There is nothing permanent except change. This must mean that the occurrence of constant change in our lives and throughout the universe is ancient wisdom. Change is here to stay; we should just learn how to deal with it. We continue everyday to evolve and improve taking advantage of new opportunities and learning from mistakes and setbacks.
In present time, computer technology had a big impact on our industry. The Internet changed the way we communicate and market. Employees come and go and clients have been gained and lost through mergers, acquisitions and changing economic times. The public relations and advertising business is going through a period of scrutiny and assessment.
Every year, we always see changes and new trends in advertising. And as we head into year 2012, we are likely to see more radical changes. So in this post, we provided two lists from different advertising-themed sites that predicted some of the biggest trends and possibilities for 2012.
- The first list is from Small Business Advertising Strategies.
In the past, marketing automation was restricted on email and email nurturing domain. But 2011 has witnessed the expansion of social customer relationship management. We are likely to see this trend continue even further in 2012.
Rather than being viewed as an early adoption tool we are likely to see more organizations use it as a mainstream solution for connecting their marketing operations from the top, through to online search engines and finally down to the sales and customer service level.
All Employees are Marketers
Social networks have become the optimum solution for aggregating and sharing interests, positive or negative. This has made product or service awareness, lighting fast. This will ultimately lead to businesses becoming increasingly focused on creating and managing perception of their products or services.
This trend began in 2010, when companies began paying attention to what their customers have to say about their needs and wants through social buzz.
In 2011, this trend expanded further when companies began to respond to customer comments on digital formats. In 2012, we are likely to see companies use this medium further by creating and sharing content through its employees and evangelistic customers, to help define products, brands and services from the grass root level upwards.
It’s About Know More About Who I know
The need to keep with your friends’ preferences has seen a continuous rise among users on social networking sites, like Facebook. This power will be fine tuned to harness and encourage users to follow their friend’s leads or recommendations.
Personal content recommendation through Facebook stores and involved e-commerce websites will be powered and filtered by symbols of preferences such as “like”, hashtags, and +1.
Likes and + are Concrete Metrics
The influences of “likes” will expand beyond the online text context, it will likely have a bigger impact on the dissemination of video content. Digital content providers will design and filter their content to users based on “likes” provided by users and their friends.
Since they are in a position to determine what users are most likely to watch, digital content providers will help narrow down what they are after, saving users time and energy. In the future, we are likely to see Facebook acquire or partner with digital content providers like Hulu or Buddytv to provide a “social TV” service.
Social Mobile and Local
The use of mobile devices to transact in certain markets, like travel, dinning, shopping, etc will likely see an increase. According to the results found by a recent study, one-third of American adults use smartphones and that figure is poised to rise in the coming years. At the moment, click-through rates are already higher on mobile platforms than they are on desktop computers.
Location based marketing through Foursquare and similar services will like see a higher penetration rate. It is projected that 50% of last minute holiday shopping, for the year 2015 will be done via mobile devices. Therefore, marketers will have to look for ways to use this medium as the adoption of mobile devices becomes increasingly pervasive.
Long Live Group Discounts
Consumers have become rather price sensitive in the recent past, due to a recessive economy and dwindling incomes experienced by many consumers. This has led to the proliferation of local deal companies like Living Social, Groupon, Zulily, etc, which are likely to see an even greater following in 2012.
This rising trend has even garnered the attention of major online retails websites like Amazon.com, recognizing the value this type of services have to offer to their consumers. Daily deal offers will become increasingly local. Intelligent players employing the use of mobile markets and geo-based offers will likely become the category winners.
Social Networks as Search Engines
The use of social networks as a source of paid traffic will see a trickle over effect in the referral of organic search traffic. In the past year, small and business technology firms began using social networking more often in marketing their products.
In 2012, we are likely to see this trend become more dominant. For companies interested in preserving or improving their ranking on SERPs, social marketing services will no longer be an option in 2012.
- Small Business Advertising Strategies gave us seven trends that are more likely to happen. Last but not the least was from Econsultancy Digital Marketers United, which on the other hand, listed five possible advertising trends for 2012.
Marketers need to get to grips with attribution
Throughout 2011, brands and marketers struggled to get their heads round cross-channel attribution and understanding what each channel brings to their overall marketing efforts.
This issue is showing no signs of disappearing over the next twelve months, especially as the number of available channels is continuing to grow.
As more channels make the attribution process even more complex, brands and marketers will need to start considering solutions that can help them keep track of where spend is being allocated, in line with the actual channel that a conversion can be attributed to.
Otherwise they are blindly designating budgets based on rough estimates, which is by no means effective. Expect the reality of a cross-channel attribution dashboard to come to fruition for CMO’s, so that they get a top-down view on how to allocate budgets.
Google will bring about even more new incentives and options for advertisers
While this may get an ‘obviously’ reaction, it’s still a crucial one to note.
After all, as costs-per-click continue to rise for Google’s ad networks, Google is at risk of driving incremental spend elsewhere.
For a long time, Google has been the main force to be reckoned with, but Facebook and the search alliance are both providing viable alternatives for advertisers when allocating their spend.
If it wants to continue capturing the lion’s share of new ad spend, Google has to continue innovating with its advertising products.
These innovations will include improvements to matching algorithms, which make more efficient use of ad inventory. Remember, quality score is an incentive mechanism, and one that Google can easily dial-up to drive behavior.
Deeper discounts for advertisers that do a better job of managing quality scores will result in a heightened focus on optimizing match types and negatives.
New ad formats and options will also play a role in increasing ad inventory for Google. There will be a vast amount of innovations in retail product listings, travel search, and local offers, creating high return opportunities for those first to take advantage.
Advertisers find themselves needing to make friends
Google “+1s” and Facebook “Talking about this” scores are just the beginning. In their quest to capture money from brands and improve ad relevance, Google and Facebook will begin to incorporate social likeability and sentiment measurements into ad rankings.
In response, advertisers will begin to invest heavily in promoting “+1’s” and “likes” to consumers via pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Consumers will benefit as ads for more popular products and brands are presented more often. Suppliers of television or print media, on the other hand, will find themselves getting the short end of the stick as brand budgets are increasingly moved online.
Search outpaces apps for dominance in Mobile Marketing
While paid search already claims the largest share of mobile advertising spend, advertisers should expect this share to grow even more in 2012.
When it comes to mobile, tracking and analytics widely remains the largest issue for many advertisers.
Advertisers lose visibility as soon as a visitor clicks into an app marketplace or into an app, so tracking a click out from a mobile app using traditional analytics tools is difficult at best.
Rather than continuing to double-up on apps, advertisers will look to simplify their existing web experience for the mobile browser. HTML5 will play a role in this trend, making the power of application design available on mobile devices through a standard web browser.
As the mobile experience becomes more integrated into the website, advertisers will have improved visibility, allowing them to invest more in performance advertising and paid search.
Exchanges increase transparency, resulting in increased investment
Yahoo!’s recent requirement that advertisers have to have a seat on the exchange gave them better visibility into their customers’ media plans.
Expect more exchanges to follow suit this year. If requiring that individual advertisers have accounts proves too restrictive, exchanges may simply roll out separate pricing structures for advertisers vs. intermediaries through the use of API fees or pricing floors.
Customers will benefit from the improved visibility, receiving better insight in how much biddable media is costing them. DSPs and Trading Desks will be forced to respond with more transparent and standardized pricing.
Expect the percentage of media spend pricing models to emerge, increased investment, and a drive toward self-service platforms as advertisers become increasingly involved in the buying process.
The changes in the PR and media landscape distinctly reflect the changes in human behavior we’ve been observing and experiencing ourselves over the past few years – changes brought upon by new technologies. Think about how we consume information nowadays, as well as what we expect from the creators of this information in terms of presentation and access. Think about how you as content creators aim to share and spread this information in order to gain maximum exposure and engagement.
For us, the trends below are about understanding these changes in human behavior, the technologies that affect them, and the engagement you can create from giving your audience a sense of achievement, empowerment, authenticity, and fun. Hopefully our research will give you – the communicator, the PR pro, or the marketer – the tools, the motivation, and the knowledge to tackle the challenges head-on.
1. Digital First
We’re seeing a big shift happening – a shift that will most likely continue throughout next year. Companies and organizations are now, finally, giving digital marketing channels precedence over traditional, analog media. Of course an integrated marketing approach remains key, but digital comes first, both in strategy and in budget.
What this really reflects is a behavioral change that has been in the making for a number of years. A brand or organization’s audience is increasingly found online and is demanding the companies to be digital too. The consumption of media now happens through the web, through apps, through social media. It forces a structural change.
When it comes to PR pros and communicators, the focus will be to meet the needs of your online-savvy audience and influencers, needs that are actually quite similar to those of the Guardian’s audience. This means re-engineering your business, much like the media business has done. In other words, you must involve your stakeholders in your business. You must encourage your influencers to develop, share, and spread your story digitally.
2. Decentralize Social Media
Is social media decentralized at your company? Or is social media is controlled by a single department, or even just one person? Chances you would answer yes to the latter. We believe that social media will become increasingly decentralized, forming the holistic “honeycomb” pattern, where everyone is socially enabled, has access to a company’s social networks, and represents the company even on their private accounts.
What we’re seeing is that social media is becoming integrated in to the whole organization. Ownership is spread and social media becomes a tool for conversation, not just a marketing, PR, or client services channel. And why? Because it’s now about people, not logos. Every employee should be a brand ambassador.
But there are risks in socializing your enterprise. You must relinquish control of your brand story, trust non-marketers to represent your brand, and accept an inconsistent brand message. But according to Paul Holmes, “the more consistent a company’s message, the less authentic it sounds. […] Any consistency should be organic – a natural result of shared values and cultural cohesion, rather than imposed by the message police.”
For PR and communications people, it will be vital to empower every employee and enable them to be the different faces of the company, each with a similar, but not identical, understanding of the company’s values. This means that cultural values must be communicated internally.
This could require a fundamental organizational change. If the employee is not “good” at social media, or isn’t willing to be represent your brand in this landscape, you might have to rethink your hiring criteria.
3. I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends
We’ve all heard about user-generated content, and maybe even attempted to get some. However, what do we do with this material once we have it? Unfortunately, not much at the moment. But in 2012, crowd-generated digital storytelling will (finally) be fully embraced.
The trick is to find your crowd, to find the people that will help you tell your story digitally. These are your influencers, your colleagues, or your friends. They are the people nearest to you. Southwest Airlines is a strong believer in this. According to Brooke Thomas, emerging media coordinator, stories can be found everywhere, especially on Twitter: “Every tweet is essentially a story idea.”
In our personal lives, we are judged and defined by the company we keep, by the people that surround us. It’s the same for brands and companies. A brand is defined by its customers, its friends, and its influencers. Engaging with them and sharing the stories they tell about your brand ultimately reflects what kind of company you are or want to be – your influencers can add to your credibility. It is therefore essential that PR pros and communicators start building and interacting with their networks, both internally and externally.
The one thing to keep in mind with user-generated content is that authenticity is rewarded, while artificiality is, at best, ignored, if not condemned. If you come across something that one of your influencers did or created, on their own initiative, embrace it. It will lend more credibility and authenticity to your brand than anything coming from an official corporate campaign.
4. Customize This!
Personalized content will make the Internet more effective, as increasingly the needs of the individual are catered to, rather than a larger demographic or target group.
A clear example of this is in the news world. Last year, we discussed the emergence of applications like Zite, Flipboard, Pulse, and Trove. What these and other tools do is allow the news to find us. We don’t look for news anymore, because we automatically receive news about the specific subjects we’ve asked for from our networks and services.
The behavioral change we observe is that people are choosing their own content, on their own terms. We don’t like being pushed suggestions by people we don’t know or trust. We are more interested in what our friends say is newsworthy, not what a news editor says.
A similar pattern can be seen in the continued rise of social commerce. Recommendation services have been around for a while, like on Amazon.com, but recently social commerce has been developing most rapidly on Facebook. As Mark Zuckerberg puts it, “If I had to guess, Social Commerce is next to blow up.”
What does this mean for you, the PR pro, marketer, or communicator? Remember that the concept of personalized news or social commerce relies on people creating a trusted and engaged network around them – a network that will help them achieve their expectations. Communicators have to be keyed in to those networks.
Companies, too, can build networks and have influencers – both externally and internally. As stated before, the people in these networks need to be empowered to share your products, services, and stories with their own network, on their own terms.
5. Brand News World
We’ve seen companies and organizations take a clear step towards being digital first, towards embracing crowd-generated content, and towards empowering both their external and internal influencers. But on top of all that, companies and organizations will start thinking like journalists when creating and curating stories around their brand.
What is Brand Journalism then, and why do we need to distinguish it from content marketing? According to a panel discussion at this year’s SXSWi, brand journalism is described as:
•An editorial approach to brand building
•A nonfiction attempt at advertising
•Thinking more like publishers
•It’s all about real time marketing, brands acting as media in real time, as life happens
•It’s the responsibility of companies to help their customers succeed
The purpose is to tell stories, but this method of content marketing emphasizes a neutral tone, lending credibility and trust to the brand. This tone does not slant to favor your brand, nor is every piece promoting an aspect of your company directly. Stories could be about industry leaders, trends, or events too – anything that would be deemed newsworthy for your audience, in the editorial sense.
That’s the key to brand journalism – taking out the middleman by thinking like the middleman (in this case, the journalists).
We talked last year about companies and brands becoming media houses and we see that continuing next year – even going a step further by convincing media people to make the switch from journalism to PR.
As a communicator you need to start thinking of your content in terms of newsworthiness. Offer value, think of all audiences, not just journalists, and don’t always talk about yourself.
6. Online Goes Offline Goes Online Goes Offline
As we mentioned, placing more importance on your digital communication channels will be key in 2012. However, keep in mind that Digital First does not mean Digital Only. This year, more than ever before, it will be vital for companies to complement and leverage their digital channels with offline efforts.
This is because the line between people’s online profile and their real-life personalities will become increasingly blurred – you’re the same person when browsing Amazon as you are when walking through a department store.
For communicators and marketers, there are many opportunities offered by the free tools and services currently available, such as location-based services like FourSquare or Gowalla. Creativity is key, not money. Ensure that all clients and employees are aware of the digital channels, campaigns, and competitions you’re running.
7. Come Out And Play
The gamification of online experiences will start dominating all online activities this 2012. That’s a very bold statement, and despite most companies not even thinking of gamifying their communications, we’re noticing the increased importance of giving people a personal experience and, most importantly, giving them an opportunity to have fun.
It’s all about that most innate of human character traits – competitiveness – combined with getting motivated by gaining a sense of progress. Gamification caters to both these needs and instills a deep level of engagement in the participants.
As mentioned before, a little creativity (and perhaps the use of free services like FourSquare), could get you a long way. Communicators need to think of different ways to engage their audience on a personal experience level. The trick is to come up with a campaign or event whose main objective is to let your influencers have fun, while fulfilling a sense of progress towards a clear goal or reward.
It’s more than just rewarding air miles or bonus points for each purchase. Allow for other activities along the whole customer journey that would be rewarded with more points, gifts, or even intangible rewards like badges or titles for a certain level reached. It’s like playing a video game!
8. Life On The Go
We mentioned this last year, but at the speed things are developing within this field, we might have to mention every year. No PR and communication trends report would be complete without the inclusion of Mobile. In fact, we strongly believe that the future of online will be in mobile.
The reason is that we see three behavioral trends dominating our lives. It’s about convenience, context, and fun.
When we speak of convenience, we mean that mobile devices allow us to be connected to what we want 24 hours a day (for better or worse). We’re able to get things done faster and transform the way we do business and consume information.
In terms of context, the mobile allows for more efficient access to relevant information when needed. And as Marissa Mayer, Head of Mobile and Geolocation at Google says, “The mobile phone acts as a cursor to connect the digital and the physical.”
As a communicator or marketer, regardless of what type of business, you need to start thinking of mobile as an important channel for your brand, if you haven’t already. Perhaps start with mobile versions of your website or think of an app that can engage your customers even further.
9. In The Eye Of The Beholder
At this point, we thought it would be important to highlight two of the most exciting and innovative technologies and services available today.
When launched as an iPad app earlier this year, it shot up to number four on the App Store Chart, and when looked at as a content platform, that’s when things really get exciting. Qwiki creates interactive multimedia presentations of information. So, instead of reading a Wikipedia article about London, Qwiki creates a visual presentation, complete with narrative, about London, sourcing information from various sites, including Wikipedia itself.
The idea is to release Qwiki as a platform on which anyone can create Qwiki presentations about any subject. Imagine being able to present a multimedia news release in this format, or creating Qwiki profiles of your sales people, using information sources of your choice (i.e. not just Wikipedia). An app that is currently being made is a Qwiki-based alarm clock that wakes you up with the latest headlines, your appointments of the day, and the weather predictions for the next few hours.
When first introduced two years ago, it was perhaps a little ahead of its time or too reminiscent of virtual reality, the concept it supposedly replaced. But now, the real world application of augmented reality can clearly be seen. Again it connects the digital with the physical, again it emphasizes a fun personal experience, and again it can involve mobile.
While current usage would probably involve a hefty investment, the technology is rapidly advancing. Communicators willing to give it a try will quickly realize just how many possibilities technology like this offers.
10. Content Is King, But It’s The People’s Kingdom
Last year, we predicted that 2011 would see a shift from the B2B and B2C
narrative, to a B2P (business-to-people) mindset. We also said that we hoped we’d be talking about people-to-people instead. We believe that 2012 will see this concept become mainstream.
As mentioned, the quality of the brand is measured by the people who surround it. Or rather, the customers make the brand. Therefore, it becomes clear that companies need to let go of the brand as a self-centered media object, and embrace it as a dynamic collaboration between the company, community, and influencers.
This is because a customer is not just buying the products or services, but they are also buying the people. In the recent People issue of Think Quarterly (by Think with Google), the authors state: “Information is inseparable from the people who are creating, consuming, and sharing it. And the web is no longer anonymous – it’s built on real people and their connections, opinions, and ideas.” This is true for the information, content, and organization of your company.
It is vital then that companies maintain and nurture their network of influencers and customers, because people trust other people, not logos, brands, or corporations.
As communicators, this will be essential. This is what all the previous trends boil down to, this is what all the technologies, concepts, and strategies are based on. To create true engagement around your brand, you must first change your mindset and think in terms of people-to-people.