2012 in Recap: The Year of Visual Social Media

2012-recap-II2012 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.




Facebook Timeline

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.

Lego timeline


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.

Sharpie instagram

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?


Instagram’s New Algorithm – What You Need to Know

IMG_8423Nearly 6 years after its initial release and 400 million users later, Instagram is fast-approaching the ad-supported dominance of Facebook. Last week, it introduced its very own algorithm, following in the footsteps of Twitter and its parent company Facebook. Whether this is an enhancement is debatable and many seem to be divided on the matter as it stands. It begins with co-founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom explaining that “on average, people miss about 70% of the posts in their Instagram feed”, which may be alarming to some.


Twitter jumped onto the algorithm bandwagon only last month and has received its own amount of backlash from it. The fear that it will destroy live-tweeting and the key reason people love twitter is amongst the concerns. Of course, users tend to prefer what they’re used to on social networks and aren’t very welcoming to change, so this may pass.

Facebook’s introduction of its algorithm, which was due to extraordinary growth, was a much-needed overhaul of the News Feed. The fact that Facebook is bigger than the largest country on earth makes it almost essential for it to filter out unwanted posts and let its users receive the most relevant content. The question now is, does Instagram need it too?

Facebook Instant Articles was also released last year, which is a great way for Facebook to avoid the standard embedded browser mechanics that so many apps rely on. This allows users to view news more fluently by delivering a more native user experience. It also coincided with the release of the Apple News app, which has recently opened its doors to all publishers. The fact that developers are now realising the public’s thirst for news makes things extremely well-timed for the ever-growing amount of algorithms social is seeing. We need news, whether it be world news or friend news, and we need it fast – even if we missed it being posted.


What This Means for Brands

From a brand perspective, it is unquestionably going to become more complicated to market on Instagram. There are many visual-based brands that invest a great deal of money into Instagram to be able to reach a specific audience or age group. One example is brands paying influencers to promote their product, which has ultimately made it possible for those influencers to make a living by monetising their audience on the platform. This is achieved with a combination of brand sponsorships from companies, product promotion and follower reach. So how will it affect their livelihood? Companies will be much more demanding when it comes to requesting the influencer’s actual reach once it’s available, which will very likely decrease the amount that influencers are paid. This, in translation, means that influencers could ultimately be forced to take a pay cut with the introduction of this algorithm.

In layman’s terms, brands will be required to pay for their posts to reach their fans. This is especially true if the posts have little engagement, which exactly replicates Facebook’s model as Instagram takes its big brother’s handy advice. A key question here is, will the quality of posts increase due to content ‘needing’ engagement to push through?

Additionally, until now, brands have been supplied with little to no data on their Instagram channels. With this algorithm and a clear business objective from Facebook to increase ad turnover on Instagram, the company knows that advertisers expect something in return. The exchange is a classic eyeballs and actions for paid budgets and to prove delivery of reach and actions, Facebook will need to provide data and show that brands are getting their money’s worth.


Implications & Considerations

As general guidance, it may be efficient to stop thinking about news feeds as stories. A profile is a story and will probably always remain that way, but a news feed is a different beast altogether. With the algorithm, your followers might see some of your posts in their feed but far from all, making feed storytelling pretty much impossible. The challenge is to create a valuable brand presence on social that is recognizable without the context of other content.

Another discussion point is how Instagram profiles compare to Facebook profiles for brands. Facebook Pages made it easier to separate personal and brand pages, but Instagram has yet to do such a thing. Will we see something similar in the future? If so, it is sure to bring a great deal more features from Facebook to Instagram, which is undeniably the path we’re on with the two companies. Another thing to start considering is whether Instagram will eventually suppress almost all organic ads, like Facebook does. After all, having an algorithm like this can undeniably camouflage the real reason followers are missing so many posts.

Overall, Instagram is rapidly growing to greater capacities, users are posting more and we ultimately live in an algorithmic world as far as social is concerned. And as Instagram ads are managed through Facebook, they are extremely easy to target to a specific audience, which appealingly makes use of Facebook’s limitless data. These will undoubtedly merge together to form one giant supply of data and algorithms will most likely do the same. So it could be Facebook’s existing model that Instagram slowly turns into. Simply put, like father, like son.