Seven social media headlines of 2012 and what they teach us

by | Dec 3, 2012

Last week when the awesome Nick Atkin of Halton Housing and I talked to some clued-up housing sector professionals* we looked at social media in 2012 and what’s in store for next year.

Here are just some of the social media stories from 2012 we looked at and what they teach us for 2013.

1. The Obamas cwtch (that’s what we call a nice hug here in Wales)

STORY: Obama is voted back into office and the tweet of the Obamas hugging above is the most retweeted tweet of all time.

LESSON: Appealing to our human side and our emotions has great impact. We can often get caught up in the details of our work but there is nothing more interesting than storytelling and talking about the people who make things happen

2. Lewis Hamilton ‘accuses’ a teammate of unfollowing him

STORY: The racing driver got all shirty when he thought Jenson Button had unfollowed him on Twitter. When you’re a celebrity, that’s news!

LESSON: Personal branding is becoming more and more important as employers look to Googling potential employees as part of checking your suitability for a job. Are you happy with your digital footprint? Will you be in ten years from now? Be yourself online but be your best, classy self. Publicly slagging off colleagues doesn’t make you look good.

3. #Savetheintern

STORY: MP Tom Watson left the room while logged into Twitter. His intern noticed and tweeted from his account using an inappropriate term. A Twitterstorm ensued. The hashtag #Savetheintern was trending where people felt the intern shouldn’t be punished.

LESSON: We all mess up, people are pretty forgiving. Let’s not overreact when we make a mistake, social media is young and people can never be perfect. Learn from it and move on.

4. Snickers criticised for celeb tweets

STORY: Snickers got celebs to tweet pictures of themselves chomping on their chocolate bar. It didn’t go down well, people didn’t want to be so blatantly sold at and an Office of Fair Trading spokesman said of the stunt: “Online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid for promotions are deceptive under trading laws.”

LESSON: Product placement is a much more subtle game these days. If brands play their cards right they can take advantage of the fact the most customers will use mobile phones to capture themselves at events or using products associated with organisations.

A real fan or user of a product or service being made a fuss of with a retweet or a thanks from savvy staff members is so much more credible than handing cash to the stars to pretend they like your stuff.

5. Monmouthpedia

STORY: Monmouth, a small town based in Monmouthshire where I work, was all over the world’s press and social networks when it became the world first Wikipedia town. The Monmouthpedia project helps local people learn to contribute to Wikipedia pages and uses QRpedia codes to allow people to scan interesting things in the town so their phone brings them to a Wikipedia page with information in their language.

LESSON: You don’t have to be a massive corporation to hit the headlines and get people behind your work. It just has to capture people’s attention, show them something new or strike a chord. I was lucky to be part of a team (Steve, Roger, John , Stevie, Sam & Kellie) with the talent and passion to make Monmouthpedia an online hit.

6. 02 respond to abusive tweets with humour

STORY: The O2 mobile phone network was experiencing problems. People were sounding off on Twitter. O2 took the heat out of the situation with funny and irreverent replies. Many consumers were won over by staff’s resilience and the tweets were a distraction from the failed service.

LESSON: A bit of humanity online can mean people remember that real people with feelings work in customer service roles. This technique may well have rubbed certain consumers the wrong way but in this case, for this audience, it won people over. Sometimes an unorthodox approach is called for.

7. Hashtag baby

STORY: Apparently, a London woman has named her baby girl ‘Hashtag’.

LESSON: Wow. When I read this the first time, frankly, I had no words. This story basically taught me that you can never predict what’s around the corner, and there are always new ways to innovate!

I’ve missed lots of stories here from what was an eventful year. What were the standout stories on social media for you this year? I’d love to hear your favourites.

*It’s not often I get the offer to collaborate on a presentation with an inspirational public sector CEO and if you don’t follow Nick Atkin on Twitter yet, do it pronto for great insights and a bit of fun too. Nick put together our Prezi for the Northern Housing Consortium Summit – he somehow managed to include a photo of a mullet headed Glen Hoddle while sharing a great summary of the business case for professional use of social media:

by Johnragai[

[Photo by Johnragai[]



  1. Andy Johnson

    Helen, this is just brilliant. I think I’ve found my stand out blog from this year – love the prezi from you and Nick too! Thank you.

    • acedigitalcomms

      Wow, what a kind comment, thanks Andy! I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you via your blog and Twitter – this social media thing is pretty good eh?!

  2. Joel_Hughes

    Great Post Helen – I too was dumbfounded at the newborn Hashtag!


    • acedigitalcomms

      Cheers Joel, it was a heck of a story. Everyone knows ‘Retweet’ would make a far cooler name for a baby 🙂

  3. David Vane

    You missed the best one of all – “I shop at Waitrose because…” My favourite mistake which actually turned in their favour!

    • acedigitalcomms

      That was a great one! I guess Waitrose might have predicted a hashtag highjack but had faith enough that their brand could stand it. I also omitted the Susan Boyle Album promo hashtag hilarity. When I first saw #susanalbumparty it gave me a deliciously childish chortle! Thanks for the comment David, I’m chuffed you stopped by for a read 🙂


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

Comms Creatives Academy membership

Annual membership gets you unlimited access to all our classes, courses and events.

New classes added every month.

All the training, time-saving resources and inspiration you need for a whole year.