Social sharing options grow, and grow, and grow
Social media is taking up an increasing amount of an online visitor’s time. In June, Facebook passed 1 trillion monthly page views, making it the most visited site on the Web. And that’ s just Facebook. With all the activity around Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr and a host of other social media sites, it became increasingly difficult in 2011 for publishers to keep up – or know where to fit in. One thing’s for sure: Publishers can’t just post links anymore; they need to engage with their audience.
Is Facebook friend or foe to publishers? Mostly friend at this point. More than half of all online story sharing is done on Facebook, AddThis reported in December. Facebook’s Open Graph feature, unveiled in September, opens up the potential of increased access to older content – a social long tail, if you will. In April, Facebook hired Vadim Lavrusik, a former community manager at Mashable, to promote Facebook features – including Facebook Pages – as valuable tools for journalists. It also created a resource page to help journalists incorporate social media into their reporting.
Facebook analytics evolved as well this year. A new "talking about this" metric offered content creators and advertising executives their first opportunity to analyze the true business potential of Facebook – beyond simply compiling the number of Facebook fans you have compared to your competitors.
All this adds up to a great opportunity for publishers to follow – and engage – their audience on Facebook. But most media companies continue to under-invest in the platforms. At least that’s the belief of marketing professor Scott Galloway (pictured), who at the American Magazine Conference in October called out publishers for their “uninspired” approach to Facebook.
That may be changing. Social media has turned into a "profit center" for the BBC's commercial websites, a BBC Worldwide executive said in May, adding that ROI on Facebook initiatives at some BBC sites was “staggering.” In April, the New Yorker offered one of its premium essays for free – if a user “liked” its Facebook page. The promotion attracted 16,000 new fans.
Some publishers have gone so far as to launch Facebook-specific editions. These social reader pages from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and others could signal the end of the online news site.
Publishers can’t afford to invest resources exclusively in Facebook, however. Twitter went positively mainstream this year, serving as a scoop-breaking, 21st century newswire for global events such as Bin Laden’s death, the Arab uprising, the Japanese tsunami and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Twitter is also aggressively building out its social sharing features, many of which benefit media companies. Additions this year included the “Follow” button, which, like Facebook's “Like” button, gave publishers an easy way to gain followers directly from their websites. In November, Twitter announced Twitter Stories, an online portfolio that Twitter will use to display stories about how single tweets have affected its users. A new Discover section launched in December is Twitter’s first big step into content curation.
And then there’s Google+. Announced in June, Google+ immediately caught publishers’ attention as another important platform for content distribution and promotion. In November, Google introduced Google+Pages, opening up the platform to brands. Publishers quickly began experimenting with branded pages – with early returns indicating high levels of engagement.
By year’s end, some pundits were calling Google+ a social media game-changer. Just one more thing for publishers to add to the mix.
Back to 2011: 5 game-changing trends