Social media has become a major asset to both our personal and professional lives. Adoption among consumers and brands continues to grow as more people recognize the value of a tweet, pin, and post. As 2013 comes to a close, we take a look back at some of the year’s biggest news stories that helped shape your present and future social media strategies.

1. Twitter Unveils Vine.


This past January, Twitter introduced a new video-sharing app called Vine that lets you capture and share short looping videos. Since then, Vine has grown both functionally and numerically. The app, which originally launched on iOS, is now also available for Android and Windows Phones.

Over the past year, Twitter has released several useful updates for the app, including editing tools, sharing and embedding options, and most recently, custom URLs. With more than 40 million registered users, Vine was a hit right out of the gate with consumers, but even brands couldn’t stay away.

National brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Lowe’s, Nissan, Tide have leveraged the six-second videos into marketing campaigns — and quite successfully we might add. According to a recent study, branded Vines are four times more likely to be shared than branded online videos.

2. Facebook Fights Back With Instagram Video.


Back in June, Instagram introduced its own video feature which allows you to record and stitch together clips to create 15-second videos. Unlike Vine videos, which endlessly loop, Instagram videos have a beginning and an end. You can also choose the best frame as your cover shot and apply filters.

And just like Vine, brands have taken a liking to the video feature. In October, data from Unruly found that nearly 40 percent of the most popular Instagram videos between September 9th and October 9th were created by brands — including Nike, Samsung, Disney, Red Bull, and more.

3. YouTube Rolls Out Its ‘One Channel’ Redesign.


YouTube rolled out its new layout called One Channel in June. While the basic services and functions of YouTube didn’t change, the interface became much more personalized and easier to navigate. Instead of just focusing on presenting videos, content creators are now able to focus on developing a base of followers.

For example, the new design brought with it a slew of improved features, including embeddable subscription buttons, external annotations, Channel Cards, cross-promotion options, and offline viewing. More recently, YouTube introduced a new commenting system powered by Google+ turning comments into conversations.

4. Pinterest Experiments With Promoted Pins.


Pinterest’s popularity among consumers and brands continued to grow in 2013. So much so that the company finally began testing paid advertising in the form of Promoted Pins. The ad unit, which enables businesses to pay to show certain pins at the top of search results and category feeds, blends rather seamlessly with organic content.

Promoted Pins are still being tested and haven’t been made available to the public just yet. However, the company’s experimentation certainly shows how valuable a single pin has become. A November study found that a pin today generates 78 cents in sales, on average — that’s a 25 percent increase from December 2012.

5. Facebook Simplifies Its Ad Offerings.


From a redesigned Ads Manager and simplified targeting to a completely overhauled ads offering, Facebook has released a much more consistent and intuitive ad-buying experience in 2013. Although Facebook Ads are a great way to attract a new audience and grow your business, the amount of options available at the beginning of this year made the process feel cumbersome and overly complicated.

In June, the social network set out to remedy that by streamlining the number of ad units from 27 to fewer than half of that. One of the ways Facebook accomplished this was by eliminating redundancies, starting with Questions and Offers. The company found that threaded comments and Page Post Link Ads were just as effective.

Since then, Facebook has focused on expanding Custom Audiences, improving Mobile App Install Ads, and testing auto-play video ads. The latter is the social network’s latest experiment, and arguably one of the most important ad types we’ll see in 2014.

6. Instagram Debuts Its First Ad.


We guess you could say that 2013 was the year of advertising for many social networks. In addition to Pinterest and Facebook, Instagram also confirmed that it was testing sponsored content. As a result, image and video ads would be shown in members’ feeds from brands they don’t follow.

The first Instagram ad debuted in November from Michael Kors. Although it was met with mixed reviews from consumers, the ad campaign reportedly generated engagement that was almost four times higher than what the designer brand is used to seeing. Eighteen hours after the ad went live, it had received 217,700 likes, a 370 percent increase compared to the 46,000 the brand sees on average.

7. Twitter Partners With Nielsen.


Although the entertainment industry has been leveraging Twitter’s real-time conversations for years, the turning point in 2013 was the partnership between the social network and Nielsen. As TV viewing became more social, entertainment executives needed a common benchmark from which to measure the engagement of their programming.

With that in mind, the two companies released the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, an industry-standard metric that is based entirely on Twitter data. The tool gathers information about how many people tweet or read tweets about top shows, and just like the traditional Nielsen ratings, it can estimate the size of an audience and number of impressions.

The new rating tool nicely complemented the advertising feature called Twitter Amplify and the newly expanded Trending Shows feature. The latter highlights links to popular television programs at the top of the Twitter timelines. These interactive tweets link to pages with additional information about the show. Twitter Amplify, which rolled out in May, lets marketers promote television clips on Twitter. It has since been used by several partners, including sports media giants ESPN and MLB.com.

It’s incredible to look at just how much has changed over the course of a year. Even the smallest updates had a significant impact on marketing strategies. Although there are an overwhelming amount of news stories to reflect on, we felt that the above seven had the largest effect on marketers and advertisers.

As we get ready to kick off 2014, it’s important that you and your social team take some time to reflect on the past year and all of the new tools it brought. While we expect more changes in the new year, it’s helpful to gauge what has worked and what hasn’t so you can take those valuable lessons with you going forward.

[Image credit: GatanassEsther Vargas, Phil CampbellMohamed NanabhayRoxanne Readypaz.caSarah Reid]