What trends will take off in 2013? What should we be paying attention to as marketers? Here’s 10 digital trends I’ll be keeping my eye on in 2013, some seem to be here already others will develop next year but may not peek until much later. What have I missed? What trends do you see appearing in 2013?
1. Content marketing
OK content marketing isn’t new but it’s a term that has definitely emerged in 2012. But what is content marketing? Is it just blogging by another name?
In many ways the term ‘content marketing’ is just the re-branding of what many of us have been doing on social media all along, creating and sharing content that isn’t direct sales material but is designed to attract more sales. It’s content related to our product or service that establishes our expertise. When done well it will drive traffic to our social media channels and websites. Blogging has to be a big part of this as are the tips, tricks and information we share on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and elsewhere. So the good news is, if you are using social media there’s a strong chance you are doing it already.
I have always held that blogging is the most effective thing you can do for your business, this gives you a hub to share from and also brings traffic in to your own website. But how we share the information we blog on social media can also be content marketing. Do we create a strong image that will be shared along with our blog post on Pinterest? Do we take quotes from our blog and use them as snippets on Twitter or Facebook?
Content marketing isn’t a new thing, the term may be new but it’s something we do already but the focus on good and relevant content will continue in 2013, brands that succeed will no longer be the ones that share the cute cat picture on Facebook but the ones that create targeted and relevant content and share it on their social media channels.
We have already seen the move towards this on Facebook, the new algorithm no longer favors images and links but the written word in the form of text status updates.
2. The internet of things
Not a new concept but one that I expect to gain ground in 2013. The Internet of things refers to connecting everyday objects to the internet and to one another meaning that many tasks and activities can be automated. We’re not just talking about connecting phones to PC’s and other similar devices via cloud software, ‘things’ can be anything, your toaster, your alarm clock, your bus or tram, your lights.
So your lights will be able to tell you when it’s time to change a bulb, or even better tell the shop that sells the bulbs to send on new ones. Your toaster will know when it needs to be cleaned out, a vending machine will be able to connect to the company that provides it to tell it it to restock.
In the home I see it as a digital version of Wallace’s machine from ‘The Wrong Trousers’, the machine that gets him out of bed, dresses him and presents him with breakfast in the morning, only with the Internet of things each device will know the precise moment to start it’s part of the process as it will be able to communicate with the other machines in the team.
Our machines will be able to pre-empt what we need and automate the tedious tasks of our every day life. The result? More time to be creative and to concentrate on the important stuff in our lives. The downside is that we’d sacrifice our privacy, every step of our lives would be monitored by the machines and the data would be there for exploiting.
If you still don’t get the concept I couldn’t put it any better than CNN have in this interactive Infographic.
This could be great for business, not only can we be more efficient with stock ordering and maintenance tasks but we can also maximise our employees time.
3. 3D printing
Is 3D printing going mainstream in 2013? It looks like it. Irish company Mcor has just won a contract with US stationery company staples. Customers will be able to submit their designs online and collect the printed objects in store. 3D printing does exactly what it says on the tin, it renders a 3D hard copy of an object from a design blueprint. We’ve already seen the first 3D printed bikes and there are rumors of 3D printed guns that could be created by any individual who has the blueprint. Obviously there are strong security concerns with this.
The concept of 3D printing fits in quite well with the Internet of things, rather than just ordering objects when we need them our machines can pre-empt our need and order a 3D print. Again printing on demand will be a money saver for manufacturers and will streamline the design and prototype process for product designers.
4. Context marketing
We’ve heard it over and over again. Social media shouldn’t be about broadcasting, we need to generate and share content that our target market will appreciate, we need to engage and participate in conversations. Even the best of us broadcast from time to time, if we don’t tell people about what we do how will they know when to buy and what to buy? By looking deeper at our market and by better profiling the people we distribute our marketing to we can be more effective. We can impress people by delivering them content that is 100% relevant to them.
Amazon do this quite effectively based on what customers have looked at, purchased and put on their wish lists on previous visits. They show us recommendations on their website and email us information related to these products.
For a small business this may seem daunting but even something as simple as segmenting our email list for customers, leads, brand ambassadors etc can help us market contextually.
Social networks are helping us too. Google+ circles allow us to segment our audience and send only the content that we know they want to them. Facebook advertising allows us to target specific demographics and interests with our ads, and Facebook is doing it’s best to guess what our page Likers want to see, posting only what they estimate is valuable content to their newsfeeds. They may not have this right just yet but it seems that this is what they are working towards.
We can create our own communities or join existing ones based around an interest group within our target market, Facebook groups, Google+ communities and online forums allow us to do this, here’s a great example of a credit card company that did just that.
Google has to be the king of context marketing, as well as Google+ circles, adwords are becoming more context based with remarketing – the targeting ad’s at people who have visited your site before – and the whole search experienced is becoming more personalised.
5. Local and digital
Point five follows neatly on from point four, we’re not just using the internet to connect with people in far flung places anymore, social media is becoming part of our community. We are becoming digital friends with our neighbours, the people we see every day, we’re Liking the local butcher, the local cafe the local supermarket on Facebook and following them on Twitter. These are the stores that we are already connected with but we’re now using social media as a way to stay in touch. We’re expanding the shopkeeper/customer relationship beyond the boundaries of the bricks and mortar and bringing it in to our home and onto our smart phones.
We can review local businesses on Yelp or Foursquare, Facebook allows us to call them directly from the mobile apps, we can ask our local shopkeepers to hold something for us or book a table in our local restaurant.
Interestingly Facebook seem to be nurturing the coming together of digital and real life, they’ve been testing a scheme where local businesses can offer free WiFi from Facebook in exchange for a check in at their venues. More on that here.
You’ve all heard this one before but yes it is time you got your mobile strategy sorted. It still stuns me that Irish Rail don’t have a mobile friendly website! And they are not the only offenders. People seem to have got carried away with creating apps for their business but ignored the mobile compatibility of their site. Apps are great but the problem is trying to persuade people to download them and even when they do making them valuable enough for people to keep. Storage space on phones fills quickly, you will need to offer real value in order for people to keep your app.
Luckily for businesses that haven’t optimised for Mobile it’s not too late. Mobile use is growing at a ferocious rate but worldwide only 13% of internet traffic is via mobile. Obviously in some territories use is substantial larger. Amazingly it is in India that mobile internet access has surpassed access via PC’s and laptops.
The one type of Internet use that bucks this trend is social networking. We’re doing that everywhere and on every device, a third of the time spent on social networks worldwide is via mobile devices(stats via Nielson).
It’s getting easier to transform your site for mobile compatibility, don’t put it off, talk to your web developer today.
7. Second screening
This is the trend towards surfing the web whilst watching TV, whether we do it on our phone, our tablet or our laptop we are doing it. We can probably blame Twitter for this trend, once your hooked on Twitter it’s hard to sit down in front of a political show, a chat show or a reality TV show without Twitter accompanying us. Watching TV with Twitter is like watching TV with the world. It’s now gone beyond Twitter and other social conversations, we’re now using our second screen to make purchases based on what we are viewing, to look up information about the show or the actors and to look up offers we see during the ad breaks. According to Nielson’s Social Media Report 2012 41% of tablet owners and 38% of smartphone users use their mobile device whilst watching TV.
As small businesses we need to become part of the conversation on social media during relevant shows. If we have a bigger budget we need to include prompts in our TV ad’s. Take a look at this example from Volvo Ireland using Shazam in their ad’s.
8. Less physical stuff
Do you sell a product that is now available in a digital web version? Whether it’s DVD’s, music, news or books we are moving away from physical products and towards digital versions. Why have a house full of DVD’s and books when we can fit an entire library on a Kindle and watch movies on demand via Netflix? And the non physical object beats the pants off the physical too. We can start watching a Netfilix movie on a tablet on a train, and finish watching it from the exact point we stopped when we get home. We can save our progress on a book to our Kindle history, we can carry a newspaper in our pocket and we don’t need to stay loyal to one publication, we can chop and change getting a variety of opinions on the same topic.
With less stuff we could live in smaller homes a great solution to the population explosion. If you produce a product that can be translated to a digital format you need to be planning ahead now.
9. Censorship of the web
One thing that early adopters have always loved about the web is it’s freedom. Pretty much anyone could say anything, it is a great model for freedom of speech. I guess it couldn’t last forever and this year has proved that it won’t. Sadly the first challenges don’t seem to be coming from individuals slandered or libeled but by companies protecting their IP. This year we saw SOPA, PIPA and the Irish version of SOPA that was passed through the Dial.
Although there is some nasty stuff that happens online I like it being self regulated, the sort of powers that SOPA proposed were grossly unfair and gave corporates far to much power over the censorship of the Internet. Whole websites could have been taken down with questions being asked later. This could be devastating for a small business.
In 2013 we shall probably see more attempts at censorship. Most recently the Lord McAlpine case has challenged the autonomy of the web. He has threatened to sue anyone who libeled him on Twitter extending this threat to those who ReTweeted libelous tweets whatever the context of that RT. He’s issued an open plea to those who did to hand over their details. It’s hard to see how this will work as if you don’t voluntarily hand over your details Twitter is historically unlikely to. Earlier this year they were forced to hand over information and Tweets from one Occupy Wall Street Protestor but only after being dragged through several courts.
Businesses are going to have to keep an eye on both themselves and their employees to make sure that they are complying with copyright, privacy and advertising guidelines in 2013. We’re going to see a lot more legalese creeping in to our social media.
10. Augmented reality
I’m excited about this one. Augmented reality spilled in to the mainstream this year when Google announced Project Glass. Although it still looks pretty basic the idea of wearing glasses that can display information about our surroundings, connect us with people, our emails, text messages, the web and more is surely what bringing the Internet in to our everyday lives should be about. I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair and I look terrible in glasses.
As with some of my other predictions there will be a serious privacy pay off in order to embrace these technologies. Those who are already worried about the amount of information we share will want to give them a miss.
Even without Google glass those in the US can begin to experience Googles idea of augmented reality by downloading the Google Goggles app and pointing it at a book, a business card or a landmark.
I can see augmented reality being more integrated into marketing in 2013, at the moment it’s still quite clunky, we need to download an app for the specific product we want it to work with but there has been some quite clever stuff done already. Like this board game from Sesame street that comes alive when your phone is pointed at it.
That’s my crystal ball gazing finished for 2012. If you have any ideas you’d like to add I’d love to hear from you so do leave a comment.
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I’m not too surprised that Irish sites overlook mobile compatibility. Time after time I will look at an Irish site for information only to find a basic homepage that then directs me to a Facebook page. I wish they wouldn’t do that all the time, I don’t necessarily want to be displaying my likes and preferences for all my Facebook friends.