Social media trends in 2011
It’s no surprise that 2011 has been a massive year for social media. The ubiquity of channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn has continued to grow exponentially, with each assuming a very significant part in the daily life of Irish business, political and the mainstream media itself. A look back over the 2011 social media calendar provides a great snapshot of some of this year’s key trends and stories.
As the year began, Ireland’s wholehearted adoption of Facebook and LinkedIn was visible, with the networks’ Irish memberships standing at 1,858,180 and 424,926 users respectively.
When the 2011 General Election arrived it proved impossible, unfortunately in most cases, to escape the tweets of aspiring candidates. Their enthusiasm for the medium proved to be a smart move though, as an interesting study published later in the year showed that candidates in February’s general election who had a Facebook and Twitter accounts had a much bigger chance of getting elected to the Dail than those without.
The increasing power of social media sites to transcend traditional boundaries was demonstrated when blogs and Twitter rendered the superinjunctions of Ryan Giggs and several other high-profile celebrities useless.
Twitter also became a growing source for particularly entertaining sports stories as Premiership soccer players, many with footballing skills greatly outweighing those of common sense, took to it like ducks to water.
In September, Twitter announced that it was setting up its third international office in Dublin’s Docklands, joining Google, Zynga, Gilt Groupe, Facebook and LinkedIn. This was a great high-tech investment win for Dublin, beating off cities like Berlin and London in the competition to land Twitter.
In another sign of the times, the Irish Times started offering advice on social media etiquette to its readers. The column covered a wide variety of topics from the correct way to expand your online network to the how to make your Facebook friends disappear. Unlike the networks themselves however, the column did not survive beyond the summer months.
One of the most talked-about social media launches during the year was of Google+. Google’s new service aimed to improve on those of their rivals by offering hangouts, for group video chats, and circles, for sharing among selected groups of contacts. While it’s still early days for Google+, early take up has been encouraging and the service now has over 40 million users.
Social media became the a major story in its own right in August when David Cameron, reacting to the worst rioting the England has seen in decades, said that the Police could be given new power to close social media sites if it was thought they were facilitating rioting and criminal activity. This had more than a tinge of irony about it given the crucial role that Twitter had played in the Arab Spring protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Looking back this was obviously a calculated over reaction on the Prime Minister’s part. As it turned out, social media provided the forum for a massive voluntary effort at cleaning up London after the riots. Facebook and Twitter were the recruitment grounds for massive numbers of cleaners. One Twitter account, @riotcleanup, attracted over 70,000 followers.
While not strictly limited to social media, the F.ounders event and Dublin Web Summit produced two of the most welcome events of the year. Both produced a plentiful supply of good feelings about Ireland’s global tech reputation, as well as an impressive array of nerds and millionaires in equal measure.
Unsurprisingly, if somewhat belatedly, social media made a decisive appearance in the Irish presidential election, with a dubious tweet from a Sinn Fein account starting the chain of events that consigned Sean Gallagher’s campaign to failure. Some commentators reacted to this by calling into question the validity and reliability of using social as a source. The fact that these calls have largely fallen on deaf ears illustrates the powerful role the mini-blogging site will continue to play for Irish media.
As the year closes, social media is again making a big impression, with this year’s Christmas number one looking increasingly likely to be provided by Twitter. The Twitterxmassingle, recorded by Irish Twitter users, was created after a single tweet call to action brought 150 Twitterers together to sing their hearts out. It followed the tweet by Brenda Drumm from Kildare “Wouldn’t it be great to have a Twitter Xmas Single?” The single has already gone to No 1 on the iTunes charts.