Consumers are smarter and more vocal than ever before when it comes to their favorite brands. No longer are the storytelling controls in marketer’s hands, the end-user and consumer can jump in at any time and take over the reins. For marketers, this means a shift to more focused branding and the necessity for more refined tools to measure any initiative’s effectiveness.
2014’s theme is going to be all about the individual and the focus on providing specifically tailored brand stories. These predictions for 2014 represent an acknowledgement of the shift away from the masses and toward the micro niche.
Here are our internet marketing predictions for 2014:
Customer Advocacy Becomes Crucial
There’s too much noise for a single voice to cut through the crowd anymore. Instead, companies are turning toward finding out that small part of their community who are deeply committed to their brands. The ones who are constantly talking about you, sending feedback, and building buzz are your advocates. These fans are not the ones who just click the like button, but the ones that your sales and customer service teams probably know by name.
Finding this team, rewarding them, and encouraging them to advocate for you will be important activities for companies. One of the tools that can help find these advocates is the Salesforce1 Customer Platform: http://www.salesforce.com/salesforce1/. You can use this and similar tools to find out who is giving you the most reach and feedback in your communication channels. Strike up a conversation with them to learn more about their needs, or even start a customer advocacy program. This year we will see more companies creating specific positions to roll out and manage customer advocacy programs.
Big Data Leverage Will Be Possible for Smaller Businesses
The Salesforce1 application is an example of leveraging Big Data in ways that marketers can easily understand. It used to be out of reach all but the biggest businesses, but there are now tools and frameworks that are putting the power of Big Data into the hands of smaller companies.
Users are generating more and more valuable marketing data every second. Companies that can find a way to leverage that data will have a competitive advantage and better customer advocacy. Look for “Big-Data-as-a-service” companies to be sprouting up soon.
Google+ Stops Biding Its Time
Google wanted to break into the social sharing arena and launched Google Plus in 2011 as its answer to Facebook. Since then, Google+ acquired over 540 million active users (about half that of Facebook’s 1.2 billion active users) and is currently seen as the second largest social sharing site behind Facebook.
SearchMetrics studied the average growth of Facebook shares vs. Google +1s from the last six months and found that Google +1s were rising at a rate of 19% as compared to Facebook’s 10%. They concluded that social sharing on Google would overtake Facebook by 2016.
Google has been biding its time and waiting for Facebook to anger its users so much that they turn to Google+. This is a smart move. Social media has moved between platforms many times since the early days of Friendster. Unlike the other social media platforms, Google’s business isn’t based on the success or failure of Google+.
Over the past year, Google has been slowly integrating its services under Google+. One of the biggest rollouts was the need to have a G+ account to post comments on YouTube. We are also seeing signs that they are ranking visible comments in YouTube based on G+ activities.
Google Authorship also links in strange ways to G+ usage. All of this points to a possible “dark horse” victory for Google in the social media world if Facebook stumbles too hard.
Social Signals Beat Backlinks for Top Rankings
Google has said time and time again that it rewards those who produce stunning, beautiful content with higher rankings. For years, Google’s primary way of measuring was through backlinks. However, we believe that social media signals will outrank the importance of backlinks in 2014. That time is coming.
When it was discovered that Google was experimenting with social signal measurement, there was plenty of conjecture as to how they would interact. Take a look at the infographic on this page for a wakeup call if you’ve been betting on backlinks.
Mobile Marketing Explodes
According to a study by Gartner, Android will have over 1 billion users across all devices in 2014. This is a 7.6% increase over 2013. 75% of sales of these phones will be from emerging markets, and, as the platform becomes better and better, marketing toward mobile phones will in turn become better. Android is holding an impressive amount of smartphone market share, but Apple and Windows phones are still in the running.
Any marketers who have been avoiding the fact that mobile usage is a factor in interacting with content need to accept this as a reality and move mobile optimization up on their priority lists.
Segmentation Makes Marketing Automation a Necessity
Consumers are becoming smarter and are starting to expect more of a one-on-one experience with brands. Where a marketer could once simply focus on the largest group possible, the tide has turned toward looking at the smallest customer niches available in the hopes that these niches will become brand advocates. These groups are scattered all over the web, and it’s hard to reach them all anymore.
Marketers will have to turn away from larger demographics to very tightly defined ones. The amount of segmentation necessary to make this happen will force an increase in marketing automation techniques and tools to keep up. Expect new automation strategies and platforms to pop up as the market continues to fracture into finer and finer categories.
Video Marketing Gains Dominance
In the old days, our surfing experiences were based almost solely on text. Then, we added pictures. Now, as the social media channels and the content platforms improve, marketers find that more emphasis needs to be placed on visual content.
Of the top 10 fastest growing apps in the world, four of them are visually based. These are Vine, Flickr, Instagram and YouTube. Vine grew 403% from the first part to the second part of 2013. We suspect that the use of video will only grow over the course of the coming year.
Content Remains King
Laser focused content will be the key to winning over new customers in 2014. Entertaining, storytelling, informative content will triumph over bland, run of the mill content. We will be seeing more videos, more stories being told, and more emphasis placed on the authenticity and relevance of brand produced content.
According to this infographic in Entrepreneur magazine: ( Reproduced at the end of this post)
- People spend more than 50% of their time online reading content and an additional 30% of their time on social media, where content is being shared.
- Clicks from shared content are 5 times more likely to result in a purchase.
- 73% of people prefer to get information about an organization through articles, rather than traditional ads.
- 61% of people feel better about companies that deliver custom content and are more likely to buy from such companies.
Business Blogging Will Rise
Google has emphasized the necessity for brands to become authorities within their fields. To that end, brands need to produce excellent, highly-relevant content in order to dominate. Content marketing has grown in importance as consumer attitudes change.
Old advertising portals are also forcing shifts toward quality instead of quantity. Brands used to advertise their through Facebook pages because it was free and easy to use. Facebook has since stated that they are limiting the organic reach of brands who do not pay to promote their own posts.
Facebook is essentially saying that you can make a business page, but it won’t get noticed unless you have a customer base strong enough that they can generate reach on their own. For someone starting from scratch, this is nearly impossible. The alternative is to buy Facebook ads. It’s great for Facebook’s investors, but not so great for marketers.
Understandably, many marketers are unhappy about this change. Some sites have reported anover 40% decrease in organic reach! If Facebook continues to make changes like this, we believe that there will be resurgence in blogging and content marketing. A marketer never has to worry about the algorithm changing on a business blog. Plus, they do work:
- 61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post
- 37% of marketers believe blogs are the most important type of content marketing
Each year brings about new challenges for marketers. This year, the marketers who stand out will be able to capitalize on the mobile market and have the marketing automation tools to truly measure and take advantage of the shifting tides. Video, mobile, and story-centric individual content are going to be the stars.
BY SHAWN DESOUZA