As 2011 fast approaches, and with social media sites, online PR companies and bloggers starting to compile their end-of-year lists, it seems like an opportune time to highlight some of the best social media apps of the year and the ways in which they have shaped our smartphone experiences throughout 2010.
1. Foursquare - The arrival of Foursquare this year marked a huge step in the right direction for location-based services; opening up limitless opportunities for both consumers and brands, and changing the way smartphone users share and use location information. In many ways, Foursquare is still very much developing, however, in just a matter of months we are already starting to see both brands and digital PR companies utilise the functionality of Foursquare as part of their wider social media marketing strategies. The potential for retail brands in particular is huge, especially when looking at the integration of social media activity and in-store interaction alongside the creation of an innovative and effective loyalty and reward-type programme. As much as Foursquare has taken hold this year we are still very much at the beginning with this one.
2. Instagram - Instagram was another interesting app introduced this year, if only for it's simplicity and instant usability. With Instagram, smartphone users were finally presented with the perfect photo-based app to satisfy all their photosharing needs - again, another trend that has taken hold this year. Simply put, Instagram is almost an image-based version of Twitter, whereby users are able to capture images with their smartphone, quickly and easily edit them through the built-in retro filtering feature, add comments and location information, and post the end result onto the Instagram feed. Much in the same way that users follow people on Twitter, Instagram's design provokes a similar kind of engagement and interaction between users through comment, "Like" and sharing functions. Ease of use, a slick interface and seamless integration with multiple social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare, made Instagram an instant go-to app in 2010.
3. Angry Birds - Without doubt, the most talked-about social media game this year, app developer Rovio's Angry Birds was downloaded by over 50 million users, quickly launching the game as a pop-cultural phenomenon this year. Users were treated with constant updates and new levels for free, frequently rolled out before most of us had the chance to complete the existing levels already available. If that wasn't enough, the Angry Birds developers also introduced themed extensions to the app, with new editions and levels arriving in time for Halloween, and more recently, with the new Christmas edition. However, the key to the success of Angry Birds is undoubtedly the fact that it completely embodies the perfect balance between simplicity, pick-up-and-play appeal and longevity. It was also constantly shared across social media networks in the way of users competing for highest scores and challenging followers and friends to discover hidden levels and updates within the quickest time. Rovio's plans for Angry Birds in 2011 include the creation of a Facebook version of the app as well as the launch of the game onto multiple gaming consoles.
4. Get Glue - Checking-in is now no longer limited to venues and by geographical location, with Get Glue now enabling users to check-in to entertainment and activities such as checking-in to TV shows, Movies, Music, Books, and Video Games. Again, perfect integration with Twitter and Facebook offers users the chance to share their check-ins with other like-minded friends. In the same way users earn badges in Foursquare, Get Glue enables users to unlock stickers specific to each show or video game, also tying this in with promotional discounts and electronic coupons that can be earned the more active users are on the app. Again, Get Glue's appeal lies in it's ease of use and instant pick-up-and-play features as well as it's integration across multiple social media networks.
5. Facebook - The Facebook app for smartphone still remains the all-encompassing, essential social media app, if only for the fact that it does everything you would want an app-version of Facebook to do. A perfect interface, seamless integration, ease-of-use, checking-in via places, "Likes", chat, news feed, notifications, photos, videos, design, functionality - everything is there in all it's free-flowing social networking, friend-following glory. The social media and cultural phenomenon that Facebook has become in the last few years needed to be translated into an app that captured the features we've all come to know and love, which the app version certainly does on pretty much every level.
As we head into 2011 surrounded by hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps already, the apps that will get everybody talking next year could come in any shape or form, but one thing is certain, the most successful apps next year will still be those that focus upon creating the perfect balance between pick-up-and-play appeal, new content updates, ease-of-use and the ability to seamlessly integrate with multiple social media platforms to keep users sharing and talking at every opportunity.