Twitter, Facebook and Google+ in 2012

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As 2012 dawns, Memeburn decided to take a look at what lies ahead for three of the biggest names in social media this year, and what each of their individual overarching strategies might be.

Twitter — Going mainstream
In 2012, Twitter will continue to stealthily build towards its IPO — unofficially penned for 2013. The microblogging juggernaut has seen significant staff turnover in the last six months for two apparent reasons. First, with the aim of having the right people at the helm for steering Twitter towards becoming a public company, and secondly, to fill the gaps left by Ev Williams and Biz Stone in terms of leadership and vision, the first results of which we saw at the end of 2011 with #newnewTwitter.

As much as we love the quirky and whimsical Twitter, it’s on the right track towards mainstream adoption, something which is sure to delight its shareholders and investors. Heading sails billowing into the horizon as a formidable new mainstream force and worthy of its new Art Deco office building, Twitter’s director of platform, Ryan Sarver says the aim for Twitter’s latest redesign is simplicity. There’s also an attempt at civility with the emphasis on using real names instead of @ handles. Finally, the redesign shows off Twitter’s intention of more aggressively courting brands and being a real-time advertising platform — brand pages — with the widest possible reach — embeddable tweets.

With an US$800-million funding round earlier this year, a recent US$300 million secondary investment from a Saudi prince, steady growth in Asia, and a 25% sign-up increase since its iOS 5 integration, 2012 looks like it’s going to be a good year for Twitter.

Facebook — Becoming a blue chip company
It’s no secret that the world’s most successful social media company is gearing up for an IPO, rumoured to arrive in 2012. The social media giant is exploring raising US$10-billion which should hopefully bump its valuation up to an estimated US$100 billion — double the valuation of Hewlett-Packard.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has traditionally shied away from discussing an IPO, recently openly discussed his new-found ambition to be a blue chip company, saying to the Wall Street Journal:

The blue chip stocks are the ones that people talk about belonging in widows and orphans funds. Historically, technology IPOs don’t make that list. Because of its scale, Facebook could be different.

Even with 800-million users and US$4-billion in revenue, Zuckerberg sees Facebook as small compared to where it’s headed:

We’ve grown and we have a lot of great people at the company and we’re connecting 800-million people now, and we’ve grown revenue a lot so from the perspective of what we once were, you could see us as successful or big but compared to what we think we’re going to be we’re so small.”

Facebook seems to be allergic to complacency and had the honour of being the top search term for a third year in a row. Its recent roll-out of its Timeline profile pages — which it fully intends to monetize next year — has been well received, and it continues to one-up competitors with clever innovations like its public update subscription button with its viral potential. Facebook’s early embrace of Asian markets is paying off, with the last six months of 2011 growing its user base by 69% to 6-million.

Google+ — Differentiation
By now it’s become quite apparent that your family and friends have no immediate desire to move from Facebook to Google+, so does that spell the end for Google’s social layer? Not at all, actually, Google+ appears to be growing steadily. The real problem Google is facing, lies not in persuading people to move, but rather in selling Google+ as something new and useful in 2012.

Popular technical evangelist Robert Scoble, thinks Google+ is ideal for finding and conversing with people who share similar interests. Scoble stresses that it’s this very idea that Senior Vice-President of Social Business for Google, Vic Gundotra keeps trying to underline.

Google is also hailing Google+ as “the next big thing for enterprise“. Talking to TechCrunch, Google’s Vice President of Enterprise Amit Singh said that Google will soon bring a more in-depth Google+ social experience to businesses and institutions using Google Apps. Moving in on Yammer and Salesforce’s turf, Google aims to create a collaborative environment for businesses with Google+, and has been testing it internally. Said Singh: “This can become a new social platform for collaboration across Docs, Gmail, video and other apps.”

If there was any doubt that Google is still committed to Google+, one simply has to cast an eye on the fact that they’ve been pushing out the updates during the Christmas holiday season. The latest changes include updates to Circles, Notifications, Pages and Photos.

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