2012 was a busy 12 months for digital marketers. Let’s take a look back at some of the industry’s biggest stories of last year.
McDonald’s started the year by reminding marketers just how important it is to judge brand sentiment before embarking on a social media promotional campaign. Although intended to encourage diners to share their positive tales about the fast-food chain, #McDstories quickly became a #McFail when the hashtag was hijacked by critics. A series of devastating tweets followed, with customers letting-rip about their experiences of food poisoning, obesity and even fingernails in food at its restaurants.
In stark contrast, Google enjoyed a rather more positive month after being named the UK’s top-rated brand in the influential YouGov BrandIndex.
In February, social media got a facelift as Twitter rolled out the first wave of UK brand pages and Dove, Burberry and Manchester United became the first UK companies to launch Facebook timelines. Although Twitter’s brand pages were free in Britain, organisations had to commit to a minimum media spend of £25,000, with Facebook timelines available to all brands.
Search giant Google was not to be left out in the race for new releases, launching a mobile version of its popular browser, Chrome. Only available on Android devices using the Ice-cream Sandwich operating system, Chrome for mobile was designed for speed and simplicity.
This was the month in which confectionary brand Snickers was cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), following promotional tweets from footballer Rio Ferdinand and model Katie Price. The regulator was called in after receiving complaints concerning whether tweets posted by the celebrities about the popular chocolate bar could be clearly identified as adverts. In its first investigation involving Twitter, the ASA ruled that the two series of tweets didn’t breach industry codes because each celeb used the #spon hashtag to indicate their messages were part of a marketing communication.
In April, Google announced a landmark change to its algorithm. Known as Google Penguin, the update was an aggressive attack on spam, aiming to decrease the search engine ranking of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Sites making use of ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing and deliberate duplicate content saw a dramatic fall in their Google positions.
The much talked-about EU Cookie Law came into force in May, a directive requiring website owners to obtain users’ permission before using cookies to collect data about them. Faced with strong criticism throughout Europe in the run up to the law’s enforcement, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) made a U-turn just 48 hours before the new rules were due to take effect, announcing that explicit consent (the main thrust of the incoming law) would now not be deemed essential. As long as British websites explain how and why they collect cookies, implied consent, in which a user has to actively ‘opt-out’ of being tracked, is now a valid form of consent.
May also saw Facebook float on the stock exchange in the biggest ever floatation achieved by an internet company and the third largest US IPO ever.
In June, Apple pushed out its newest operating system, iOS6, in which it ditched Google Maps. Despite initial excitement from Apple lovers across the globe, the new map software was met with contempt later in the year as angry users complained of inaccuracies and even misplaced towns and cities.
The Adobe Digital Index report revealed this month that search spend in the UK grew 18 per cent year on year in Q2, higher than figures in the US and Germany. Also in search, Yahoo! settled a long running patent dispute with social media site Facebook and announced it would be moving forward in an advertising partnership with the company.
August was another important month for social media, with pin-board site Pinterest ditching its invite-only status and opening its doors for all to join. Twitter launched Certified Products for business, Reddit had its busiest day ever as a result of its Barack Obama Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) session and Facebook bought photo-filter site Instagram for an eye-watering $1bn.
This was a month of milestones, with Google+ reaching 400m registered users and business networking site LinkedIn hitting the 10m UK members mark. The figure meant that four out of five UK working professionals claimed to be LinkedIn users, with the UK the largest global market for the site behind the US and India.
September also saw Facebook begin its battle with fake ‘likes’ to improve brand integrity. The tightened security measures were designed to put a stop to fraudulent ‘Likes’ caused by spam bots, malware and fake account users, allowing brands to gauge a truer measurement of their demographics and customers.
The first ever 4G network was launched in the UK in October. The new “super-fast” network, named EE, was formed from a partnership with Orange and T-Mobile and left other phone service providers lagging behind by an expected six months. An advertising battle quickly unfolded, with the other major networks trying to play down the effect of their newest rival.
In other news, Google delighted SEOs with the unveiling of its new ‘Disavow Links’ tool, allowing webmasters to ask Google to take low-quality links that are beyond their control into consideration when assessing a site within its search engine. Facebook made an update to its Edgerank algorithm to place greater emphasis upon the percentage of users that respond to page posts through likes, comments, shares and other interactions and LinkedIn gave its profile pages a revamp.
November marked a major shake-up to the PR industry as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) announced that it would penalise companies using Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) in awards entries. AVE had long been considered outdated, with the CIPR announcement putting the final nail in the coffin for this traditional form of PR evaluation.
Continuing the theme of campaign measurement, Google released the next generation of its analytics program, naming it Universal Analytics. The new collection of search technologies aims to shift the focus towards a user centric as opposed to a visit centric approach, closely aligning how businesses more traditionally evaluate their overall performance.
In the world of social media, Foursquare crossed the 3billion check-in mark, Instagram expanded to a full web presence and Facebook began testing the water on placing non-social advert units into news feeds.
The final month of the year was by no means quiet in terms of digital marketing, with Google revealing the top search terms of 2012. Whitney Houston topped the pile ahead of the Duchess of Cambridge, with the top search trend revealed as ‘Euro 2012’.
Finally, Twitter made the complete tweet archive available and announced that all users would be forced to adopt its new profile format.
By Vicki Cole