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10 digital marketing predictions for 2012

Tanya Goodin
Tanya Goodin
CEO
17 November 2011

It’s time once again for me to stick my neck out and lay my next 12 months digital predictions on the line. The 2012 theme is very much one of integration; integration between digital and other marketing channels; integration between client internal departments and between them and agency teams; the growing integration between social networks; the need to integrate marketing messages across platforms to create a powerful, engaging online brand presence.  If you need one buzzword for 2012 it’s “integrate”! Read and enjoy:

  1. Social media explodes in big brands’ faces.
  2. Facebook becomes the defacto window to the online world.
  3. The death of the PC.
  4. Location, location 2012, the end of ‘silos’.
  5. The biggest change in search in 10 years…
  6. Marketing budgets major in digital.
  7. London 2012 showcases brands best games plans.
  8. Social networks integrate.
  9. Privacy goes public.
  10. A picture paints a thousand words – YouTube explodes.

1. Social media explodes in big brands’ faces.

Social media will continue its staggering, relentless, upward growth in 2012. Not because it’s a new medium, but because it’s a very, very old one. Social media is the technological embodiment of a human relationship, and connecting and communicating are not ephemeral wants; they’re needs. The need to be heard, to feel appreciated, to be connected to each other – those needs make us human.

Brands ignoring the ‘need to be ‘heard’ element of social media interaction are going to come a BIG cropper in 2012. Ignoring all advice to put customer service at the HEART of social media, many marketers are still treating social as a broadcast tool. I can name at least two brands that turned me off personally in 2011 by simply ignoring my queries via social media channels. And many big brands are still doing this, too busy pushing out sales messages to stop, listen and acknowledge existing customers.

By 2012, digital marketers need to fully embrace who the number one audience is for the vast majority of their activity. By the end of 2011, more than $30 billion dollars will be spent on online acquisition. Compare that to the $2 billion spent on customer retention. Before social media the discrepancy between those two spends could be hidden from public view – with social media it’s glaringly exposed. Facebook fans are becoming increasingly irate at witnessing endless newsfeed messages offering discounts for new sales while their customer service queries go unheeded.

To deal with this new world there needs to be a radical shift in the way marketing and customer service departments have traditionally been siloed and with this a shift in organizational structures where social becomes part of the job description not the title. Alongside this there needs to be much more real-time interaction. Social media is 24:7 and customers expect brands to be.

I predict a social media disaster with far-reaching international implications, on the  global scale of the BP/Gulf of Mexico PR disaster, is just around the corner for a major brand in 2012.

2. Facebook becomes the defacto window to the online world.

At some point during 2012 Facebook will reach 1 billion users. Compare that to Google who reached that number only mid-way through 2011 and you can see the speed Facebook is moving at to threaten Google’s long-held online crown.  Facebook have set their sights on being the hub of users’ online experiences and in 2012 I predict that they will finally become the first point of call for anyone going online.

Google has for so long been where the online experience starts that many users still think of Google AS the Internet but over the next year Facebook will firmly move into pole position to become the web ‘hub’ of choice.

Where Facebook leads other social nets will follow. If Facebook has its guns trained on ‘owning’ consumers online lives and interactions then Twitter, LinkedIn and all the nascent social networks are going to be looking at how they can compete in this space too. Couple this with the radical changes that the search landscape is going through (see point 5 below) and you can see how Google is ineluctably losing the dominance it has held over our online lives for so long.

The (Google) King is dead, long live the (Facebook) King.

3. The death of the PC

The slow death march of the PC has been evident since Q4 2010 when Manufacturers shipped more smartphones than PCs, crowning mobile devices as the computing platform of choice earlier than many industry-watchers had expected.

Hewlett-Packard and Dell, reported significant losses in PC sales to consumers in early 2011 with PC sales to businesses faring slightly better, but overall this year a turning point was passed, culminating in the announcement last month that HP is leaving the PC market.

HP was until recently the world’s largest maker of personal computers, it famously turned down the opportunity to buy the Apple I in 1976, but when it finally entered the market it smashed down the competition to take the top spot.  In recent years, though alternative platforms have sucked most of the profits out of PCs.  This spring, Gartner, Inc. released statistics showing PC sales overall dropped 1.1 percent compared to last year. At the same time, IMS Research forecasted a whopping 213 percent growth for tablets.

Where the PC has long been considered a necessity in the workplace, mobile devices are now giving businesses the chance to break from that mindset. The widespread adoption of smartphones in particular has for many users left the PC redundant. In 2012 I predict the PC as we know it will finally roll over and die.

4. Location, location 2012, the end of ‘silos’.

Location-based services have been the big explosion of 2011 but they have remained pretty much stand-alone with not much integration attempted by brands into the ‘real world’ or indeed any integration into broader marketing campaigns and themes.

A few trailblazer brands have pointed the way this year and shown what can be achieved.  Enabling physical objects will be a big theme in 2012 . Check out the Jimmy Choo campaign, for a great example of how this can work – they used Foursquare to hunt down a pair of physical trainers

CommScore recently revealed that 40% of consumers who click a location dynamic ad show ‘purchase intent’ while 30% will go on to share the ad in their social networks. Location based marketing opportunities are inextricably linked with the dramatic mobile platform growth and as such I predict they will become mainstream next year with location, and localisation, right at the heart of brand marketing.

5. The biggest change in search in 10 years…

Looking back at predictions that were made by a variety of pundits and experts in the past 5 years, people have long been predicting a challenger to Google’s search crown. Controversial as it might be, I’m NOT going to jump on the “Google is too big!” band-wagon, but I will push the boat out and say I think a number of serious challengers to the Big G’s crown will emerge in the next 12-24 months, and they will radically change the way we treat search online.

The biggest catalyst to this will be the emergence and acceptance of apps like Apple’s ‘Siri‘ – personal assistant applications that take the hard work out of a number of tasks, including data search and the like. As you’ll know from our recent blog (“Could Apple’s Siri be a threat to search engines?“), Siri is by no means a game-changer in its current form, but it’s how the process will change users’ view of search that will make the biggest impact.

If trust in apps like Siri increase, users will start to bypass the search engine web-form completely, and instead put their faith in their app to find the right site for them. You don’t have to be a genius to know that this will revolutionise the way brands receive traffic from search engines – click-through rates and understanding of user-behaviour will be completely out the window, and new ways of optimising your data will emerge…

6. Marketing budgets major in digital.

Burberry’s announcement earlier this month that it attributed its 29% YOY H1 pre-tax profit growth to its decision to switch the majority of its marketing spend to digital made marketing directors worldwide sit up and pay attention.

Burberry is reported to spend 60% of its marketing budget on digital channels, about three times the average investment by most brands in most sectors. It backed the launch of its Burberry Body fragrance earlier this year with a Facebook campaign, instead of the usual glossy fashion magazine ads. And this bold leap into digital is clearly paying financial dividends.

I predict another major brand will make the bold move to follow Burberry in 2012 and move the majority of its marketing spend online.

7. London 2012 showcases brands best games plans.

There is a lot of negativity around about the London Games right now. Terrorist worries, transport worries, hoteliers predicting empty rooms.

But that was the same before the Sydney games, and before the Royal Wedding in the UK last year. Pundits predicted widespread apathy but both were huge successes. And lucrative for brands who had the foresight to capitalise on them by planning in advance.

I predict London 2012 WILL be the huge marketing opportunity that the majority of experts are saying it wont be! Savvy brands are clear that this Games presents them with a huge opportunity to fully test the integration of new social channels with marketing campaigns and messaging to reach new audiences. After disappointment that Beijing didn’t deliver on social media opportunities the market and audience has now matured and London 2012 will be the first true ‘Digital Games’, and perhaps the very first ‘Social Games’.

Beleaguered British brands struggling under tough economic conditions will rue the day they wrote off London 2012 as an opportunity for them if they fail to make plans now. There’s everything to play for.

8. Social networks integrate

We need to start changing the way we think about our social media networks. My iPhone has decentralized my contacts from their respective networks and recompiled them into one useful central list. Instead of searching across multiple networks I can now instantly find the best way to contact anyone in any of my networks in seconds right from my iPhone.

But it’s not just about the centralization of our networks. A growing number of social media sites now allow users to use their site as an authentication method for other platforms. Not only can you use, for example, Facebook to assist in the registration process for Pinterest but also you then have access to most of the data stored in Facebook to build your Pinterest account. Instead of having entirely separate social media prescences it means increasingly consumers are building an interlinked web of activity, contacts and preferences across many different platforms.

The opportunity this creates for brands is both immense and daunting in equal measures. The opportunity to make the user experience more precisely targeted to specific customer interests with data collected across multiple social platforms just got a lot more complicated.

Which leads me on to…

9. Privacy goes public

Over the past 2 or 3 years people have become much more comfortable sharing likes, dislikes, opinions, photos and videos as social media has permeated our personal and professional lives. But consumers have woken up to possible repercussions & I think now will become more savvy about sharing more detailed forms of personal information such as phone numbers, email, and home and work addresses.

In 2012, social media users will demand that platforms provide more privacy restriction settings and information about how their personal data is being used, and will make more informed decisions about what social platforms they engage with based on this knowledge.

10. A picture paints a thousand words – YouTube explodes

YouTube has big plans for 2012. Its increasing importance can be seen from the following statistic: more video content is uploaded to YouTube in a 60 day period than the three major U.S. television networks created in 60 years (just repeat that sentence again to yourself to fully appreciate its impact…). All that video content is going viral via the major social media networks, YouTube says that on average there are more than 400 tweets per minute containing a YouTube link. Meanwhile, over on Facebook over 150 years worth of YouTube videos are watched every single day.

Earlier this month YouTube announced plans to add 100 more channels of unique content to their lineup. Celebrities, news publications, and brands are amongst the channels being created with names such as Reuters, Jay-Z, and The Onion amongst those receiving a share of over $100 million in advances to prompt them to create YouTube-only content.

Rumours have been flying about YouTube’s plans to launch longer-form, more professional content ever since they acquired Next New Networks earlier this year and with this move the rumours have finally panned out.

Top YouTube partners have always stressed the importance of sticking to a schedule when it comes to posting YouTube videos.  When you post new content at the same time every week, it keeps your fans coming back.  With fully scheduled channels, YouTube is set to take advantage of this same strategy, YouTube are taking on the big TV networks full on with this move into scheduled viewing and the outcome is anyone’s guess. But the key takeout for brands is, if you don’t have a video strategy for 2012, get one fast!

That’s it. Have I got it hopelessly wrong? or do some of these hit the mark? Let me know your thoughts, the more controversial the better as always!

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