The Top 20 Marketing Stories of 2012

Panda or Pinterest? Red Bull or responsive design? Marissa Mayer or mobile search?

In an industry with so much breaking news, picking 2012’s biggest marketing stories is a serious challenge.

However, we love a serious challenge – so, without further ado, here are the Vocus Blog team’s biggest stories of 2012 across social media, search, email and PR. What’s your favourite?

Want to make marketing headlines in 2013? We can help get you there: take a Vocus demo and see how.

Social Media: Laura Spaventa

Social media marketing saw milestone after milestone in 2012: Facebook’s IPO and acquisition of Instagram, plus the emergence of Pinterest and Instagram as major players in the social media realm. Developments such as these contributed to social media’s journey to prominence in everyday life.

1: London Tweety-Twelve: This year’s Olympics were dubbed the “social media games” for a reason. The Opening Ceremony attracted 2,989,784 tweets alone and the Games attracted 150 million tweets overall. Twitter wasn’t the only heavy hitter in the London Games. Facebook reported 116 million related posts and comments and athletes received 12.2 million likes. No stranger to receiving first place, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt came out on top with 960,000 social media mentions during the games.


Instagram: 2012′s big winner

2: Sandy and Instagram: This time last year, Instagram was merely a blip on the social media radar. This year it saw startling growth (400% in the first half of 2012) and changed the way people share events via social media. Hurricane Sandy saw more than 800,000 photos taken and shared with the #Sandy hashtag, making Sandy possibly the most digitally captured event to date. Twitter users, meanwhile, sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets over five days.

3: Red Bull Stratos:On October 14th, Felix Baumgartner did the impossible and set the world record for skydiving an estimated 39 kilometers and became the first person to break the sound barrier. Nearly 7.3 million users watched Baumgartner’s jump on YouTube, while a Facebook photo from the jump’s sponsor Red Bull was shared more than 29,000 times, generating 216,000 likes and 10,000 comments in less than 40 minutes. On Twitter, half of the world’s trending topics during the jump had something to do with Baumgautner.

TJ Lang Tweet

Vulgar goes viral: TJ Lang’s record-breaking tweet

4: NFL Replacement Refs: For the first two months of the National Football League’s season, “replacement” referees officiated games due to a lockout between the league and the “normal” referees. So much criticism of the new refs mounted from players, coaches, and team owners that the NFL implemented fines in an attempt to quell the storm. The fines did not deter Green Bay Offensive Tackle T.J. Lang from posting his sentiments after a bogus call lost a game for his team in the closing minutes.

Lang’s tweet earned 88,000 retweets in a day, becoming the then most-retweeted unsponsored post in Twitter history.

5: #Election2012: This year’s presidential race set new social media records throughout the campaign process. Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention sparked 2.5 million conversations. More than 10 million tweets were sent during the first presidential debate. After his reelection, the President’s “Four more years” tweet (tweeted with a picture of him hugging the First Lady) became the most retweeted post of all time with 585,000 retweets by 7 am the next day.

Instagram also saw heavy traffic on Election Day. 680,000 photos were shared with the hashtag #Vote, 250,000 photos were shared with the hashtag #Election, and 1.27 million photos were shared with the hashtag #Obama.

Search: Geoff Livingston

The Search Wars continued to escalate with some surprising developments in 2012. The rise and relevance of semantic search put a new emphasis on focused, timely and high-quality content in the hands of marketing professionals.

Panda and Penguin

Panda, Penguin (artist’s representation)

6: Panda and Penguin:Google’s Penguin and Panda updates took to task black hat SEO types and content farms for creating low quality backlinks to blogs and sites. The updates also took to task anchor text (linked to words) that matched keyword phrases too closely. The overall impact was a forced move towards “honest” backlinks and keywords earned through blogs and natural writing, respectively.

7: Marissa Mayer: Yahoo! took a risk hiring long time Google veteran Marissa Mayer to take the helm. Unfortunately, most of the news revolved around her gender and pregnancy, a step backwards in journalistic coverage of glass ceiling issues.

8: The onward march of mobile: Mobile search continues to rise, making the need to optimize content for smartphones and tablets, and investing in paid mobile ads even more critical. Twenty five percent of paid search clicks on Google this year were via mobile devices.

Search Plus Your World

Search Plus Your World: a content game-changer

9: Search Plus Your World: Google probably saved its controversial Plus social network by making its +1s a critical component of its search algorithm. The Search Plus Your World formula was decried by other social networks like Twitter, but has legitimized Plus in the eyes of content marketers who want their websites indexed by the search giant.

10: Bing gets more Klout: In a move that shocked many critics of social scoring, Bing integrated Klout into its search results. Suddenly, attention based influence became a core component of Search.

Email: Jason Konopinski

Email’s place in the marketing mix is well-established while the platform continues to evolve. 2012 brought some big changes to both technology and tactics as mobile adoption continues to rise and savvy marketers try to get their messages to punch through the graymail.

11: Symbols in Subject Lines: The goal of any email marketer is to have that painstakingly crafted email stand out in a recipients inbox. Most email clients like Hotmail and Yahoo support Unicode symbols to display an emoticon-like symbol in the subject line. It’s an underutilized tactic, which means that it can give your email an edge over the rest and, more importantly, your competitors.

12: Email meets big data: While big data might be the phrase of the year, it means one thing in particular to the email marketer: relevance. Gathering data can prompt an adjustment in strategy, and advances in cross-channel tracking and reporting mean that email marketers can build detailed reports to track the effectiveness of campaigns.  Data – and how it’s used – is now central to every good marketer’s strategy.

13: Email becomes a nurturing tactic: A study from Pardot suggests that the role of email in marketing campaigns is evolving. In fact, nearly 70% of B2B marketer respondents no longer consider email to be their primary tool for lead generation and favor email as primarily a lead nurturing tool to move new leads through the sales process or re-engage dormant leads. Email isn’t just thriving; it’s changing.

14: Relevancy rules the roost:  Prioritized delivery from email service providers like Gmail and Hotmail now push irrelevant and ill-timed messages to the bottom of the heap, so crafting tailored offers that match recipient preferences is more important than ever. Low-priority messages mean lost conversions, a decreased sending reputation and messages that get routed to the bulk email folder, never to see the light of day.  Careful use of list segmentation (purchasing history, for example) is more important now than ever before.

15: Responsive email design: Tablets continue to drive the boom in mobile usage as consumers are accessing email away from the desktop computer. Mobile isn’t just a technology. It’s increasingly a way of life and marketers need to remain nimble to get their messages through.  Built on HTML5, responsively designed email creative provides an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. That means no resizing, panning or scrolling.

 PR: Frank Strong

2012 had its fair share of major PR stories so choosing the “most important” is a daunting task.  PRSA for example, announced a new definition for PR, and social media filled an enormous PR role in both the Olympics, and the U.S. Presidential Election.  There were numerous crisis stories too, but we’re going to keep this upbeat and focus on the (mostly) positive PR stories of the year.

SOPA: this year’s biggest PR battle

16: PR battle of the year: SOPA.   SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act (H.R. 3261), which ended this January, was an enormous PR battle, between what ReadWriteWeb called “Big Media,” such as music and movie makers, and “Big Tech.” The act, intended to prevent media piracy by shutting down websites that hosted pirated content, would have second and third order effects, opponents argued: search engines could be shuttered for return search results from such sites, for example. The debate raged across blogs, news and social media, and culminated with a daylong “black out” where the homepages of Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress and nearly 7,000 other sites all provided a glimpse of what the internet might look like if the law were passed.

17: PR comeback kid of the year: Boeing  After three years of delays, its projections for delivery of its new 787 Dreamliner were back on track.  And Boeing made it known in a big way:  during a 19 hour test flight, Boeing had its pilot trace the company’s logo and the numbers “787” across the United States. The new jet, made of composite materials lighter than the aluminum used in traditional planes, is promised to be more cost effective to run.  Boeing earned solid coverage throughout the year, and Qatar Airlines flew away the first jet on November 13th.

18: PR controversy of the year: The Death of SEO Ken Krogue’s landmark Forbes post The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content earned 13,000+ social shares, 40 pages of comments and plenty of controversy. Why such a fuss?  “Google used to think if you linked to someone on the Internet they must have valuable content,” writes Krogue. “Now Google seems to believe that if you promote content with social media it is more indicative of relevant content and less likely to be faked.” In other words: great content is becoming more and more important to search and to PR – so write for your readers first and for algorithms second.

19: PR industry debate of the year: Pay-for-Performance  This PR agency business model has been kicked around for a few years but has never quite taken off. The idea, which proponents argue gives clients transparency and value, is that a client only pays its PR firm when an article mentioning the client is placed.  This model contrasts with the retainer-based models that have traditionally dominated the PR service industry. Popular tech blog TechCrunch took public exception to one firm’s pay-for-placement model, writing: “While we’re not in the business of advising PR people on their pricing, we think that making press coverage this transactional crosses an ethical/editorial line and diminishes the integrity of our brand and our writers.”  I suspect additional stories will further weaken the idea.

20: PR stunt of the year. In order to top the PR stunt of the year, you’d probably have to jump to earth from outer space.  Wait…that’s what Red Bull did that with Felix Baumgartner’s nine-minute, 800mph skydive from 128,000 feet.  Some say that Red Bull wasn’t pitching a product, it was selling a lifestyle; but whatever we label the event, it drove buzz and a lot of it.

Red Bull Stratos search volume

Red Bull’s search volume before and during Stratos

Reportedly, 8 million people watched the event live as the story broke across CNN and other major outlets, with millions of mentions on social media (see above). Red Bull is privately held, so we’re not sure if Stratus drove sales, but its search traffic spiked by an order of magnitude.

What are your biggest marketing stories of 2012?

So you made it to the end! On a personal note, it’s been awesome having you as a reader in 2012. We’re looking forward to helping you and your business do better marketing next year too.

Love & Leads,

The Vocus Blog Team.



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