5 Biggest Social Media Lessons of 2013


It was a big year for social media. Twitter made its successful debut on the stock market while Facebook recovered from its troubled IPO a year earlier. We also saw the launch of Vine, the rise of Snapchat and the acceptance of social media by the SEC, which said public companies could use these sites to disclose information.

And that was just in the United States.

In China, which has the world’s biggest population of Internet users, ecommerce giant Alibaba spent $586 million for a stake in Weibo, the country’s top microblogging service and a rival to Tencent’s popular WeChat instant messaging app. Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, mobile phone operators were expecting a boom in data traffic as protests against the country’s president were organized over social networking sites, similar to the Arab Spring of 2011.

All of which is to say that if 2013 showed us one thing, it’s that there’s a growing global business in accumulating friends and followers.

Of course, similar to previous years, there were also social media gaffes and hacks mixed in, along with plenty of celebrity narcissism and, unfortunately, twerks. We still have a ways to go in understanding and applying social media to the business world, but there was no shortage of lessons to glean from 2013.

Social Media Can Move Markets

On April 23, the Associated Press’ Twitter account was hacked, sending a fake tweet that there were “two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” In a matter of seconds, the Dow dropped 150 points.

Then in June, activist investor Carl Icahn joined Twitter, first using it primarily as a megaphone in his battle with Dell and later to announce his stake in companies, most notably Apple. On Aug. 13, Icahn tweeted that he had a “large position” in the iPhone maker, pushing the shares of the tech titan up about 5%.

Witnessing a single tweet swing the pendulum of markets proved that social media is every bit as valuable to day traders as it is to newsmakers.

Social Media Is Increasingly Visual

Sure, you can say a lot in 140 characters, but a picture is still worth a thousand words. In January, Twitter-owned Vine launched as a mobile service for sharing six-second looping videos. Then, in June, Facebook responded by enabling video on Instagram.

We also saw the rise of Snapchat, a service that allows users to share photos and videos without the permanency of other social networks. That’s because users control how long (one to 10 seconds) the recipients can see their “Snaps.” Once the time is up, the photo or video disappears. The service has become so popular among young Internet users that Facebook reportedly recently offered to buy it for $3 billion. Snapchat declined.

And days before its IPO, Twitter launched a product update so that tweets with Twitter photos or Vine videos display a preview thumbnail. While this facelift is still in its early days, it’s already made Twitter feel like a more visual and less-textual platform.

Social Media Isn’t Just for the Kids

From Warren Buffett joining Twitter to Jamie Dimon joining the LinkedIn Influencer program, 2013 showed us that global leaders are embracing social media.

Sometimes, the business impact can be unpredictable, as Rupert Murdoch’s tweets have shown.

Social Media Advertising Is Growing, Evolving

During the Super Bowl, the most talked about advertisement wasn’t a coveted 30-second TV commercial, but rather a tweet. After a power outage at the Superdome prompted a 34 minute break in play, Oreo responded by tweeting “No power? No problem” and an image of an Oreo with the text “you can still dunk in the dark.” The tweet generated strong press and proved a turning point in the opportunities for advertising on social media.

2013 also showed how much money could be made from social media advertising. In the third quarter, Facebook reported revenue grew 60% compared with a year earlier, with a large piece of that from mobile advertising. Around the same time, Facebook-owned Instagram announced sponsored posts would be coming to user newsfeeds in the United States.

Social Media Could Be TV’s Best Ally

In October, Nielsen Ratings released an analysis showing a correlation between live-tweeting during TV and having a larger, more engaged audience.

The data illustrated that 19 million people in the U.S. composed 263 million tweets about live TV in the second quarter of 2013.

Social TV is still in the early days but with television as the home to coveted big dollar ads and social media as the venue for audience amplification and engagement, this could be the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.

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