It’s that time of year again. It’s time to say goodbye to 2014, and prepare to celebrate the arrival of 2015. But before we close the book on this year, let’s take a moment to look back on the wide range of new developments that came out over the last 12 months. After all, these developments just have an impact in 2014; they’ll also influence the future of social media in 2015.
So, join us as we look back at the state of social media in 2014.
The year kicked off with the announcement from Facebook that its Sponsored Stories feature would be ending. This followed a class-action lawsuit claiming that Sponsored Stories shared users’ data with friends without giving them the ability to opt out. However, it wasn’t long before Facebook was offering marketers a new way to reach their customers.A Custom Audiences update, which debuted in late January, gave businesses the option of re-engaging mobile app users who had already taken specific actions on the company’s app. For example, companies could now target their ads to reach users who had recently made a purchase. Ads could also be targeted to users who had purchased items within a specific price range, or even users who added an item to their cart but hadn’t completed the purchase.
Also in January, Twitter announced that it would start offering analytics for Twitter Cards. Twitter Cards allow brands to attach rich photos, videos, and media experience to Tweets that drive traffic to their website. So it only made sense that brands would also want to be able to gain insight into how those cards were performing.
Facebook continued to offer more targeting capabilities in February, starting with improved Core Audiences targeting options. The feature allowed advertisers to reach precise audiences based on targeting types like location, demographics, interests and behaviors. But ads weren’t the only thing on Facebook getting a makeover. Facebook also announced that it would roll out new marketing campaign structures, making it easier for advertisers to easily organize, optimize and measure ads.
Twitter also offered more ways for brands to reach new audiences. Thanks to the introduction of Promoted Accounts in search, users could see relevant Promoted Accounts whenever they conducted a search. This gave marketers a great way to target new users based on their search inquiries.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn announced that it was opening up its publishing platform to all users. Previously, LinkedIn’s Influencer posts aggregated professional content from publishers. With the expansion, all LinkedIn members could now publish their own original content, giving them the option to reach other members outside of their network and build their own group of followers.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
March kicked off with one of the most talked-about events on social media: the 86th Academy Awards. While many brands found their own ways to newsjack the Oscars, it was host Ellen DeGeneres who stole the show with her star-studded selfie. The selfie wasn’t just the most retweeted picture in history; it also taught brands a valuable lesson about the value of loosening up and having some fun on social media. Maybe that’s why Time Magazine has named it the number one photo of 2014.
Facebook saw many changes in March. The social network began rolling out its new updated look for News Feeds, giving Facebook a more consistent look across desktop and mobile platforms. Facebook also began to roll out a streamlined look for Pages. You can learn more details about what changed, and how to design your own Page accordingly in our guide.
In addition to the new Page design, Facebook offered brands even more new ways to reach customers. Its lookalike audience’s capabilities allowed brands to find new customers who were similar to their existing customers. Brands could also target those customers through Facebook’s new Premium Video Ads, which let them reach large audiences with high-quality video ads.
Twitter sprung into spring with completely updated profiles. The redesign displayed larger profile photos, customized header, pinned Tweets, and more. You can get a comprehensive look at the changes (and make sure your own Twitter is up to code) with our guide. Later in April, Twitter expanded capabilities yet again with Website Cards.
Over at LinkedIn, company pages saw the removal of the Products and Services tab. But brands continued to share their products and services through company updates and Showcase Pages. Later in April, LinkedIn revealed details about its Certified Marketing Partners – called Sponsored Updates Partners and Content Partners. LinkedIn says the content marketing platform expansion aimed to make it easier for brands and agencies to scale their content marketing efforts.
Google+ also expanded marketing capabilities for brands. It had been experimenting with ads that it said would “amplify your content and create conversations across the web.” +Post ads did that by giving advertisers the ability to place Google+ posts onto Google’s display advertising network. The ads are essentially promoted posts – further uniting the world of content marketing and digital advertising.
Meanwhile, Facebook continued to grow its capabilities for businesses. In April, it launched a comprehensive tool to allow businesses to manage all their ad accounts, pages, apps and permissions in one place. Facebook’s Business Manager aimed to make it easier for businesses to increase their reach on the social network. Yet as it released this tool, the social network simultaneously admitted that organic Page reach was declining for brands.
In May, Facebook continued to offer more tools to businesses to help them gain insight into their audience. Audience Insights provided marketers with information about their target audience, including geography, demographics and purchase behavior. Facebook also began providing brands with more information about how users interacted with their videos. Video metrics helped elevate the importance and value of video not just as a piece of multimedia, but as a valuable content marketing tool.
Also in May, Foursquare got a complete overhaul.The app originally was for users to discover new places and meet up with their friends. Foursquare announced that it would be unbundling these two experiences into two apps – Foursqaure and a new app called Swarm. Foursquare continued to provide users with new ways to discover places to eat, shop and explore in their area. Swarm, however, gave users a way to figure out which of their friends were nearby and available to hang out.
In June, Facebook rolled out a new messaging app called Slingshot. In addition to adding Slingshot, Facebook also added new features to its ads. Multi-product ads allowed businesses to showcase three products within a single ad unit. Facebook also introduced an enhanced Custom Audiences, allowing businesses to build specific audiences to target (such as people who have visited certain pages of a brands website).
Pinterest also expanded its tools for businesses in June. The social network introduced do-it-yourself Promoted Pins, making it even easier for brands to advertise their products on Pinterest. Accompanying this new addition was unproved analytics capabilities, offering marketers more details and insights into the performance of their Promoted Pins.
There was great fanfare in June when Twitter announced that it would start supporting GIFs. Twitter wasn’t the only social network to expand support for GIFs in 2014. Earlier in the year, Pinterest also added animated GIF support. You can learn more about how marketers can take advantage of GIFs on Twitter in Overdrive’s blog post.
Not to be left out, LinkedIn also rolled out updates for its premium members. Premium members profiles’ now featured a larger profile photo and customizable header image, in addition to other enhancements to how premium members showed up in search results. Read more about the changes in Overdrive’s blog post.
Facebook continued to add new features to its ads in July, including a new way for businesses to drive sales. The “Buy” call-to-action button on ads and Page posts allowed users to purchase products directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.
Twitter also added new capabilities in July, including analytics for organic Tweets. This gave marketers an opportunity to effectively optimize all aspects of their content strategy.
Without a doubt, the biggest event in social media in July was the World Cup. With both Facebook and Twitter reporting record-breaking numbers, the sporting event provided an ample opportunity for brands to harness the hype for their own marketing.
In August, Facebook made quite a few announcements that impacted how marketers could use the social network. The largest of which was Facebook’s announcement that it would no longer allow like-gating. Brands used like-gating by requiring a fan to like its page in order to see a particular piece of content or receive a special offer. Many marketers wondered how they would drive Facebook likes and get fans after like-gating official ended in November. To help businesses succeed without like-gating Overdrive compiled a list of 50 new ways to get fans.
Facebook also made changes to how it tracked customer spending. In August, it announced that it could now track how ads impacted customer spending across multiple devices. This gave brands richer insight into the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.
But not all users were happy with this tracking. In fact, some had migrated to the ad-free social network Ello. In its manifesto, Ello declared that “you social network is owned by advertisers” and explained that it aimed to make social network that was a tool for empower, not deception and manipulation. Today, Ello is still going strong and remaining ad-free.
Elsewhere in social media, users everywhere took to dumping buckets of ice-cold water over their heads in the name of raising money to fight ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge helped raise over $100 million towards fighting ALS. There are several reasons why it worked so well, which are outlined on the Overdrive blog.
Facebook had spent much of 2014 enhancing its advertising capabilities. In September, it took the next step by launching the newly-improved ad platform Atlas. Many called this action Facebook’s attempt to take on Google DoubleClick advertising platform. The Atlas advertiser tools promised to help enhance what it called “people-based marketing”.
Pinterest also aimed to make its own advertising program more successful. In September, it announced that it would be improving Promoted Pins in order to make those pins more relevant to the audiences’ interests.
Meanwhile, Twitter began testing out its own version of the “Buy” button. The new feature let users buys products directly from Tweets without even having to leave Twitter.
It had been a topic of discussion for a while that Facebook’s organic reach was down for brands. In October, a report confirmed that belief, saying that organic post reach for brands was down 50% in 2014 compared with 2013. However, the report also said that paid impressions were up 5% during the same time period. Facebook was certainly pushing for more paid promotions and ads, as it launched local awareness ads in October. The ads aimed to help local businesses target groups of people in their neighborhood.
Meanwhile, other social networks were diving into the advertising game. Instagram was already been working on being a marketing platform for businesses, but it took its capabilities to the next level when it began rolling out video ads in October, showing video promotions from major brands like Disney, and Banana Republic. Snapchat also began placing ads, promising that its ads would feature content relevant to its users’ interests.
Facebook also offered its users a way to say thanks to their friends through personalized videos. The feature came out just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
Twitter also had the holiday season on its mind. The social network released a mobile app designed to help small businesses plan for the holiday season. Twitter also released another feature to help businesses drive sales during the holidays. Twitter Offers enabled advertisers to create card-linked promotions and share them directly with Twitter users. When users encountered a Twitter Offer in their timeline, they could add the offer to their credit or debit card, then redeem it in real time by using that card at the store.
But that’s not all Twitter changed in November. It also announced a massive searchable index of every Public Tweet since 2006. This new capability wasn’t just fascinating from a historical perspective. It also provided businesses with a useful tool that could help them conduct comprehensive research about past hashtags, industry discussions and other popular topics.
Google+ kicked off December with a brand new feature. Users could now pin a post to the top of their profile or pages. This was an especially helpful feature for brands that wanted to highlight a particular announcement, deal or product.
Facebook also added another new feature for users, allowing them to finally search for posts. Users can now easily search for posts, photos, videos and links that are connected to them.
Though the month is not yet over (and more news is sure to come in the few weeks left in 2014), the year has already been jammed-packed with plenty of new developments and features for social media marketers. With so much happening in 2014, it seems safe to say that 2015 will also be another exciting year for social media marketing.