It's trendy to write a "trends" post at the end of the year. Which doesn't make it wrong. 2011 will be a big year for brands who have gotten serious in social media. I would still expect a minority of the companies using social media will reap a disproportionate amount of the benefits. The McKinsey study put it this way:
"According to our research, the 20 percent of users reporting the greatest satisfaction (using social media) received 80 percent of the benefits. Drilling a bit deeper, we found that this 20 percent included 68 percent of the companies reporting the highest adoption rates for a range of Web 2.0 tools, 58 percent of the companies where use by employees was most widespread, and 82 percent of the respondents who claimed the highest levels of satisfaction from Web 2.0 use at their companies."
What will this "benefit pool" wrestle with in 2011? I found three different trends projections that are onto something and pulled the 3-4 important trends. All are worth a read in their entirety. I have also added a "so what" for brands who want to plan around these.
- Jessica Northey posted Seven Digital Media Trends of 2011 at Social Media Today.
- Click Here published an awesome list of 10 trends on their site.
- Trendwatching has their own list of 11 which go far beyond social media or digital but have great implications.
The Digital Talent Pool - Jessica argues that tomorrow's talent pool for social media services inside or outside the enterprise will not come from internship programs but from social media entrepreneurs who are already walking the walk by using social media to popularize their videos or other creations.I agree and disagree. This year's social media talent pool for major brands or those serving them will favor the hybrid - those talents who can quickly bridge between a relevant marcom discipline and a facile understanding and use of social media. Social media savants who don't understand what 'lead generation' means or the fundamentals of reputation management need not apply....unless they are willing to learn fast.
Jessica is coming from a POV of a broadcaster. With that come an important bias that I agree with - we need more great storytellers experienced in social media. As for social media strategists, in general, look at Altimeter Group's Social Media Strategist Report. In the back, they outline the key characteristics of who enterprise should look for and I would argue their qualifications represent a blend of someone with business and marcom discipline and social media practical knowledge.
So what? Finding the blend out there is tough. That's why many of us have invested heavily in immersive training programs. But rather than simply try and hire away strategists from groups like mine, invest and remain committed to a training program that brings social media smarts to your already smart marcom staff. See more of where we are headed in this post on training.
Social Networks Deliver Qualified Traffic - Links posted in Facebook and Twitter can deliver an audience who not only has an interest but was driven their by a more trustworthy source - a friend or someone they know online. According to Social Twist, click-through rates from Facebook are a wopping 287% and from twitter are an astronomical 1904%.
So what? While Facebook appears to have the largest reach potential, other social platforms have their own strengths. Brands must continue to adopt the "5 platform social strategy" (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr & social network #2) and differentiate how they use each. Having a Facebook strategy alone is not enough.
Mobile Momentum & the Year of the Mobile Website - every year we all predict that 'this is the year for mobile.' I would argue that last year was that year. Others would argue that 2014 - the year mobile access of the Internet will surpass PC-access - will be the year. Jessica argues that 2011 is a must-act year for radio programmers who should deliver more personalized and mobile content. That same advice can be applied to anyone who has a need to deliver content. Click Here comes to a different conclusion. Mobile access of the Web will exceed smartphone access of Internet content for some time especially if your field of view is global.
So What? Make the decision in January to make a WAP version of your website. "Half a billion people accessed mobile Internet worldwide in 2009. Usage is expected to double within five years as mobile overtakes the PC as the most popular way to get on the Web," according to Mobithinking. It's time those folks could actually get valuable content from your site.
Is Social Media Killing the Brand Web Site? - Click Here starts by posing the question about the continued relevance of the brand web site with the explosion of social networks. In the end, they support the importance of the brand site: "Despite the rise in buzz around Facebook pages, brand websites are every bit as relevant as they’ve ever been. They remain the only true digital channel that can be completely and wholly owned by you, the brand. While some social media sites may come and go, websites are an enduring digital touchpoint." Add to that the research that continues to support brand sites as highly trustworthy sources of information (everyone understands the bias of a brand site) and the need for "Google Juice" or good rankings in search engines for yrou owned content and you have your reasons for a brand website.
So What? Setting aside special needs like ecommerce, brands should absolutely have brand sites. The change is that a balance of user experience needs and search engine optimization should drive the requirements. If you are not optimized to show up high in Google for what matters to you and your customers, you are missing most of the benefit of a brand web site.
The Future of Social is Shopping - Click Here focuses on deal sites like the ever popular Groupon, Facebook Open graph functionality and the pending advances in search that will return info on what your friends "liked" in Facebook. I cannot help but think of some of the other big social advances this year including:
- Also-ran Ebay honing their mobile app shopping experience
- The buying "clubs" I belong to including Gilt, Jetsetter, and idelli
- Luxury fashion brands who were once luddites but this season not only webcast their Fashion Week collections but made advanced purchase possible
- Brands making transaction apps available in Facebook including the announcement by P&G to make products available via that platform
So What? Do you sell something? Then you ought to be experimenting with the many ways that your products or services can be sold via social networks or that the buying experience can be made more social.
Urbanomics - Trendspotting takes a higher bird's eye view of trends. They make their point on the growth of cities:
“Today, half the world’s population – 3 billion people – lives in urban areas. Close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year.” (Source: Intuit, October 2010)."
Certainly many of the world's infrastructure sellers like IBM, Cisco and others know these trends all too well. But city growth will accelerate the global growth of social media. With growing city populations come more concentrated access to the Internet via broadband or mobile.
So What? Don't let Brazil's 6% broadband penetration fool you. Like a lot of countries, Brazil has experienced considerable "mega city" growth over the last forty years and smaller city growth is still happening. More people in cities will likely mean more people using the Internet. If you are trying to reach and engage customers, you wont be able to ignore the Internet no matter where you are in teh world.
Pricing Pendemonium - This is Trendspotting's companion to "the Future of Social is Shopping." The effect of group buying, coupons, buying "clubs" (or sales sites - choose your definition), and variable pricing practiced by everyone form hotels to airlines to Amazon is that consumers will be as confused as ever about what something ought to cost. Should they hold out until the handbag ends up on ideeli? As brands get dragged into a pricing war that may actually undercut the brand's value, what's a brand manager to do? I recently went to a local bath showroom that we like and have purchased from before. I was there to replace my GROHE (cl) Movario shower. I wanted to give them my business but a quick check online showed me that the bricks and mortar was selling them at 100% premium over Amazon (or was Amazon discounted 50%?). I bought online. I am also convinced that had I really looked beyond my trusted Amazon, I could have found it at 20-25% less than I eventually paid. Trendspotting describes the cause:
"More consumers are constantly connected, and when they hear about new deals online can quickly and easily spread them through their social networks.Increasingly, consumers will be part of exclusive networks or groups to either receive special deals or demand them.Mobile devices increasingly enable consumers to find or receive dynamic deals right at the point of sale, or to compare prices online."
So What? All this special pricing will drive consumer crazy as most of us just want a fair deal. We expect manufacturers to make money. Will all products revert to what seems to have happened in the auto industry where we can all see the dealers price and then expect a modest mark-up? Is the next stage of pricing pandemonium completely transparent pricing where consumers see manufacturer's cost, wholesale and then retail all next to each other? I would expect trusted brands to emerge as more important than ever. Brands may be built differently in the social age yet the fundamentals remain - what does a brand stand for and meand to you and me.
Eco Superior - when everything you could buy has a 'green' claim of sorts why would you buy one over the other (all feature benefits being equal)? Like "pricing pandemonium" how do you know who to trust when everyone claims a green benefit? Trendspotting defines the problem:
"When it comes to 'green consumption', expect a rise in ECO-SUPERIOR products: products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way. Think a combination of eco-friendly yet superior functionality, superior design, and/or superior savings...
- While 40% of consumers say they are willing to purchase green products, only 4% of consumers actually do when given the choice. (Source: Journal of Marketing, September 2010)
- 58% of global consumers think that environmentally friendly products are too expensive, while 33% of global consumers think that environmentally friendly products don't work as well. (Source: GfK Roper, September 2010)
- While the volume of green products available to US consumers increased by 73% between 2009 and 2010, only 5% of products were not found to include some 'greenwashing' claims. (Source: Terrachoice, October 2010)"
So What? This is clearly not a social media issue per se. It may be that it will be up to consumers to sort through the claims made by marketers and there is no better way to do that than through social media. Sites like EcoVillage Green, will serve to educate the most motivated of consumers and their very existence may inhibit the most hyperbolic green claims. Right now, companies get away with greenwashing because figuring out who really has a big carbon footprint or who has a bigger lifetime landfill impact is just too complicated. As sites like visualizing.org take complex data and crunch it, visualize it and spread it across social network, we may all learn the real deal behind green claims and choose products and services more confidently.