Brands quickly picked up on the importance of visual communication and started building Instagram communities. One of the best examples is the pencil brand Sharpie, who has managed to build a strong community of more than 47,000 followers – not through campaigning or showcasing the product, but by hosting user-generated art created with the product; a perfect way to highlight fans meanwhile showing the capabilities of the product and the brand’s identity.
Photo sharing has gradually moved from Facebook to Instagram during 2012, and at some point Facebook realised the power of this new player and consequently acquired Instagram for no less then 1 billion dollars. An expression of just how important visual content has become.
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram triggered an outrage against the world’s biggest social network when Instagram during December made two announcements. The first drastic announcement was that Instagram completely turned off Twitter integration – no more synchronisation or sharing. A week later, Instagram made another radical announcement: a change in their Terms of Service and Privacy settings, which made them very similar Facebook’s terms and which people interpreted as Instagram giving itself the permission to sell users’ photos. Many Instagrammers threatened to leave the platform, which made Instragram respond to the criticism by explaining their Terms of Service and adjusting them. This was just another example of users raging against Facebook, and even if many users were wrong about their complaints and hadn’t actually read the terms, it proved that users are increasingly lacking trust in Facebook and its privacy settings.
A picture is worth a thousand words…
Simultaneously, Tumblr is becoming increasingly popular for content creators and content curators, while Pinterest with its majority of female users is becoming one of the largest drivers of e-commerce, particularly for retail brands. This network for scrapbooking and visual bookmarking also proves the rise of the visual web with brands getting value both from repins within the highly active community driving a large amount of traffic to their site and by creating their own brand boards. An example of a brand making good use of Pinterest for branding is Honda with its ‘Pintermission’ campaign, which encouraged users to actually take a break from Pinterest, go outside and actively embrace life for 24 hrs – and then pin about the things they’d encounter outdoor.
Brands engaging in unique ways with fans
Throughout 2012, online video once again proved to be a powerful tool to enhance brand identity visually. While online videos aren’t a new phenomenon, in 2012 we saw brands really harnessing the power of this type of content to showcase brand image and community understanding. Bodyform answered to a rant on Facebook through a video featuring a fictional CEO revealing secrets about the female body. The video was a great example of subtle and humoristic branding, which at the same time shows approval of the community, high level of engagement with the community and maybe most importantly, shows that they are actually listening to what fans are saying and are able to respond rapidly.
What do think are the highlights of the visual web 2012?