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January 06 2012

7 Social Media Predictions for 2012

With the year of 2011 in social media thoroughly recapped and analyzed by Mashable, it’s time to set our sights on the year ahead. While I recently shared my predictions for media and advertising, there are some broader social media trends with big implications that are worth identifying.

Be sure to add your own predictions here or on our open thread, where Mashable readers have been sharing their own ideas for what might lay ahead in the New Year.

1. Facebook Growth Plateaus, but Engagement Continues to Surge

With more than 800 million users, Facebook is running into a nice problem to have: There are only so many more people to add. While the site will continue to grow in emerging markets that are only now getting online, Mark Zuckerberg has shifted the conversation to sharing and engagement, arguing that sharing on Facebook grows exponentially and that users will double the amount they share each year.

That sharing is driving users to spend more time on site — the average Facebook user now spends nearly seven-and-a-half hours on the site each month, up from four-and-a-half hours just two years ago. With the arrival of Timeline, increased focus on media and entertainment consumption, and continued growth in social games, engagement will surge even further in 2012.

2. New Social Metrics for Ads Gain Adoption

The “death of the page view” as a meaningful metric has long been predicted, but never seems to materialize. While I don’t see that happening in 2012 either, I do see the rise of new metrics that measure social engagement and price advertising and sponsorship dollars accordingly.

We’ve already seen the likes of Klout and Ad.ly develop business models around charging for influence. More recently, Starcom MediaVest Group, a subsidiary of Publicis, teamed up with ShareThis to pilot a new metric for ad buying that values content based on how often content is shared and how impactful those shares are. While 2012 won’t see traditional models like CPM and CPC advertising thrown out the window, look for new metrics to make a meaningful impact as sharing becomes central to more media companies.

3. YouTube Gains Popularity in the Living Room

While Google TV has been widely dubbed a flop, the company is planning on a full-fledged reboot in 2012 and is optimistic to say the least. Google-owned YouTube will undoubtedly be a default “channel” on all of those devices. At the same time, YouTube is investing heavily in premium programming, as well as designing user experiences for the big screen. When you combine these two forces — not to mention the prospect of an Apple TV and other emerging players in the connected TV space — YouTube is poised to disrupt the television landscape. We’ll likely get a glimpse at what lies ahead for YouTube in the living room next week at CES, where the company is set to host a press conference.

4. A Meaningful Second Tier of Social Networks Emerges

I’ve often said that social media is no longer about “the next Facebook or Twitter.” While I think that remains true, for the first time in several years there’s a meaningful second tier of social networks emerging.

In 2011, sites like Pinterest and Tumblr experienced hockey stick growth, going from niche to mainstream in short order. In 2012, additional services like Instagram, Quora and Path are positioned to carve out significant audiences as users look for more personalized and curated experiences than the top tier social networks can deliver. Google+ will also continue to make noise as the search giant pulls more levers to try and make its biggest social bet to date pay off.

5. Celebs Pour Money Into Social Media Startups

It might be easy to dismiss the current surge of investments in startups by celebrities as a signal of another bubble. However, unlike the last bubble, many of those celebrity investors now have audiences of millions online that they can turn into users of the products and services they invest in. When there’s a strong brand fit — like Kim Kardashian and ShoeDazzle — the celebrity investment and integration can directly drive growth and revenue.

With more traditional areas for investment languishing, startup valuations remaining frothy and social media continuing to expand, look for celebs to keep allocating a portion of their wealth toward startup investments. Here’s a look at some of the celebrities currently invested in startups:

1. Lady Gaga

Startup Investments: Lady Gaga and fellow celebrity Kanye West invested $7.5 million in Turntable.fm - a website that allows you to experience and discover music online with your friends. Users can rate music with their friends by clicking either the "Awesome" or "Lame" button, or become a DJ by spinning tunes with other DJs on the site.

Image courtesy of LadyGaga.com

Click here to view this gallery.

6. Social Media Security Threats Go Mobile

New phishing and malware scams emerge on the web every day. With smartphone adoption continuing to rise and smartphone users continuing to adopt apps and social media on their devices, the same threats of the web are now arriving on mobile phones — and they may actually be amplified.

For example, security firm Trusteer estimates that “mobile users accessing phishing websites are three times more likely to submit their login info than desktop users,” as a result of scams being harder to spot. The rise of mobile ad networks and third-party app stores also represent new risks.

7. Social Fuels Ecommerce Renaissance

While social media has emerged as a viable way for retailers to gain followers and broadcast deals, making social central to the shopping experience is still a largely untapped way to drive sales and increase margins. In 2012, look for more businesses to setup shop within the walls of Facebook, personalize their ecommerce sites based on your “taste graph” from Facebook and Twitter, and increase participation in communities like Tumblr and Pinterest where users organically share their purchases and wish lists. It’s also an area that’s starting to see big investment dollars flow in from the likes of Marc Andreessen.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JamesBrey

More About: 2012 predictions, features, Mobile, Social Media, Startups, Tech, Year End 2011

Mashable’s Digital Predictions for 2012

It’s hard to believe all that came out of the tech world in the year 2011. From drastic changes in social media trends to unexpected company acquisitions — both startups and major corporations — it goes without saying that it has been a banner year for technology as a whole.

We asked the staff at Mashable to peer into their own crystal balls and tell us what their digital predictions were for 2012. Some are obvious transitions, but others might be a little surprising.

Do you agree with our predictions? Let us know yours in the comments.

Product and Software

CD and DVD based software and game sales will continue to decline. Apple has already started its push to eliminate the optical disc — with its Mac App Store and the online-only availability of OS X Lion. Microsoft is also going to push digital app distribution via the Windows App Store component of Windows 8. Likewise, game companies will continue to push more games via download offerings, including Steam, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, eschewing traditional discs. – Christina Warren

Apple will release a triumvirate of products including a super slim edge-to-edge screen iPad 3, the long awaited iPhone 5 and an Apple TV. The last may also be called the iMac 50-inch. Amazon will introduce a completely redesigned Kindle Fire. The software will be somewhat different, but the hardware will be a rethinking of the 7-inch tablet. Microsoft Windows 8 will arrive by the end of the year, but with a number of different versions. Metro will be for tablets only and Windows 8 Home and Business will be for laptops and desktops. – Lance Ulanoff

Voice Recognition

Siri Image

I think voice recognition is going to be a big trend in 2012. The iPhone 4S’ Siri has brought the technology to a mainstream audience, and other manufacturers will be keen to capitalize on the buzz. It won’t just be phones that will offer the tech, we’ll see a variety of consumer electronics incorporating voice control elements — probably with mixed success! - Amy-Mae Elliott


Smart phones will start to see quad core processors along with higher resolution displays, and more smart phones will start to see NFC chips. Mobile payments will start to become recognizable, and more people will understand what it is.- Keith Kaplan

The Oscars will be streamed — in their entirety — online and on mobile. – Lance Ulanoff

Frictionless Sharing

“I saw the future early in 2011 when my colleague Sarah Kessler wrote about three startups betting on the idea that people would want to auto-share their browsing histories to social networks. Most people my age and older find this idea a bit startling — we like to control what and with whom we share online.

But in reading about these companies way back in February, it occurred to me that this might be the root of a new generational divide. I see my teenage cousins on Facebook liking thousands of pages indiscriminately and sharing daily minutiae by the truckload. Some are living what seems like 100% of their lives out loud and online. The idea of automatically streaming your reading, listening and location habits will definitely appeal to them, and never appeal to me. Just as my parents will never “get” Twitter and Reddit, I will never “get” clickstreaming.

Lo and behold, late 2011 brought these concepts directly to the mainstream: Facebook. The Washington Post’s Social Reader automatically shares the stories you read. “Frictionless sharing” like this will surely propagate widely in 2012 and beyond.” – Matt Silverman


Hulu Image

The coming year will also see much more focus on redefining the TV experience as Apple releases a TV set, which will seamlessly integrate the Internet. Despite the absence of Steve Jobs, the release will garner substantial hype and will be an immediate hit, prompting an upgrade cycle. - Todd Wasserman

Smart TVs and TV apps, for example Hulu or Netflix, will start to become more popular. – Keith Kaplan

This will be the first year most people become aware of what OLED HDTVs are, and will want one, especially after they’ve seen OLED’s sharp picture, super-flat screen and beautiful color saturation. However, it will be several years before OLED HDTVs in large sizes (over 55″) become affordable. – Charlie White


Motion gaming is sort of the ire of all hardcore gamers but in 2012 game companies will continue to push the limits of their gesture-based peripherals. Sales of the Kinect and PS3 Move may not be as stratospherically high as the Nintendo Wii once was but we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what these things can do. The companies are throwing their hats into motion gaming and 2012 will be the year it sinks or swims (until, of course, the WiiU comes out).

That, and there will be a new emphasis on motion-capping and life-like animation. The current crop of consoles can already get pretty close to photo-realism but animating those graphics has proved the toughest challenge. Games like L.A. Noire have shown what motion-capture can do in a video game setting. Be ready for more.

Of course, mobile/social gaming and gamification will continue their steady plot to conquer the gaming world but expect big moves in motion gaming and motion-capture. – Zachary Sniderman

Social Media

social media image

Social media powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter will grow less in user acquisition and more in user engagement by implementing new features to keep users on the site longer. Pinboard site Pinterest will be a huge player in the space as it continues to organically grow its large, yet niche audience. As Google+ continues to add more features, better integrate with other Google products and become more business-friendly, it will be a contender for best social network. Mobile design will become a focus for social sites (if it hasn’t already) as average users become more inclined to not only consume content but also engage on tablets and smartphones. – Meghan Peters

Facebook and Twitter will continue their rapid growth, especially outside of the U.S. Inside the U.S., Google+ will break 100 million users and look significantly different than it does right now. – Lance Ulanoff

Business Acquisitions

In 2012, Amazon will secure its place as the digital hub in a good portion of U.S. households by buying Netflix. This will not only add a lot more content to Amazon’s streaming choices and make buying Prime a no-brainer, but will also become a valuable branding tool as Amazon drops the Netflix name and that company’s red envelopes are replaced by Amazon’s yellow and white. - Todd Wasserman

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will step down, and someone will acquire Netflix. RIM will also announce a significant leadership change. It may also get acquired before the end of 2013. – Lance Ulanoff

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, GreenPimp, gmutlu, LPETTET, robas

More About: features, new year predictions, predictions, Social Media, Tech, Year End 2011

December 31 2011

Mashable’s Top 10 Biggest Stories of 2011

1. Damn You Autocorrect

Damn You Autocorrect blog released its nine funniest texts from the year, each of which featured a hilarious autocorrect misspelling.

Click here to view this gallery.

Curious which Mashable stories topped the charts this year? We’re here to share our 10 biggest stories of 2011, all thanks to our readers!

We calculated the numbers for our top stories based on unique visitors. While we can’t share exact numbers, we assure you that the stats astounded us. Just take a look at the Mashable Follow share count on each page, and you’ll see what we mean.

So, which stories reigned supreme? Well, Google appeared in four out of the 10 articles. Go figure. And of course, tech and social media giants Apple and Facebook made the cut. Take a gander through our gallery to make sure you’re up to speed on Mashable‘s most-viewed stories of the year.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, studiocasper

More About: Facebook, features, Google, iphone, mashable, Top Stories, Year End 2011

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The Very Best of YouTube in 2011 [VIDEOS]

Nicki Minaj - Super Bass By Sophia Grace Brownlee

Christina Warren: 8-year-old Sophia Grace doing the most amazing cover of "Super Bass" that the world has ever seen. A half-pint rapping powerhouse who is not only cute, but is GOOD.

Click here to view this gallery.

Here at Mashable, we love YouTube videos. We love YouTube videos so much that we bring you one every day in our YouTube Video of the Day series. Instead of just bringing you one video today, we decided to look back on a wild year of widely viewed uploads.

In honor of the end of the year of Rebecca Black, our staff rounded up some of our favorite viral videos of this year. Although none of us selected the auto-tune viral hit, you will find two cameos by Sophia Grace Brownlee, some cute babies and, of course, a cat.

What was your favorite YouTube video of 2011? Let us know in the comments.

Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

More About: viral-video-of-day, Year End 2011, YouTube

For more Social Media coverage:

Top 10 iOS Apps of 2011

1. Tweetbot

After Twitter acquired Tweetie, it was easy to think that the need for a third-party iPhone Twitter client largely disappeared.

When Tweetbot came out in April, it proved that even the most crowded markets can still find room for a great app. Tweetbot quickly started to rival the official app in terms of beauty, ease of use and features. With a customizable shortcut bar as well as advanced gesture support, Tweetbot is an all-around great Twitter client.

Twitter revamped its official app earlier this month and Tweetbot became a saving grace for users who hate the new app and want faster access to the features they like most.

Click here to view this gallery.

2011 was a great year for iOS apps. The App Store officially passed the 500,000 app mark, and with iOS 5, developers are continuing to push the boundaries of what it means to make a mobile app.

We’ve already highlighted 15 of the best mobile apps, but with so many great apps available for the iPad and iPhone, we had to pick ten more.

The only rule with this list was that an app needed to be released in 2011.

What was your favorite iOS app of 2011? Let us know.

More About: airport utility, features, Grand Theft Auto 3, HBO GO, Infinity Blade 2, instacast, iOS apps, iphone apps, mixel, songza, Super 8, tweetbot, welder, Year End 2011

December 30 2011

What Are Your Predictions for 2012? [OPEN THREAD]

With just over one day left until 2012, the Internet is chock full of digital thought leaders sharing their predictions for the coming year.

Now, we want to know: What do you think will be the biggest tech and social media trends of 2012?

For some inspiration, check out Mashable Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff’s tech predicitions post. He cites augmented reality, micro-payment, UltraBooks, mobile chip wars and social/digital exhaustion as this year’s top stories. Editorial Director Josh Catone recently shared where he believes Facebook is going, and Business Editor Todd Wasserman gave his take on whereTwitter is headed.

We also recently held a Google Hangout to see what the Mashable community on Google+ predicts for the coming year. There they talked about and played around with augmented reality, and discussed the future of social networking and Google+. Here are some of of our favorite moments from the Hangout:

What do you think will be the movements that define and change technology in 2012? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

More About: technology, Year End 2011

For more Social Media coverage:

2011′s Biggest Winners and Losers in Ecommerce

Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

In-demand products, unparalleled site design and usability, competitive search engine marketing, continuous innovative, exciting holiday specials — these are just some of the variables that make up a successful ecommerce business.

On the other hand, some of the top pitfalls for Internet retailers include lousy service, uninventive products, confusing corporate messaging and ineffective advertising.

We’ve seen a little bit of everything in 2011. As the year wraps up, it’s the perfect time to recount the ecommerce wins and fails of 2011. Some strong houses continue to dominate this year, while previously lauded companies fell a bit from grace (cough, Netflix).

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers in online commerce for 2011.

1. Winner: Amazon

As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon has been making great strides for years, and 2011 was a fun year to watch the company do its thing.

First and foremost, Amazon released a refreshed line of Kindle products, including the Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G and Kindle Fire tablets. Kindle devices continued to fly off the shelves all year — the company announced last week that it was selling “well over 1 million Kindle devices per week,” outpacing the launch of the original iPad in early 2010.

Though it has been met with criticism (and a software update to appease frustrated customers), Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet is the retailer’s bestselling item ever, having only launched three months ago.

It’s not just the devices that are making waves in the market. Kindle books are a big deal for the company too. As of April, Kindle electronic books began outselling physical books on Amazon. For every 100 print books Amazon has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books.

Amazon also celebrated a number of other milestones this year, including the introduction of Amazon Deals, Cloud Player, the Android App Store, MyHabit.com, the ad-supported Kindle 3G and the Mac Downloads Store, along with the acquisitions of The Book Depository and LOVEFiLM.

2. Loser: Barnes & Noble

With the weight of its brick-and-mortar stores, Barnes & Noble looks like it’s fighting a losing battle.

This year, its ecommerce site performed tremendously well. The Nook ereader drove digital sales. But the website’s increasing sales are no match for the total decline in revenue the company is facing.

Barnes and Noble’s November launch of the Nook tablet, the successor to the Nook Color, was a positive event for the company — the device received celebratory reviews and online buzz.

But one can’t overlook the fact that BN.com and the house of Nook are severely impeded by the retail stores’ extreme losses. Although I’d like to declare Barnes and Noble a winner this year for its feats in the tablet and ereader markets, I just can’t bring myself to reward mediocrity.

3. Winner: Apple

Apple introduced the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S this year, basking in the glory of a full-fledged hype mill at each launch.

The iPad 2 helped drive sales of the iPad to 40 million units, since the original was introduced.

While the world would have preferred to see the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S was received well, with record weekend sales of 4 million devices. Thanks to the iPhone 4S release, the company is on its way to selling a record number of iPhones this quarter.

Apple also set a new record for Mac sales in Q4 of 2011, having sold 4.89 million units.

4. Loser: HP

What is up over at HP? I can’t even begin to explain all of the horrible problems that company is facing.

It holds top market share in the PC market, with Dell and Apple following suit, yet it has no idea where it’s going. To WebOS or not to WebOS? Furthermore, to PC or not to PC? Those were the questions Meg Whitman finally helped the company answer after taking over for confused HP CEO Leo Apotheker.

After the failed HP TouchPad launch, the company is now out of the tablet business, but hopes to be back in the game by 2013. I’m sorry, that’s just sad.

5. Winner: Walmart

In August, Mashable‘s Christina Warren declared Walmart’s recently purchased online movie service Vudu a “bonafide hit.” For the first half of 2011, Vudu had 5.3% of the U.S. market, putting it in third place after behemoth iTunes and Microsoft’s Zune Video Marketplace. Vudu even eclipsed Sony PlayStation Store and Amazon.

Although it shut down its seven-year-old MP3 music store, Vudu, along with a few other Internet wins, places it on my winning list.

The retail giant is trying its hand at Facebook giving this holiday season, divvying up $1.5 million of holiday grants via the world’s largest social network with its 12 Days of Giving campaign.

And speaking of social media, Walmart’s social media strategy is top-notch when compared to other large retailers. It provides on-message, utility-focused videos on YouTube and showcases a team of 15 specialized tweeters via its Twitter channel.

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Walmart’s animated Frank the Fruitcake Facebook spam, but its social strategy is going in the right direction otherwise.

And while we all love to dote on Amazon, Walmart is still the largest retailer in the world by a long shot, if you count offline business; and it ranks in the top 10 for online retail.

Walmart still needs to work on diversifying its online audience, though — a recent comScore report illustrated that 83.4% of Walmart.com’s visitors came from North America in June.

6. Loser: Netflix

Much of 2011 went quite well for Netflix, but all hell broke loose after the company implemented its 60% price hike in September. Shortly thereafter, CEO Reed Hastings apologized and announced that the company would be splitting its streaming video and DVD business, rebranding the DVD-by-mail service as Qwikster. Of course, Qwikster sounded like a stupid idea to everyone in the community, so that idea was qwikly abandoned in October.

As a result of all of the madness and confusion, the company’s stock plummeted and the company disclosed a loss of 805,000 subscribers in the third quarter.

Hopefully for Netflix this huge snafu will be forgotten in the new year — but that’s unlikely.

7. Winner: Gilt Groupe

Although it was only founded in 2007 and focuses solely on ecommerce, Gilt Groupe ranks in the top 50 Internet retailers, beating out household names like J. Crew, Scholastic, Crate and Barrel and American Eagle Outfitters.

Gilt Groupe has even broken the record for highest grossing revenue in Silicon Alley history.

This year has seen announcement after announcement from Gilt, showcasing the company’s ability to innovative quickly and to build upon its pioneering flash sale site model.

In May, Gilt raised $138 million in a round of funding, bringing it to a total of $240 million to date.

From there, it introduced its online culinary magazine Gilt Taste, an exclusive Facebook commerce offering and the relaunch of Gilt Home.

In November, Gilt Groupe began shipping to more than 90 additional countries (beyond its U.S. and Japanese operations), making it more global than ever.

Gilt also introduced its full-price men’s retail site, Park & Bond, in 2011, though performance is yet to be determined.

8. Loser: Sony

This year was difficult for electronics and entertainment giant Sony. The company is forecasting a $1.1 billion full-year loss, which would make its fourth straight annual net loss. So, what’s going on?

For starters, the strengthening yen, the unfortunate and lengthy PlayStation Network hacking affair, and declining LCD TV sales put the company in a bad place. Besides these more predictable problems, Sony also faced two natural disasters that hit its business badly, including floods in Thailand and the Japanese earthquake.

Sony, like its competitors, is facing difficulties adjusting to the ever-changing consumer electronics sector, and this year counts as another addition to its losing streak.

Your Thoughts

This post outlines some of the most buzzed about ecommerce stories of 2011. I could get into the nitty gritty of other companies — after all, there are hundreds of other Internet retailers out there in the green and red. But I’d rather get your thoughts on the industry.

Let me know your thoughts about this year’s biggest ecommerce winners and losers in the comments below.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, desifoto, Flickr, Noelas, Walmart Stores

More About: amazon, apple, ecommerce, features, gilt groupe, HP, Kindle, netflix, nook, Opinion, sony, Year End 2011

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5 Video Game Moments that Defined 2011

game trophy image

It seems like every single year is “the year of gaming,” if only because the genre keeps getting bigger and bigger. Everyone thought 2006 was going to be the high water mark with the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii all battling for supremacy. Then 2009 upped the ante with a rush of top-tier, high-selling games.

In all the console-focused frenzy, few people expected mobile and social gaming to be so dominant. The Nintendo DS (and its iterations) is the best selling system of all time and smartphones became tiny-powerhouses thanks to intuitive games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and more.

Well, 2011 was no slouch in terms of gaming. This year we caught a glimpse of the next generation of systems — portable and otherwise. Social networks entered mainstream games, motion gaming promised to further revolutionize how we play, mobile games proved they are here to stay and gamification showed that pretty much anything you do online can be turned into a video game.

Read on for the year in gaming.

1. The Next Generation of Consoles

This year introduced tons of new consoles and systems. Nintendo launched the 3DS, a handheld system that provided glasses-free 3D visuals, as well as the Nintendo Wii U, a console that features a tablet-like controller and asynchronous play. Nintendo has always pushed the boundaries of gaming and is almost always successful (cough, Virtua Boy). The Wii U will let users interact with a screen by using the tablet interface or pair the tablet with Wii controllers. One example had players throwing digital stars from their lap to the screen and another showed a golf game controlled by placing the tablet on the ground like a tee and swinging the Wii controller like a club.

The 3DS was a bit of a bust, sales-wise, for Nintendo. This might be due to the high sales of the DS and the pending launch of Sony’s PlayStation Vita, a powerful handheld with two touchscreens, an array of internal sensors and a graphics engine that can trounce any other mobile device.

2. Mobile Gaming is Here to Stay

Another reason for the 3DS’s poor sales could be that gamers finally got their gaming fixes on their smartphones. Angry Birds continued to dominate the games market, but that bird-flinging addiction also opened the door for a range of innovative mobile games to enter the market. The iPhone and iPad are still considered the premiere gaming mobile devices capable of simple games like Cut the Rope, as well as visual stunners such as Infinity Blade II. Android phones, however, went toe-to-toe with Apple’s mobile darling.

Microsoft is also a force to be reckoned with. While the Windows Phone 7 has received mixed reviews, it comes packaged with Xbox LIVE functionality and will pair up with the recent Xbox 360 interface update, transforming your phone into both a gaming device and multi-purpose controller.

3. Battlefield Takes On Modern Warfare

Let’s not forget about the console games either. This was the year EA’s real-world, first-person shooter Battlefield 3 swore it would finally topple Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, releasing just one month ahead of Modern Warfare 3.

Ultimately, Modern Warfare 3 came out on top in terms of sales, but the real story was how much everyday people and media latched onto the competition. It was more than a moment of competition but an example that video games are moving further into the public consciousness. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that both games spent enormous amounts of money promoting and publicizing before launch.

Both games also introduced social layers to their massive multiplayer experiences. Battlefield 3 launched “Battlelog” and Modern Warfare 3 launched “Elite.” Both services helped players connect and converse with fellow gamers, keep track of their in-game stats, view resources on how to improve their play time and share through social networks. The services integrated social into the multiplayer experience and changed users’ expectations on what games should offer to their fan communities.

4. Motion Gaming

Motion gaming had a big year in 2011, precisely because it wasn’t such a big deal. When the Nintendo Wii came out, gamers were skeptical that gesture-based controls could actually be fun. The PlayStation Move, another handheld gesture controller, was called a technologically advanced copy cat. The Xbox Kinect, Microsoft’s controller-free gesture-based peripheral, was deemed too inaccurate to work in games.

This year saw all of those peripherals and concepts become commonplace. Motion gaming is no longer a novelty but one of the many ways that we now play video games. Nintendo is experimenting further with its tablet-like controller for the Wii U; PlayStation is adding touch and swipe controls to its latest handheld; and Xbox recently released an interface update for the 360 that’s all about gesture controls and voice commands.

5. Gamification

x factor image

Gamification, the buzzworthy yet cringe-inducing term, has a much-deserved spot because its so damn omnipresent. Gamification is the process of adding game-like elements to a service or system, such as rewards, leaderboards and points. Everyone from brands to TV shows to musicians to sports teams to media companies have added game elements to their sites and services as a way of further engaging their clients.

If you look close enough, nearly everything you do on the Internet has become some sort of game: Did you earn points for your comment on the Glee website? Did you have more Twitter followers than your best friends?

Friendly competition is our natural state of being, and there is undeniable pleasure in winning, even if that “victory” is becoming mayor of your favorite cafe or earning exclusive content for your television viewing habits.

Honorable Game Mentions

A 2011 year in review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the games that kept our thumbs busy. These games were news-makers, innovators and just plain fun to play. In no particular order:

Battlefield 3

This first-person shooter is all about fast action and vehicular combat.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, brianjmatis

More About: features, gamification, Gaming, mobile gaming, motion gaming, video games, Year End 2011

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8 Ways Digital Will Improve B2B Sales in 2012

Guy Nirpaz is the CEO and co-founder of Totango, which analyzes user actions on SaaS applications, providing sales teams invaluable information in qualifying prospects and prioritizing people to contact who are most likely to buy or renew.

How B2B products and services are purchased and sold is rapidly changing. Some call it the consumerization of IT, but perhaps it’s the consumerization of B2B in general.

Buyers are demanding cloud-based products that are user-friendly as well as social and mobile capabilities, with as little sales involvement as possible. A good example is purchasing from iTunes: web-based self-service with instant gratification.

Below are eight predictions for B2B sales in 2012.

1. Social Selling Will Go Mainstream

Ninety-two percent of prospects almost never book a meeting from a cold call or email, according to a study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. In 2012, rather than make cold calls, sales executives will first seek connections through social media networks, and then increase response rates with warm introductions.

Aside from personal networks, sales managers will also find ways to leverage the networks of colleagues, partners, customers, executives and former employees during the sales process. 

2. Companies Will use Facebook as a Sales Channel

Facebook was originally viewed as a network for personal communications in which direct selling was frowned upon. In 2012, more companies will experiment with the social platform as a sales channel, beginning with employees who sell or advocate to their friends.

Home Depot has already asked store associates to post helpful do-it-yourself tips on their personal pages. Farmers Insurance encourages local franchisees to build relationships with customers via Facebook; the company won a Guinness World Record doing so.

3. Sales Executives Will Adopt Big Data

In 2012, sales leaders will embrace big data to increase sales performance. Some will use it to identify the most profitable customers and find more leads with the same characteristics. Others will analyze customer usage patterns during trial and production to find the hottest prospects and to up-sell targets.

Combining analytics and sales automation, B2B companies will target prospects and customers with personalized offers triggered by specific behaviors.

4. Customer Engagement Becomes a Top Priority

Sales managers will no longer be able to drop off software and drive away. With the rise of subscription-based pricing models, unhappy customers who are not actively using a product or service will simply cancel their subscriptions.

This will align organizations behind their customers’ success, and encourage them to increasingly monitor engagement throughout the customer lifecycle. Some B2B companies, like Yammer, will even appoint a dedicated VP of customer engagement, also responsible for up-selling and renewals.

5. Outside Sales Reps Will Use iPads

The iPad is finding its way into the enterprise. Some are calling it the most important new sales tool since the invention of the cellphone. In 2012, most outside sales reps will start to use an iPad or other tablet for work. They will use it for shipping, product documentation, demonstrations, to capture leads at a trade shows or to quickly research a prospect before a meeting. 

6. Most Sales Tools Will Move to the Cloud

The average sales organization already uses more than 24 software tools in the sales process, based on a poll conducted by Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power magazine, at the 2011 Sales Strategies in a Social & Mobile World conference. This number is growing every year. In 2012, the majority of these applications will move to the cloud.

Many companies, for example, will adopt cloud-based versions of subscription and billing software. This is a boom for sales executives, who will now have more visibility into a customer’s billing cycle, which is helpful when growing or renewing an account. Also, the more applications to move to the cloud, the more streamlined the process.

7. Sales and Marketing Will Converge

The sales process is becoming more self-sufficient, and customers are driving the pace. Outside sales are becoming inside sales, partly because of online conferencing tools. Inside sales is being replaced with self-serving website resources. As this happens, the lines between marketing and sales continue to blur.

In 2012, more organizations will appoint chief revenue officers in recognition of this trend. Overall, there will have to be closer collaboration between the sales and marketing chiefs.

8. More Companies Will Offer Free Trials

More organizations will offer free trials or completely free versions of their products. Prospects and customers are increasingly demanding self-service, which provides instant access to a free trial of products, before deciding to talk to a sales rep. Companies that offer a free trial will get more buzz and word-of-mouth referrals, and their sales costs will lower when fewer live touch points are required.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mbortolino

More About: b2b, cloud computing, contributor, features, ipad, sales, Social Media, Year End 2011

For more Business coverage:

December 22 2011

Facebook Names Top Games of 2011

Social gaming was a big trend in 2011 and we expect the market to continue to grow in 2012. Facebook, the biggest platform for social games, released its list of the most popular games of 2011.

Unlike most year-end lists, this one actually has quite a few surprises. I fully expected CityVille, Zynga’s hit social game, to top the list. Nope. According to Facebook’s measurements, that honor belongs to Gardens of Time.

In the update announcing the list, Facebook does say it is basing its ranking on “games that drew the most active users and received the highest user recommendations.”

That probably accounts for some of the discrepancies we found against other Facebook app data sources, like AppData.com. According to AppData, CityVille is the most popular game with 48.8 million monthly active users. Conversely, Gardens of Time ranks much further down the list with 8.5 million monthly active users.

Accounting questions aside, here are Facebook’s ten most popular games of 2011:

  1. Gardens of Time (by Playdom)
  2. The Sims Social (by EA)
  3. Cityville (by Zynga)
  4. DoubleDown Casino (by DoubleDown Entertainment)
  5. Indiana Jones Adventure World (by Zynga)
  6. Words With Friends (by Zynga)
  7. Bingo Blitz (by Buffalo Studios)
  8. Empires & Allies (by Zynga)
  9. Slotomania-Slot Machines (by Playtika)
  10. Diamond Dash (by wooga)

What Facebook game got your attention this year? Let us know.

More About: Facebook, playdom, social games, Year End 2011, Zynga

For more Entertainment coverage:

December 15 2011

19 Biggest Social Media Moments of 2011

These days, it seems we can’t go a week without encountering a viral video, a meme sensation or a new digital movement. The year 2011 forged an unprecedented path for these such social media phenomena.

Whether that meant influencing YouTube marketing with a viral advertising campaign or mobilizing the online communication of an entire political movement, people are discovering that social media is one of the most powerful vehicles for change the world has ever experienced. In 2011, people were not only affected by social media — they actually effected social media change itself.

SEE ALSO: 9 Social Media Uprisings That Sought to Change the World in 2011

We’ve highlighted 19 influential social media moments of the year. Some will make you giggle, while others will cause you to cringe. Either way, they contributed to a better informed and more entertained global community.

How do you predict social media will effect change in 2012?

1. Rebecca Black

Viral star Rebecca Black uploaded her music video "Friday" to YouTube and achieved viral status with 167 million views -- and mixed reviews.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: features, memes, Social Media, Twitter, viral, viral videos, Year End 2011, YouTube

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