A Look Back at Social Media in 2012: The Year of the User

If you’re watching social media news, you might say that this year was all about transition and growth, and positioning social companies on the brink of taking it to the next level. Up to 11, even.

A Look Back at Social Media in 2012: The Year of the User

photo from laweekly.com

But the bigger story in social media is one that’s unfolding in every channel and for every brand, and marketers who don’t see it coming or understand it are going to have a very bleak 2013 indeed.

2012 is about consumers driving their own marketing experiences, particularly in social media. Last year brands learned how to meet their customers where they hang out online, and they learned to listen and use the unspoken rules to communicate on an entirely different level. This year brands are responding to and encouraging customer demand to be in the driver’s seat, often with success, sometimes resulting in epic failure, but always with lessons for all of us to learn.

My favorite consumer-driven social marketing experiences so far this year have been:

1. Pinterest: High Point Furniture Market StyleSpotters

Pinterest has been the darling of the 2012 social media scene, and it’s no surprise that High Point Furniture Market has a presence given the amount of home décor daydreaming that happens on Pinterest. They’ve taken advantage of it to the fullest with a series of contests to find highly influential designers and bloggers to be “Style Spotters.” Style Spotters build Pinterest boards under the High Point brand and pin goods they found at the Market, sending traffic to both parties without requiring either side to break out a huge marketing budget.High Point Market Pinterest

2. Twitter: Sweden letting its residents tweet on behalf of the entire country

Who knew Sweden was so bold? This project kicked off in 2011, but it’s gained attention and followers in 2012 with some pretty controversial tweets. If even bad press is good press, Sweden is certainly winning. Visit Curators of Sweden (almost assuredly NSFW) to get to know this week’s voice of @Sweden.

3. Facebook: Moosejaw customer cover photos

Ok, this isn’t a huge news story, but I’m fascinated by the way Facebook changes have made actual marketing so costly and complicated for brands that many are turning to user-generated content to do the work for them. All the buzz at the start of the year was that customers weren’t really engaging with brands on Facebook, but companies like Moosejaw are finding ways to keep their customers coming back by making them an active part of the brand experience. Now they’re engaging, and they’re spreading the word to their friends.

4. Instagram: WarbyWalks

What makes this even bigger news is that some participants complained that the WarbyWalks were too gimmicky. That’s right, customers actively joining an activity sponsored by and surrounding a brand expected to not feel like they were being marketed to.

Checkmate, marketers. The customer may not always be right, but in 2012 the customer is certainly in charge.

Are you willing to give over control of your brand in social to your customers, or do you think they already have it through comments and tweets? What brands do you think are getting it right?

By Jennifer Spencer

I'm a storyteller, food lover, book collector, and a Southerner at heart. I love connecting people.