Now that the year that’s nearly over, it’s a great time for reflection. Being on the edge of digital marketing, we wanted to share some of this sector’s trends that we thought were the most prevalent in 2011.
Drawing upon the conversations we’ve had and overhead, the individual projects we’ve undertaken, and the news reports and blogs we’ve read, we’ve put together a list of some of the major trends we’ve seen emerging. We’ve also dusted off our crystal ball and managed to come up with some predictions for the coming year.
Read on for some of the trends we’ve been seeing over the past year, and what to expect for 2012.
1. Websites and Social Media Work Together
It’s important to think about your website and social media marketing as two sides of the same coin. When rolling out your digital marketing strategy, you’ll want your website and social media to work together.
Other than just linking to your social media accounts, we have found that 2011 was all about making sure your website content is easily and individually shareable.
We also saw the four worlds of SEO, social media, website, and email marketing converge around content generation in the form of corporate blogging – The core message behind Brent’s speaking engagement at Word 11.
2. Teams Now Collaborate in the Cloud
Tools like Basecamp, Jive, and Salesforce help your team collaborate on marketing campaigns online. Many of these cloud services allow team members to assign tasks, share documents, and stay organized no matter where they are physically located.
At Kobayashi Online this past year we have been playing with and using Teamlabs, Replicons Web TimeSheet, SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics, Windows Live, and Hootsuite – all cloud based team collaboration products that help us work tighter as a team, including with our supporting vendors and strategic partners.
For 2012: These services help marketers work together more effectively, and there’s great enthusiasm over the idea of so-called social collaboration software. One such company that is making headway in developing social technologies for business is Jive whose product lets employees monitor social networks and give marketers a handle on what consumers and rivals have to say about their brand, and help them interact better on the social Web.
3. Companies Open “Fan Gates” to their Facebook Friends
After creating a Facebook Page, a great way to promote interaction with your company on Facebook is to create what’s known as a “fan gate”. Fan gates block off a portion of your Facebook Page to fans only. You could block something like a free trial, a discount coupon, or download to visitors unless they “like” you on Facebook. These Facebook fans are important because your company’s updates will show up on their Facebook streams, providing yet another opportunity for you to connect with your customers.
4. Web Fonts Make Interesting Headlines
Web designers were no longer limited to a handful of “Web-safe” fonts — there are lots of options available for unique, high-quality typefaces. A service like Google Web Fonts offers hundreds of open-source fonts for free. Alternatively, a monthly subscription to Fonts.com, WebINK, and many other font services let you put professional-quality fonts on your website for a small fee.
5. Schema.org Standardizes How Rich Snippets Show Up in Search Results
The major search engines have set aside their differences and agreed upon a new structured data standard called schema.org. This lets site operators describe specific schema in their web pages such as people, events, reviews, products, recipes, and breadcrumb navigation, which will show up in search results as rich snippets. This helps your site stand out in organic searches because it can make these web pages look more appealing in search results.
6. Greater emphasis on smaller screens
More people are viewing websites on phones and tablets. This means that site designs should respond to how the user is viewing the page. This “responsive” approach to design becomes a way to make sure that online content achieves its greatest impact no matter what screen it’s on. While developers can create responsive design from scratch, WordPress themes such as Twenty-Eleven have been carefully designed to build-in responsiveness that ensures your website looks its best at any size.
For 2012: There’s every reason for site visitors to expect a consistent experience on any screen — from enormous 27-inch monitors to iPhones. We’ve been getting more and more requests for mobile friendly websites and we expect this to continue into the new year.
7. Contextual ads and customer tracking
Contextual advertising is used to send content to users based on related content a user is browsing online. Just about all major sites use these types of ad delivery systems, and it will only get more interesting as these systems build more integrity within their historical data sets. Aside from the privacy issues involved, contextual advertising for marketers is almost like having the fish jump into the boat — but not just any fish: the exact ones you wanted!
For 2012: It won’t be long before we start seeing contextual advertising done will in the real world. United made the faux-pas of placing an ad reading “You’re going to like where we land” at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. We think that businesses will learn from these mistakes and use contextual advertising in a smarter and interactive way.
8. High-Speed Internet Drives Multimedia
The Internet is much faster than it’s ever been, and there’s no sign that it won’t become faster. Video, audio, and high resolution images are all easily downloaded or streamed these days, providing fantastic opportunities for an immersive and compelling product marketing experience. And it’s not limited to home Internet speeds. The raw speed of mobile devices could soon outpace home Internet connections. For instance, some areas of Asia and Europe have been leading the way in terms of network speeds — which we may start to see in North America in due course.
9. Let them Speak
It’s time to let the customer speak. Whether it’s social media, comment areas, or on-site reviews, visitors are expecting all input channels to be open. If word of mouth is so powerful, then why not let the customers and others speak up? Twitter often brings customer concerns to the attention of a company, helping the problem be quickly and publicly resolved.
For 2012: We’ve seen how feedback collected from Twitter can often help companies react to customers’ immediate concerns. We wouldn’t be surprised if more businesses will look toward the collective intelligence on social media for input on how to improve their products and services, and run their organization better. Depending on the quality of input, companies may look toward social media as though it’s a focus group, or even a panel of experts.
10. Hamsters in the Wheel
With all the fun we can have with customers through various means — Twitter, Facebook, follow us, click here, view this, email that — we can easily forget that it can be quite an exhausting process to follow through on everything. And this goes for both the customer, and the company. It’s very easy to lose sight of the simplicity of these new, and powerful mediums at our disposal. It’s easy to go overboard by leading visitors through a winding path of links and networks before they are paid off for their patience.