2013 saw a ton of significant changes to the social media landscape. Facebook introduced hashtags, in a clear bid to outdo its main competition. It also introduced the ability to properly search the social network with its Graph Search.
A year after Facebook, Twitter had its own big IPO moment, debuting at $26 and closing at $44.90 a share, on its first day trading day.
While these are significant changes that have impacted the social networking scene, other changes have had a far more lasting effect, and will continue to evolve over the coming year. These things might not sound as big, but they affect us all every day.
Facebook and Twitter Focus on Mobile
While mobile browsing has been on the rise for a couple of years, 2013 was truly the Year of Mobile for several reasons. This year saw both Facebook and Twitter not only pushing out updates to their mobile apps first, but also pushing out exclusive updates to their mobile users.
In October, Twitter redesigned its landing page placing the focus where it feels it really belongs — on your smartphone. While growth on Twitter itself may be slowing down, Twitter’s percentage of mobile advertising revenue increased to 70 percent.
As for Facebook, one of many shifts seen in 2013 was a focus on mobile, making it easy for users to access the social network whether they’re using a smartphone, a feature phone, or anything in between. In the past year, Facebook has also seen an increase of well over 200 million active users on its mobile platform.
And it’s no surprise. If you look at the statistics for mobile use — with 56 percent of people worldwide owning smartphones and 50 percent using their phones as their primary method to access the Internet — there’s an audience whose attention social networks want to capture.
Video Sets the Stage for Success
With Twitter introducing Vine at the beginning of the year, attention has shifted to video. While photos are still front and center — for example, you can now immediately see images in your Twitter timeline — video is certainly the rising star. A mere six months after Twitter introduced Vine, Instagram (which is, of course, owned by Facebook) introduced its own video feature.
The short videos — whether it’s Instagram’s 15 seconds or Vine’s 6 — have unveiled a brand new way of sharing content, and one that has proved immensely popular. In just five months, Vine garnered over 13 million users, was the most downloaded app in the iTunes app store in April, and some statistics show that five Vines are shared on Twitter per second.
That’s not the only way in which video sharing has crossed over into other social networks. Instagram’s own video sharing feature has seen a 37 percent increase in Twitter sharing. Within Instagram itself, we have also seen a significant shift. Video content sees at least two times more engagement on Instagram than the app’s bread and butter — photographs.
Pinterest Valuation Could Mean Big Things
In October, Pinterest raised a whopping $225 million, but more importantly, was valued at $3.8 billion. To put this figure into perspective, it’s worth remembering that Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, while Tumblr was purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 million just this past May.
Pinterest has been the darling of the social networks for quite some time, driving traffic to sites at numbers that have eclipsed its competitors, and continuing to grow at an impressive rate. All this despite quite a few hiccups in attempting to monetize the service.
Pinterest’s valuation is an important indicator for social media. As Pinterest is still discovering exactly how to monetize its service, its impressive traffic and equally impressive engagement are enough to place it far above its social media predecessors in valuation.
So why does this matter? It’s proof that social media platforms can focus on providing the best user experience, rather than focusing entirely on monetization (i.e., making money off our backs), and prove to be a commercial success.
Advertising Seeps In and Some of Us Don’t Mind
For all the complaints about seeing advertising in our social media feeds, when it comes to actual interaction, we don’t really seem to mind them all that much.
On Instagram, which saw a big uproar when the time came to introduce ads, over 5 percent of ad views have led to likes. While this may seem like a small figure, it’s impressive when considering how easy it is to ignore Internet advertising in general. It’s an indication of how seamless advertising can be on Instagram.
Instagram isn’t the only social media service that has seen some advertising success. On Facebook, advertising created more of an impact in 2013. Ads on Facebook were clicked on 29 percent more often in 2013 when compared to 2012. In simpler terms — more people are clicking on more ads while on Facebook.
Does that mean we really don’t mind?
Social Media Captures the TV Audience
While YouTube may reach more adults in the United States than any cable network, the connection between social media and live TV is still strong, and would be getting stronger if social networking giants have anything to say about it.
Facebook announced it would be sending weekly reports to the four major cable companies — ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS. The reports reveal how Facebook users are talking about any given show, showing that the likes, comments, and buzz a TV event is producing can be provide invaluable information for the TV execs. After all, the buzz created on social networks surrounding any given TV event can mean extra exposure for that event — going far beyond the confines of the TV screen.
Not to be outdone, Twitter introduced See It, a feature that allows users to control their TVs from the comfort of their favourite social network. In Twitter’s own words, the feature “lets users tune in to a TV show directly from a Tweet. Comcast will give Xfinity TV customers the ability to do several things such as change the channel, set the DVR and play a show On Demand, directly from an expanded Tweet.”
What’s In Store For 2014?
As Twitter and Facebook both make gains in the mobile and TV worlds, we know these are the two spaces to keep a close eye on in 2014. Will it be one of those two that come out on top?
What changes in the social media world would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.