Top 12 Social Media Brands of 2010
The year 2010 has been a huge year for SiliconCowboy. It’s transformed from a simple blog shared between myself and a few friends in tech journalism, PR and marketing, into a full-blown publication covering a wide variety of topics in the tech arena.
In the process, it’s grown a bit, branching into new and different areas that I’m personally interested in. Chief among these is the new section on Screen Tech, which covers the technology behind small-screen (mobile device) and large screen (Hollywood cinematography) equipment and software. I hope you enjoy this new direction, and stay tuned for others to come.
So now that we’re at the end of our second year publishing SiliconCowboy, this is as good a time as any to take a quick look back at the stories we published in 2010 and call a few out.
In today’s blog, I’d like to explore the Top 12 Social Media Brand Successes of 2010, as a follow-on to my earlier blog on the biggest brands of 2009.
In my next blog, I will be sharing the biggest social media flops of the year, and after that, I’ll share my personal take on what to expect in 2011. I hope you enjoy these blogs as well. Please feel free to reply with your comments or additions.
Best Social Media Brands of 2010
There are no particular criteria or rules for getting into the Top Social Media Brands of 2010. This is simply my personal selection of the outstanding brand success stories for 2010. After all, this is my blog.
So here goes:
1. ARM Ecosystem Beats Intel. This may seem like a deep tech story, but it has incredible repercussions for social media as well. ARM Holdings is a maker of semiconductor intellectual property – primarily, processor cores that are implemented in silicon along with other functionality such as memory, WiFi or broadband I/O devices, and then embedded into mobile chips.
ARM has completely blown processor giant Intel out of the water in this market, for two key reasons: First, it’s able to produce a high-performance processor core that runs on less power than Intel’s devices, thereby significantly saving on battery life; and second, it has created a huge ecosystem that provides developers with all the ancillary tools and technology necessary to ensure success.
Why is this important for social media? Two more reasons. First, almost every mobile platform in the world uses not one but at least two ARM cores, a testament to the complete success of this technology. Second, if it weren’t for ARM, many of these platforms would be dead in the water today. My original article on this development was published not in SiliconCowboy, but in Low-Power Design, where I am a contributing editor. The link can be found here.
2. James Cameron, Eric Schmidt and Avatar. You may wonder what James Cameron or Avatar have to do with social media, or you may be wondering why I’ve mentioned Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the same sentence. There’s an easy answer. Cameron and Schmidt were the featured speakers at a Churchill Club meeting in Silicon Valley in November. The Churchill Club is arguably one of the seed organizations from which innumerable social media meet-ups have evolved. Unfortunately, the organization had waned for the last few years, due largely to its inability to pull talent from outside of its own pool. Well no more. Bringing Cameron and Schmidt together was the best thing the Churchill Club has done in years.
It created a significant amount of attention, both because of Cameron’s star-power but also the variety of important topics that were discussed, including movie animation technology, environmentalism and yes, social media. Both speakers are high on all three of these technologies – in fact, they are right in the trenches, sleeves rolled up, sweat pouring, making them happen. I strongly encourage you to visit the Churchill Club site to see the archived video of this great event.
3. The Rise of HTML Games. This blog wasn’t about a single brand, but about a variety of brands, all of which have one thing in common: they rely strongly on HTML-based games. Classic video game theory has it that you must create the most realistic, high-performance game possible, on the highest-performance system, in order to keep serious gamers interested. And while this may be true for one type of gamer, as the HTML developers have discovered, games can be addicting even when they insanely simple and set at a pace that even a snail-mailer can understand.
In fact, many social media specialist have found lucrative employment creating these games – not just for Zynga‘s Farmville and Mafia Wars, but for big brands who want “gamification” of their own websites. Lithium Technologies has built an entire market around gamification of corporate social media communities, and many ad agencies and web developers are planting this flag as well. It’s a powerful new trend that is sure to endure for a while.
4. Justin Bieber and the Influencer Project. Tie score. In truth, I wrote a variety of blogs on this subject, but I’ll sum them up as follows: Everybody knows who Justin Bieber is, but did you know that he trended at the top of the Twitter chart for more than two solid weeks earlier this year? That’s just incredibly difficult to achieve, even with Promoted Tweets. Did you know that his fan base far exceeds that of Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams and Larry Ellison combined? In fact his following is so huge, Twitter has racks of dedicated servers just to handle tweets about him.
Now, ask yourself this: How much influence does Justin Bieber have? Oh boy does that light up HootSuite! What do we mean by influence? What is our measure of influence? Does Justin Bieber have influence if one out of every 10 of his followers retweet his every word? Does anything he says have any social significance? If not, who is influential?
The Influencer Project put this question to 60 social media gurus and, to no-one’s surprise, got 60 different answers. Of course, they also got a lot of controversy, especially when they created an app that measures social media influence based on a person’s following. Stay tuned, because this discussion is definitely not over yet.
5. Apple Apps: Taking advantage of a hiccup in technology. I’m sure there will be many who disagree with this blog, but I believe the premise holds. Fundamentally, it’s this: Even with the great job that ARM is doing creating processor IP for mobile devices, the infrastructure is just not capable of supporting high-bandwidth feeds to every mobile device. So how do you enable users to download high-definition music videos and movies?
Make way for Apple Computer with its applet technology and App Stores.
It’s not a true Internet experience, but that’s the point. Apple figures the demand is there, so it’s going to charge users to download bite-sized pieces of the Internet experience, and then it’s going to hand the job of making these pieces over to thousands of outsourced or underemployed software developers who think they can strike gold by providing them. It’s a fundamentally cynical business model, but it’s also incredibly lucrative – as long as the data pipeline doesn’t catch up.
6. Best Viral Video of the Year. Everybody wants to have a winning viral video. Everybody wants to make a winning viral video. More often than not, it seems, the best viral videos are now being created by professionals in video production and advertising. That makes sense. After all, television advertisers have been trying to create memorable ads for decades, so they know what works. And the production crews they use are also seasoned at pulling these mini-movies together.
So it should be no surprise that this year’s best viral videos were also created by pros.
First on my list is what I believe to be the single most important video published this year. The Trevor Project’s video “It Gets Better” was created to spread the message that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals needn’t throw their lives away just because they are different or because they are being humiliated or bullied for being different or, just as bad, perceived as being different. The idea was to not only spread the video, but add your own video message of support as well.
The project got a lot of extra inertia after several teenagers in the United States tragically took their own lives after being bullied online for their perceived sexual orientation. Individuals ranging from everyday people to movie stars and even President Obama joined in with videos of their own calling for an end to the bullying and urging GLBT teens to hang in there because “it does get better.” In the end, it’s hard to say whether the project was a success or not, but I’m willing to bet you would never hear President Obama utter the word “transgender” in any other setting.
7. Runner-Up Viral Video of the Year. First runner-up on my list is the irreverent “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury”, an audacious viral video created by comediane Rachel Bloom. It’s hilarious, highly irreverant, well-executed, perfectly scored and targeted to the right audience: Internet geeks. It may not have hit the top of the charts as viral videos go, but to my mind it’s a great effort.
8. Second Runner-Up Viral Video of the Year. The second runner-up,“Embrace Life,” is a beautiful public safety video that was created in England but quickly spread around the world, largely on the sheer beauty of the production. It’s an artistic marvel that does not fail to make its point.
9. Facebook Likes. While I’m always reluctant to give Kudos to Facebook just because it is such a damn monolith, I can’t ignore the impact of Facebook Likes. By proliferating this simple button to websites across the Internet, Facebook has created one of the most powerful methods ever devised for associating brands with individual users.
I’m quite sure that most website developers have no idea what this technology has done for Facebook or what it could do for them. But, here’s a teensy bit insight: There’s a monumental database that can be tapped through Facebook Likes. Advertisers are right on top of this one, and many publishers also got it right away. Stay tuned, because Facebook Likes could be developed in many more significant ways.
10. Apple’s iPad. The geek toy with the worst name ever has also become one of the most sought-after tech devices of the decade. And with good reason. It is sleek, elegant, simple to use and always right there. Everything comes up at the push of a button – no waiting for software to load. There’s enough memory for multiple high-definition movies and the battery will last long enough to watch all of them.
Initially billed as the savior of the newspaper industry, the iPad has indeed found a niche among publishers, and it handles every iPhone app plus a few hundred thousand more. Many developers cringed when they realized that their iPhone apps had to be resized to fit the new device, but all recognized the potential market created by the device. The only glitch has been a nasty dispute between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Adobe Systems, developers of the Flash media player application. Jobs thinks the app is of low quality, so he initially did not support it in the iPad. However, users didn’t appreciate the inconvenience and the negative press eventually forced Apple to back down.
In sum, it’s a great device that has a huge following and will be mimicked by other tablet computers for many years to come.
11. In My Humble Opinion by Tom Foremski and Engage by Brian Solis. Old school books in a list of social media greats? You bet! If you’ve never read any of Tom Foremski’s Silicon Valley Watcher columns, you’ve missed the the day-to-day chronicles of the history of the social media industry in silicon valley, and in particular the disruption of the classic media. IMHO is an essential history of social media and it’s a fun read as well. Highly recommended.
Similarly, Brian Solis’ Engage is this year’s top social media publication, largely on the strength of his intensive research. Brian is probably the best student and teacher of social media out there. There may be some in the affiliate marketing realm who have figured out how to automate much of what social media can accomplish, but Solis concentrates on the human aspect – how social media enhances our ability to communicate and engage with each other. He’s also incredibly approachable, responding to almost every question or idea that is offered to him.
12. A simple act of transparency from Wikileaks. Earlier this year, WikiLeaks earned a tremendous amount of respect by leaking thousands of documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Near the end of the year, they took a lot of that good will back by dumping thousands of confidential embassy messages into the public arena.
Thankfully, many people in political and journalistic circles have continued to reserve judgment on this latest voluminous delivery from WikiLeaks, perhaps because they’re still sifting through the data, perhaps because in the final analysis, we really do need people like Julian Assange, who can dig his way through the digital vaults of the worlds leading governments to find information that might otherwise never reach the light of day.