Market Research Study
2014 Digital Marketing Forecast: 7 Trends To Watch
1. The Importance Of Micro Data
A few years ago, platforms like Radian6 and Sysomos were all the craze! Brands were actively listening on Social Media for brand mentions, measuring share of voice and and tracking sentiment analysis. While this is still important today, agencies and brands are starting to shift towards something a bit different: Micro Data. While social listening tools give you lots of insights on how your brand is perceived online, they fail at giving you insights on individuals.
What if you want to work at the individual level? Who are the individuals driving the most conversations about your brand? Who are the individuals generating the most leads for your brands? How can you find out more about these individuals’ audiences, social networks, publications, mentions in the news, etc?
Tools like PeekAnalytics give you insights on demographic, geographic, and interest breakdowns of individuals’ audience on Twitter. InNetwork allows you to search and find influencers based on topics, gender, and location, and then sort them by your brand’s target audience. Twtrland gives you insights on individuals on Twitter. Measurely shows you exactly which individual is driving traffic, engagement, and conversions to your company website – unlike Google Analytics who shows you where the majority of your traffic is coming from (macro data), instead of individuals. Lucky Orange allows you to track how individuals use your website, and records mouse movement of individuals.
This type of software is gaining traction in the marketplace these days, because it reports data at the micro/individual level. I can see a slew of other micro data companies coming out over the next year, and campaigns by marketers becoming much more targeted and sophisticated as they see the value in micro data.
2. Renewed Interest in SEO
I’ve heard some marketers over the past couple years say that SEO is dead. Plain and simple – it’s not.
I’ve also heard a lot of marketers say that short-form content will be key (think vine). Ok. And images will be king. Ok. But this only works on social.
Written content and video are still what drives search engines. When a customer has a question they need answered, do they go to Instagram to do a search? Nope! They go to Google, or maybe YouTube if it’s something that can be shown visually.
The importance of the written word has not gone down. But SEO has changed. With all the algorithm changes that Google has made over the past year, it’s important to revisit your SEO strategy. Content that answers questions and provides value will most likely be at the top of search engines. I can see an increase in strategic guest posting as well, as having authoritative domains point to your sites will boost your rankings.
Another important note on SEO moving forward is the increasing importance of voice recognition in search, i.e. Siri. Take a minute and think about how someone conducts a search on mobile, or through Siri. Keywords in search are becoming less important, and natural language/sentences are becoming more important.
3. Brand Storytelling and Native Advertising
With the significant importance of content marketing, you will see a lot more companies invest in brand journalism, storytelling, and native advertising. The nay-sayers will keep complaining, but who cares. The customer certainly doesn’t – whether content is sponsored by a brand or not, all they care about is value and being entertained. If a brand can master this, they’ll make major strides in 2014.
The FTC is still trying to regulate this practice, but even they have a hard time figuring out what they should be regulating. This article by NYTimes summarizes one of the FTC’s latest meeting about native advertising very well, and even questions what we really need to be protecting consumers from. If they’re enjoying the content, what does it matter? This question will most likely be answered in 2014, as the practice of native advertising becomes more popular with more companies.
4. Efficiency and Scale
There are way too many marketing tools available today. WAY too many! And unless these tools make marketing processes more efficient, or allow marketers to scale some of these processes, a lot of them won’t make it past 2014.
Marketers are overwhelmed and overstimulated. Trends are moving faster than they can handle, and the tools that make their jobs easier will be the ones on top. Bundlepost is making strides in Content Curation, saving tons of time for finding and scheduling content.PostBeyond makes it easy for an entire organization to become more social, and have sales people share pre-approved content for lead gen. WalkMe allows companies to walk customers through a web-page flow, at a mass level, without having to go through customer service – this improves conversion rates, usability, and reduced cost/time on training, not to mention making web pages a lot less confusing.
Look for more marketing software like this in 2014 – these are the softwares that help with efficiency, reduce cost, and show true ROI.
5. Year of the Intelligent CRM and ROI
Marketers are looking to connect their data, their leads, their marketing initiatives, etc., to the bottom line. The problem right now is that there’s not a lot of seamless integration with social data. For example, you could use a CRM to keep track of your media and blogger relationships. However, there isn’t a lot of CRMs that would present the right data, in the right way, to make it efficient.
In 2014, you’ll start seeing much better integration. Facebook just released (to a few limited brands) impression tracking and advertising spend that can integrate with Point of Sale and CRM so you can track online impressions and offline spend, without the help of click throughs, coupons, or e-commerce.
Nimble is doing a great job at integrating social feeds into the CRM landscape, making it easier for social lead gen. Hootsuite is integrating with a lot of different lead gen softwares and CRMs.
What I want to see is a customizable CRM, that integrates with social data, RSS feeds, and other data sets, constantly reports analytics on each individual in the CRM (see point #1 about micro data), gives you an idea of social ROI, and integrates with other software – all within one, easy-to-manage dashboard. Ah, the marketer’s dream…
6. Sophisticated Influencer Collaboration
2013 was the year of the influencer and content marketing, and 2014 will see it escalate even further. But what I like about where this is heading is the sophistication of the collaboration.
Some brands really integrate influencers in their digital strategies, and are doing great at it. Disney invited a bunch of social media influencers, including Grumpy Cat, to develop videos for their magical theme parks.
This type of collaboration is awesome to see, and is becoming more popular. Just the other day, I saw a Bell/Aliant commercial on TV that used a famous YouTube star. But not just big brands are collaborating with influencers. One of our clients at InNetwork is working with influencers to develop written content and photography for their tourism website.
I love seeing this type of collaboration from all sorts of companies. SteamFeed’s foundation was built on working with influential social media and marketing people to grow our community.
7. Pay To Play Is Here To Stay, Deal With It
As marketers, we took free social networks for granted way too long. The networks are realizing the marketing and advertising value that they have, and this won’t be free anymore. For B2B, I don’t see this as a major issue, because most of the marketing that happens on social networks is lead generation. Listen to keywords (through paid tools), schedule content, cultivate relationships, and convert them to sales, at an individual level. But for B2C, which needs to get to hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers at a time, promotional budget is required.
We can all keep complaining about it, or we can move on and adapt. Diversification will be key – focus on the top social networks that work for you, and make sure you’re building up your website and email list (you will always own that). If one of the networks you use becomes pay-to-play, you won’t be screwed if you previously diversified. And if the network becomes pay-to-play, and is actually a great network and revenue generation for you, then you shouldn’t have a problem paying to use that network in the first place. Whether you’re an agency, a brand, or an independent consultant, it’s time to start saving your pennies if you want to keep playing on social networks. Facebook was the first to force this on companies, but I suspect other networks will follow.