2011 looks set to be an exciting year for the digital marketing world, with a great deal of action likely to take place in the mobile and social media spaces. Here are a few of the trends I expect to see shaping the year ahead.
1. Content as engagement
Quality content will be more important than ever before during 2011, for publishers and marketers alike. To be truly effective, content will need to be useful and interesting to the user, as well as easy to distribute through social networking services.
Users will want content that they can shape and engage with - the days of static content are coming to an end. There are great opportunities to get your website visitors and customers to help you spread your content around.
For example, allow people to spread the word for you with social bookmarking and Facebook's 'like' button, or put up your own YouTube videos and RSS feeds. Be aware, however, that paying lip service to the concept of engagement is no longer enough. Be prepared to interact and engage with users, rather than blasting content to them in a one-sided conversation. 2. The real-time marketer
Once you start engaging with consumers using social media, you need to be ready for anything - just ask Cell C or Woolworths. That means marketing plans can't be carved in stone at the beginning of a campaign.
You need to watch and measure social media buzz and be ready to respond quickly to any new opportunities that arise, depending upon how consumers are reacting to your campaign. Companies will need to embrace online reputation management (ORM) tools and strategies to monitor and analyse what people are saying about them online.
'Planned spontaneity' will be a buzz phrase for marketers during 2011 as they make more use of social media channels for advertising and marketing. They will try to anticipate user response to their campaigns and be ready with responses of their own that drive further user interest and engagement.3. Location, location, location
2011 could be the year that location-based services really take off and start to deliver some interesting options for marketers and advertisers.
Services such as FourSquare are starting to become increasingly popular, and many of the early concerns about privacy are likely to evaporate if users see value in these services.
Marketers could start looking at some interesting options, such as giving users loyalty points or discounts when they check in at a store or restaurant using a service such as FourSquare. Or, provided it's permission-based, there could even be opportunities to send targeted communications to customers based on their geographic locations. 4. The real value of data
Marketers are increasingly seeing their campaign and customer data as one of the most valuable commodities at their disposal. During 2011, we can expect to see marketers focus more closely on gathering and analysing data that helps them to understand campaign performance and consumer behaviour.
Many marketers will be making more extensive use of web analytics tools to understand return on investment and refine campaign performance. Remarketing will become especially popular.
Remarketing allows you to deliver a targeted ad to a consumer that showed an interest in a buying a product - for example, by following an ad or placing a product in a shopping cart - but did not conclude the purchase.5. Keep it integrated
Successful marketing is about integrating all the online and offline tools you have at your disposal to get the best possible ROI.
Increasingly, we're seeing marketers adopt strategies that pull together search, email, display advertising, social media and other online tools in a holistic manner.
They are also aligning online and offline marketing strategies more closely with each other. This reflects a reality where customers consume information across fragmented print, online, mobile and broadcast outlets, and need to be reached with consistent messaging across all of these points.6. Mobile web vs apps
One of the most interesting debates that will continue to play out this year is what the future of the mobile Internet will look like. Will we see the app stores from the likes of Apple and BlackBerry become even more powerful or will we see a move towards a more open mobile web?
How this dynamic plays out in the years to come will have profound implications for marketers trying to use the mobile channel to reach their customers.