Our third 2012 prediction focused on emerging platforms–or, what just a few months ago were considered the rising stars of emerging platforms. Today, neither Tumblr (launched in April 2007), Instagram (launched in October 2010) nor Pinterest (launched last March) seem deserving of such a newbie title. Each one of these platforms has enjoyed its own impressive arc so far in 2012, making this prediction one of the few that we can already deem a success.
Tumblr, the eldest of the bunch, started the year with 15 billion monthly page views. As of mid-July, that number has grown to 17 billion with 71 million unique posts per day. But perhaps even more notable than Tumblr’s user growth was its announcement in April that it would allow paid advertising campaigns on its properties for the first time. Given Tumblr CEO David Karp’s long-held anti-ad stance, it’s no surprise that with this new approach came strict guidelines: a minimum $25K commitment from brands (to compare, Twitter charges a minimum of $15K), and only those whose ads integrate with the platform in an unobtrusive, native way. In other words, even if you have the money, Tumblr executives have the final say. First up for the microblogging site was sports giant Adidas, which launched their campaign as part of the company’s official soccer blog in early June, just prior to its high-profile turn as sponsor of the London Olympic Games.
Of the three, Instagram is definitely the dark horse winner for ‘best year ever.’ At the start of 2012, the platform had 15 million users and 400 million total photo shares. Then April 9th happened. Facebook bought Instagram for a (per-employee) record of $1 billion, ensuring its position as social media’s go-to photo app. Just four days following the acquisition — and the app’s expansion to Android — Instagram’s user-base hit 40 million. As of August, that number has doubled to more than 80 million. Despite its ubiquitousness, Instagram has retained its “cool,” securing partnerships with celebrities like Lenny Kravitz, retailers like H&M and Tiffany & Co., as well as media voices as diverse as TIME and “The Sartorialist.” Visually-focused brands like Bergdorf Goodman, Burberry, MTV and Four Seasons continue to flock to Instagram’s platform en masse, eager to display their content–and to encourage fans to do the same.
Pinterest, the newest platform on the block, turned the corner from 2011 to 2012 with the most momentum of any major social media site. In its first 16 months, from March 2011 to this July, Pinterest saw its users increase by a factor of 20–from one million to 20 million. Among them: First Lady Michelle Obama, designers Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta, and as of today, British soccer team Arsenal. In the past year, our research shows that more magazines have joined the pinning platform than any other social network. Titles in the ‘Cooking, Food & Beverage’ and ‘Home & Gardening’ verticals have proven particularly successful, now referring more online traffic than even Facebook. Despite zero revenue to-date, Pinterest claims to be pursuing several revenue-generating options for the future. But even without them, the fact that the company is currently valued at $1.5 billion speaks volumes to the confidence investors and consumers have in the platform. As long as the site continues to improve its design (as it did dramatically in March) and makes strides to broaden its base, there is little doubt Pinterest will remain a social media star.