Where did 2011 go? How did Pinterest, Bo.lt, and Sonar change how we interact with media, and with each other? What happened to Anthony Weiner and Osama Bin Laden? When did “+”join “@” in the digital lexicon?
In a year where I visited eight countries and read 95 books, I also managed to pen nearly 50 columns, and I reread them all so you don’t have to. Several themes emerged, with quite a few posts about startups, shopping, mobile social media, Google, and events. The year also brought its share of failures and disappointments to learn from. Here’s 2011 in review.
In January, we looked at how OneTrueFan extended check-ins to websites. It was subsequently acquired by gamification company BigDoor. Bo.lt made publishers squirm by letting anyone doctor webpages, and Sonar made some mobile users squirm by making it easier to find people near them. In August, we checked out what made Pinterest so addictive, and it only gained momentum since then, with Hitwise recently reporting that its traffic rose 4,000% in the past six months.
The year ended with two more relevant features. The previous column presented the first-ever Berky awards for social innovation, starring many startups, along with Google, which acted more like a startup this year than any time since it went public. The week before, 16 resolutions for vendors provided advice that I wish was heeded more often. Just after the column was published, one visiting startup was so off-kilter that I thought it would go 0 for 16 until the head of business development pulled out his dongle (sorry, there’s no way to say that without a double entendre).
Social commerce went mainstream in 2011, at least in terms of marketer awareness. Unlike gamification, this isn’t a fad; it’s part of a lasting shift in consumer behavior. Social shopping was featured in April’s “Five Social Trends To Get Excited About Today” and later in “The Seven Types Of Mobile Social Commerce.” Recommendations are an especially important driver of social shopping, as certain people appreciate more than others (“The One-Percenters Of Recommendations”). At times, social media wasn’t given its proper credit for its role in how people shop. “The Infinite Moment of Truth” aimed to fix that, building on Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth.”
Well over half of this year’s columns significantly featured mobile. If you want to brush up on mobile trends before 2012, consider some of these highlights: “Mobile Marketing Is Exploding, So Get A Strategy,” “Ten Social Local Technologies For Marketers,” “The 'S' In 4S Stands For Social,” “Facebook's Little 'M' KOs Three 'Ws',” “Ten Mobile Social Trends For 2012,” “20 New Confessions Of A Foursquare Super Mayor,” “101 Types Of Mobile Social Alerts,” and “The 7 Social Stages of NFC.”
It’s amazing in retrospect that the one company most often featured in this series is still trying to find its footing in social media. That’s part of the fun, and it’s why Google inspired a column roughly every six weeks. Sometimes the focus was much bigger than Google, such as in “The Infinite Moment of Truth” mentioned above and “Keep It Strategic, Stupid.” This month brought the first post in quite a while on YouTube. And then there were five about Google+: “Your Google+ Strategy Calculator,” “Your Google Plus FAQ,” “Why Google+ Matters,” “Why Google+ Doesn't Matter,” and “What You Won't Like about Google+ Pages.” For a social service with relatively tepid consumer interest in brands’ pages there, was this justified? I have no regrets, as the way Google infused the social layer with its other offerings may forever change marketers’ perceptions of treating social media as a silo.
The universe is expanding, according to Hubble’s Law. So is the universe of events that marketers supposedly need to attend. It’s hard to top SXSW, which merited two columns each with its own metaphor: first, the Tower of Babel, and then a Petri dish. Other highlights included the Consumer Electronics Show, the Shorty Awards, Social Media Week, Social Week, and MediaPost’s Social Media Insider Summit. Then there were global events that united many more of us. When America’s most wanted terrorist was killed, it created an opportunity to reflect on how social media contributed to our awareness of the event.
Failures and Disappointments
Did I get more cynical this year, or was there more to be cynical about? It will be hard to ever top the epic failure of Representative Anthony Weiner, unless there’s a Senator Don Keeshlong setting up a Google+ Hangout with his webcam aimed below the belt. I may never get to have as much fun writing a column than when writing the headline, “Don’t Be a Weiner.” As for other blunders, Netflix will recover from its horrible year far sooner than Weiner will. Foursquare’s all that’s left of the check-in field, so it was a good year to see why some people stopped using it, and what happened to all the other check-in apps; the latter post came a month before Facebook acquired the ailing Gowalla. When I disliked MyLikes, it led to a rare rant on why “I Am Not A Social Publisher.” Fortunately, some bad ideas are short-lived, as discussed in “The Wrong Route To Social Commerce.”
Social media is, of course, all about people. My first column of 2011 paid tribute to my social family. I then checked in on our future bosses – the digital natives, many of whom I continued to meet during guest lectures at universities. Thanksgiving was then an opportunity to share who I’m thankful for. As I mentioned then, it’s only because you’re reading this that any of these posts matter, so I can’t thank you enough. May 2012 bring you success and fulfillment. And if anyone must be publicly humbled in the year ahead, may he or she have as perfect a name as New York’s former Congressman.