The social year in review

suzie shawIn this guest post Suzie Shaw gives her run-down of the year’s biggest LOL’s, fails, and brand campaigns.

What a year in Social.

2015 was the year that 26 million people changed their Facebook profile to a rainbow flag. It was the year Kim Kardashian “broke the app store”. And it was the year that Social rose to an estimated 16% of online ad spend.

I was debating whether to make this a global review, or an Australian review… but in 2015, that question almost doesn’t make sense. The walls of the internet are almost totally porous. Nevertheless, there have been quite a few Aussie developments worth calling out.

Of course, any selection like this is bound to be subjective. But hey, that’s what the comments section is for, people.

Let’s go.

Social Campaign Of The Year

So many great campaigns this year, I’m going to have to pick two joint winners.

First, the launch PR stunt for Zoolander 2 – in which Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson crashed the Paris Fashion Week runway ‘in character’ as Derek Zoolander and Hansel – swept across the internet almost as fast as Kim Kardashian’s butt did in 2014.

zoolander 2

My other favourite is an idea that came out of NZ – Burger King’s open letter to McDonald’s, suggesting they call a truce and join forces to create a McWhopper, to help promote the Peace One Day initiative.

The copywriting was truly exceptional (“Good morning McDonald’s. We come in peace”) and when the Golden Arches responded in a really lame way, that just affirmed BK’s status as the cooler, less corporate burger joint.

Hashtag Of The Year

The power of the hashtag has grown significantly in 2015, often being employed to express important themes such as racial disquiet, for example #BlackLivesMatter and #IStandWithAhmed, and terrorism (#JeSuisCharlie and #PrayForParis). On a lighter note, there was a huge and hugely trivial debate about #thedress.

But globally, this was the year the world finally engaged in lively conversation about marriage equality, a lot of which took place under the #LoveWins banner, so let’s call it a win for positivity.

Emerging Trend Of The Year

Only one possible answer here. They may turn out to be a fad, but 2015 will definitely be remembered as the year of the emoji.  The use of acronyms to express emotion (e.g. ‘LOL’ or ‘LMFAO’) is declining rapidly, and being replaced by yellow pictograms. Numerous brands have got in on the act, with companies such as Coca-Cola, Ballantines Whisky and Domino’s creating their own unique emoji.

The most popular emoji globally? This one.

laughing cry emoji

Platform Of The Year

2015 was definitely the year that Live Social took off: Periscope launched to some fanfare, and promises great things for live events and news-streaming.

Snapchat exploded, and has become the social network to watch – with over 400m users and a valuation of US$19 billion already, it’s the platform of choice for hard-to-reach teens (50% of Aussie teens are using it) and its growth trajectory is steeper than both Facebook’s and Instagram’s at an equivalent stage.

Rumours are rife that they’ll open up the platform for advertising fully next year, so watch this ad-space.

Another contender is Twitch, emerging from nowhere like a special forces soldier behind enemy lines. Over 1.15m unique users watch the live-streaming gaming channel in Australia every month and 80% of viewers are 18-35.

But because of its continuing influence and relevance, I’m going to have to give it to Twitter.

Even though the platform’s biggest numbers were generated by the likes of One Direction and our very own 5 Seconds Of Summer, it was also the platform Caitlyn Jenner chose to introduce herself to the world, the platform that Kimye chose for the introduction of its latest spawn, and here in Australia, it has been the scene of lively debate under hashtags like #AusPol, #QandA and #LibSpill.

Social Media Fail Of The Year

Globally, you can’t go past Heinz producing a QR code that led to porn. Here in Australia, the #mytaxis fiasco would win in most years, but Woolworths’ horrendous ‘Fresh In Our Memories’ ANZAC Day social campaign is less forgivable. Vic Taxis was a case of an organisation not used to the limelight, learning the hard way. Woolworths should know better.

woolworths fresh in our memory meme generator

Search Term Of The Year

The arrival of Netflix was one of the biggest things to happen in Australia this year. Maybe I’m biased, since Netflix is a We Are Social client. But maybe I’m not.

‘Netflix’ was the top ranking search term of 2015, while the top ranking search question was ‘what is Netflix?’

Meme Of The Year

Netflix has another contender here, with the phrase NetflixAndChill truly penetrating popular culture. Other memes that tickled the internetz included David Cameron conference call, Katie Perry’s Left Shark, Pizza Rat and Drake’s dancing in his Hotline Bling video.

But since it managed to be both popular and commercially effective, I’m going to say the winner is Straight Outta Somewhere, the branded meme created to promote the movie Straight Outta Compton, which saw people from crappy towns all over the world proudly customising their own version of the poster.

straight outta somewhere

Influencer Of The Year

Essena O’Neill, even though the Instafamous Queenslander actually quit social media in 2015. In case you didn’t see this story, the 19 year old model ‘resigned’ from Instagram, though not before going back over her profile and ‘outing’ all the images that were in reality paid endorsements. Her denouncing of social media’s ‘fakery’ was ironically itself denounced as a stunt in some quarters.

Whatever the truth of the episode, the story certainly raised a lot of interesting questions around the transparency of influencer endorsements, and the stresses of growing up in the social spotlight.

Innovation Of The Year

As ever in Social, it was a prolific year for innovation. 2015’s major new developments included YouTube Red, Facebook carousel ads, advertising on Instagram, Twitter Moments, Twitter polls and Twitter hearts, Facebook 360 and Facebook reactions.

However, although it’s not going to change the world, for sheer verve and inventiveness I’m giving the honour to Snapchat lenses (guaranteed to impress your nieces and nephews over the holidays, but do keep them on a short leash as many of these little moments of fun now cost $1.49 each).

snapchat lenses

Looking Forward… Most Significant Development In Social For 2016?

Could be Social VR, could be the rise of ‘buy buttons’ or even social currencies such as Snapcash. But until the invention of a functioning social crystal ball, no one knows for sure. And that’s what’s so exciting about working in this field. See you next year!

  • Suzie Shaw is managing director of We Are Social

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