Archive for January, 2010

Over the last two years of explosive social media growth, I have written several times about the growing issue of information and inbox overload, and the dunbar number and ambient relationships. I’ve observed a segment of consumers going on social media diets, if you will, eliminating social media from their lives or at least restricting it to limited networks and a limited amount of time.

Enter SuicideMachine.org, a service that automatically deletes your social media life, in some instances with no possibility of reinstating it. Facebook is taking them seriously enough to ban the service from accessing their servers.

I’m still not sure how much of this is parody and how much is serious. The service itself is for real, but is this a trend that taps into consumer desires? Are that many people this fed up with social media infringing on their “real lives”?

“My internet life is dying, but my real life is starting”

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At the risk of sounding cliche, welcome to a new decade of marketing. Indeed it is an exciting time to be a marketer. The past decade may prove to be the most pivotal ever in terms of the changes in how we communicate with consumers. It was also the decade of aggregation – or better put, the decade that killed the “big idea”. The era of the big idea is over (in the context of marketing communication). Since the explosion of digital marketing during the last decade, the new big idea morphed into an aggregation of many smaller “ideas”. This aggregation has a bigger impact than any one “big idea” ever could, by distributing risk and providing more chances to develop successful approaches.

Marketing evolution continues in 2010, and here are some of the areas to keep your eyes on.

Mobile Forges Forward

We keep joking about how “this year has been the year of mobile for the last few years”. Well, we’re waist deep the age of mobile and moving further along every day. We’ve crossed the proverbial tipping point. The handsets and data speeds provide better experiences, and the data plans are affordable. Over 60 million US consumers access the web via mobile device.  Globally we’re on track for more people to access the mobile web than the PC web (of course I’ll need to save that post for Jan 2020). The thing is, the distribution of this access is skewed, significantly towards the iPhone. While the iPhone catalyzed mobile web usage, competition is not far behind with the Droid, Pre, new Blackberries and other devices to come in 2010. Consumers are using, and even paying for mobile applications and mobile websites that provide value. Of course, as with any marketing channels, there are plenty of misguided executions that do not focus on the consumer, provide little value and flop. Unfortunately oftentimes the medium gets blamed for poor strategy on the part of the marketer and/or agency. Provide experiential or utility-based value to consumers and you’ll reap the rewards of consumer engagement. Additionally, keep your sights set on the convergence of mobile and social experiences as well. This will prove big in 2010.

Location Based Applications

As consumers become more comfortable with GPS enabled smart phones and the first generation of applications that incorporate GPS into the experience, the marketing opportunities that utilize geo-location data will come to fruition. However, it will be 100% predicated on permission, transparency and trust. Of course the recurring theme of providing actual value to the consumer experience is key as well. An early success story is FourSquare, which combines social actions and geo-tagging. But FourSquare is definitely not for everyone. Marketers will have to provide utility in order to gain access to consumers’ private lives and  geo-location data. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch very easily here. Where your brand attributes meet consumers’ needs is a good crossroads to  aim for. Note: If would be interesting to see Facebook acquire and incorporate FourSquare into their current platform.

Real Time Search & Social Search

As social media has become ingrained in the digital media experience for consumers and marketers alike, real time search was inevitable. Information is distributed via so many channels including consumers’ social media feeds, that not including real time data in search results created a void in the relevancy of search results at the major engines. Google’s roll out of social search results from “people in your social circle” also fills the void that was otherwise filled directly from the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Real time search will indeed make search results more relevant, but the algorithms for filtering signal to noise will be an interesting evolution to watch and participate in.  The implications for marketers is a new era of SEO that ties even more tightly into social media.

Social Media Expands Its Journey

There are two major areas to keep an eye on here. First is the portable social graph. Facebook Connect really took off in 2009, and 2010 marks the tipping point for social graph / data portability. The social graph is just beginning to become part of the overarching digital platform. Through this ubiquity consumers are empowered, taking the influence and social activities of their social connections with them everywhere they go (well not everywhere, but soon enough). Check out one of my favorite implementations of Facebook Connect so far in the Prototype trailer. Try it out. It takes a minute to load, but it’s worth the wait.

The social graph has become portable on the PC-based and mobile web, and the second area to keep an eye on is the expansion of the social graph to your television. Samsung was the first to release high end flat screen TV’s with internet based widgets that allow you to access Twitter on your TV (currently via Yahoo, but inevitably this will become more open very soon). Expect the social graph to become a standard part of our TV viewing experience in the future (note: not in 2010).

Multiple Attribution

While all marketers would agree that reaching consumers at multiple marketing touch points is essential, most marketers still maintain disparate data systems and utilize the last ad standard protocol when it comes to attribution of influence or conversion.  Multiple attribution tracking capabilities have existed at the major ad servers for a couple of years now, provide a solution to attribution modeling, yet are underutilized by the industry. Third parties, such as ClearSaleing, also offer dashboard, reporting and analytics platforms to provide multiple attribution reporting for marketers. Let’s face it, we are constantly increasing the number of digital marketing channels we are working in and as an industry our analytical capability, or more accurately – marketers’ and agencies’ willingness to utilize the tools available,  has been lagging behind . Some of the dashboard tools can also incorporate a limited set of non digital channels as well. If you are not using a multiple attribution system currently, make 2010 the year to do so. There is simply no excuse not to.

The Privacy Issue Marches On

Privacy is always a heated topic. This has been true since the dawn of digital data collection. The issue is over-hyped by the media and advocacy groups, however there are some underlying truths to the hype. As we have seen with the privacy policy changes on Facebook over the last year, if nothing else, consumers do pay attention and now have the means to spread the word quickly.  As digital marketing technologies evolved, more parties gained access to more data. Although most of this data does not actually contain personally identifiable (PII)  data, in some instances it can be associated with other data assets that do. Tying the  vast amounts of anonymous and PII data together will become a bigger focus of the FTC and advocacy groups as the portable social graph  continues to morph the internet as we knew it into one big social web. The FTC warned the industry in 2009 that a day of reckoning was near, and that the self governance was not working due to a lack of enforcement. The industry will have to take the issue more seriously in 2010 or the government will do so for us.

Augmented Reality

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world. On the PC, AR utilizes the webcam to overlay data, usually in the form of a virtual hologram. Most of the augmented reality executions to-date have focused on the novelty factor and have not provided consumers with much actual value. The few mobile AR applications available, including Yelp, are beginning to provide actual utility. I see a bright future there. On the PC side of things, the USPS Priority Mail box simulator is by far the most useful application of PC/webcam based AR implementation to date.

The key to AR is to hone in on the utility aspect, and provide real value to the consumer. (That concept is starting to sound awfully familiar, huh)

Long Live Display

Display ads get a bad rap. The reality is that online advertising works, and not only for direct response. While search see’s the lion’s share of industry ad spending, display is a standard part of the mix and will continue to be for the long term. That is not to say that display doesn’t have its issues. Lack of creative prowess, challenges with media currency and an inefficient process still plague the industry, but all are common topics of conversation and ad hoc work-arounds are being implemented every day. Most agencies and media buyers have had to develop large infrastructures to support the inefficiency of digital media. Clients constantly challenge the process and costs. Yet very little industry-level research is being conducted to better the situation. The IAB, nor any other industry body has set forth to develop the correlational research required to make advertisers feel more comfortable about the market-level impact of online advertising. The last industry-level research was released almost 10 years ago. Some individual agencies embark on this type of research on a client by client basis, but there is little public domain research readily available for most marketers, who for the most part, park the vast majority of their brand budgets elsewhere. Hopefully in 2010 we will see more industry collaboration to develop research and studies and the tools and systems to create more efficiency in the media buying and management process, without commoditizing it.

Even with all that said, display ads do work at creating influence, this can be and is measured by many marketers and agencies, and display is a standard part of the media mix just like any other medium. The degree of inclusion is what is in question, and hopefully we will at least see more discussion and proposed improvements that make advertisers confident to allocate more brand dollars online.

The Elephant in The Room … The Economy

All indicators lead to a slow and steady economic recovery ahead of us.  But this will happen at a different pace for each category and client. The reality for digital marketing is that most marketers have not been and won’t be experimenting much, and focusing on the more accountable (read – DR) focused channels and tactics. I do expect budgets to open up for social media and mobile. Amid the greatest recession of our lives we witnessed the explosive growth of social media. Some marketers had the budgets to allocate proper resources to understanding, monitoring and integrating social media into their corporate culture, while others put forth a minimal effort and yielded an equal impact. The brands that embraced social media have developed social voices separate from their brand voices and are on their way to becoming accepted social brands. Most are still playing catch-up, and we’ll see a lot of that in 2010.

So there you have it, some areas to keep your sights set on for 2010 and beyond. Have any additional thoughts about what else will be big in 2010? Post your ideas in the comments.