Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Content will trump craftiness
Google’s recent (and arguably overdue) change to its search algorithm, or how it ranks sites, was the game-changer of 2011. Google’s older algorithm gave less weight to how frequently a company was being discussed on social platforms like Twitter and more to relevance. On the one hand, expect to see more results to be linked to timely and social relevance and less to esoteric tinkering. On the other, as its product offering becomes arguably more robust, expect a bit of backlash over Google’s keyword and site promotion offerings (have you noticed how those sponsored sites are slowly taking over the results page?). The burden of authentic, timely and relevant content on the part of companies will become ever more important.
Influencer Management: A new kind of celebrity is born
Marketing 101 teaches business students the virtues of segmentation. Today, when we think of celebrity endorsement it is the Kardashian call to Sears that comes to mind. Increasingly, however, it is specific community experts that are becoming the true celebrities that influence consumer decisions. Companies like Klout now assign “influence” scores to web users, allowing marketers insight into who might be most likely to talk about their brand. With a few Las Vegas casinos already offering upgrades to guests with high Klout scores, expect to see more companies giving special perks (pricing, gifts or unique information) to those they consider most likely to influence others. Powerful platforms by firms like Youcast are emerging to allow marketers to identify the top influencers specific to a company’s audience. Expect companies in 2012 to focus marketing on those customers most likely to be influencers or brand ambassadors.
Mobile and Tablet: Leapfrogging
In 2010, for the first time in the history of computing, tablet sales have surpassed desktop sales. Yet many companies continue to channel most of their investment into their web presence, continuing to think of their mobile and tablet use as an adjunct nicety. Expect that to change in 2012. The savviest of marketers will also know how to appeal to the untethered consumer. They will harness geo-localization technologies (Foursquare-style check-ins and soon even walk-bys) for customized offers, better use QR codes to gather data and link to in-store experiences. And outside of the US, mobile is increasingly playing a larger role as is mobile use is often stronger, with wireless technology often superior to older line-bound networks.
Facebook: Watch those marketing budgets shift
With the amount of time spent on social media now exceeding 23% and Facebook now accounting for 90% of that time, it has become clear to companies that Facebook is a serious platform for marketers. Yet advertising dollars still remain eschewed to print and television, places that consumers are spending ever less time. As companies begin to realize where their customers are really spending their time, they will begin to reallocate resources away from traditional media to social platforms, with Facebook leading the pack. And consequently, the meteoric rise of Facebook software applications by companies like Buddy Media, Wildfire and Tigerlily will continue as companies seek in earnest to organize, augment and measure their effectiveness on the platform. And expect Facebook itself to evolve as well in 2012, offering better insights and improving their e-commerce functionality “f-commerce”.
Video: Emotional and Viral
2012 is likely to be a banner year for video. Infinitely more emotional than text, video is a rich medium that fits perfectly within an ever more social web. 85% of Americans watch videos online, and they watch a lot of them too-- over 1.3 billion (yes, billion) videos a day. Studies show far higher levels of engagement and customer conversion among brands that use video on their websites. We will see the giant of the pack, YouTube, with its new organization and improved functionality make content creation and sharing easier- effectively solidifying its role among social sharing platforms. And innovative firms such as Boston’s Vsnap, whose technology allows users to create and send short video messages will tap into the democratization of content creation and desire for more dynamic sharing. Expect video advertising to grow significantly as it is a far less crowded a space than television.
Finally, 2012 may be the year in which video-powered social shopping technologies like (e)-motional, a tool that allows users to click on, share and purchase items without ever leaving a video, begin to catch on.
Internationalization and Localization: Relevance Rules
While in theory the internet has no borders, few companies know how to effectively garner and cultivate an international audience effectively. Expect that to change in 2012. Data shows that brands with localized web and social media presence enjoy far greater engagement and brand buzz. But the distinction between internationalization and localization is an important one. Successful localization efforts go far beyond language translation alone. They create and encourage content that is relevant to the local audience. Expect companies to pay more attention to the other 88% of internet users that don’t live in the US.
What’s the link among all of these?
They all involve tools and technologies that enhance engagement and improve interaction. In fact, 2012 may be the year when “social marketing” simply becomes “marketing”. After all, aren’t businesses operating in society social by definition?
Philip Guarino is a Boston World Partnerships Connector and the founder of Elementi Consulting, a Boston-based consulting firm specialized in business strategy and market development. Elementi helps companies succeed in international business development, digital strategy and multi-channel marketing.
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