The digital world has undergone some pretty massive but good changes over the past year. 2012 will deliver much more exciting developments, and as always, you have to keep up to date to get your share of online interest.

Good old fashioned (SEO): Thank goodness content will properly trump annoying tech cheating and dice loading.

Google’s arguably overdue change to its search algorithm, or how it ranks sites, was the game-changer of 2011. Google’s older algorithm gave less weight to how frequently a company was being discussed on social platforms like Twitter and more to relevance. On the one hand, expect to see more results to be linked to timely and social relevance and less to esoteric technical tinkering and fiddling.

Google’s keyword and site promotion offerings (have you noticed how those sponsored sites are slowly taking over the results page?).

The burden of good quality authentic, timely and relevant content on the part of companies will become ever more important. “I like it I’ll Google plus it or share it with my pals”. Put the effort into good content and get the results. Think of it this way, you no longer have to suck up to an editor of a dreary magazine or buy its extortionate press advertising to get your content out there.

Keep mobile and keep taking the tablets

Tablet sales have surpassed desktop sales, mobile browsing now accounts for over 50% of search traffic, the days of being tied to a beige box desk system are going and with the current obesity epidemic that’s perhaps a good thing. Yet many companies continue to channel most of their investment into a zombie web presence, continuing to think of their mobile and tablet use as a trendy fashion nicety. Expect that to change in 2012.

The savviest of marketers will also know how to appeal to the untethered free range corn fed high welfare consumer. They will harness geo-localisation technologies (Foursquare-style check-ins and soon even walk-bys) for customised offers, better use of QR codes to gather data and link to in-store experiences. Mobile is increasingly playing a larger role as is mobile use; it is often stronger, with wireless technology often superior to older line-bound networks.

A new kind of celebrity is born

Community experts that are becoming bonafide celebrities and can influence consumer decisions.

Companies like Klout now assign measured “influence” scores to web users, allowing marketers insight into who might be most likely to talk about their brand. A few avant-garde retailers and venues are already offering upgrades or cash credits to individuals with high Klout scores. Expect to see more companies giving special ‘social credit’ perks (pricing, gifts or unique information) to those they consider most likely to influence others.

Expect smart companies in 2012 to focus marketing on those customers most likely to be influencers or brand ambassadors.

Internationalisation and Localisation

In theory the internet has no borders, few companies know how to effectively garner and cultivate an international audience effectively. Expect that to change in 2012. Research suggests brands with localised web and social media presence enjoy far greater engagement and brand chatter. But the distinction between internationalisation and localisation is an important one. Successful localisation efforts go far beyond language translation alone. They create and encourage content that is relevant to the local audience. The TomTom SatNav App on the iPhone now has a browse local Google feature to search the locality, hit the “navigate there” button. It’s the little things.

Facebook: Watch those marketing budgets shift

With the amount of time spent on social media now exceeding 23% and Facebook now accounting for 90% of that time, it has become clear to companies that Facebook is a serious platform for marketers. Yet advertising dosh still remains eschewed to print and television, places that consumers are spending ever less time. As companies begin to realise where their customers are really spending their time, they will begin to reallocate resources away from traditional media to social platforms, with the Facebook monster leading the pack. And consequently, the meteoric rise of Facebook software applications will continue as companies seek in earnest to organise, augment and measure their effectiveness on the platform. And expect Facebook itself to evolve as well in 2012, offering better insights and improving their e-commerce functionality “f-commerce”. Watch out LinkedIn?

Video: Emotional and Viral

2012 is likely to be a bumper year for video. Infinitely more emotional than text, video is a rich medium that fits perfectly within an ever more social web. 85% of Yanks watch videos online, and they watch a lot of them too – over 1.3 billion videos a day. Studies show far higher levels of engagement and customer conversion among brands that use video on their websites. We will see the giant of the pack, YouTube, with its new organisation and improved functionality make content creation and sharing easier – effectively solidifying its role among social sharing platforms.

Expect video advertising to grow significantly as it is a far less crowded on demand interactive and personalised space than telly.

What’s the link among all of these?

They all involve tools and technologies that enhance engagement and improve interaction. In fact, 2012 may be the year when “social marketing” simply becomes “marketing”. After all, aren’t businesses operating in society by definition?

The toughest obstacle is, as always, the attitude gap, as usual the early adopters make the gains and the rest get left behind with the Zombies.

Keep it genuine, authentic, brand aligned and fresh and kill those Zombies!


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