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My thoughts on Digital Marketing in 2010

Over the holidays I took some time off to re-charge and prepare for what looks like a very promising year for the field of marketing in the digital space, especially for all of you in the public sector. I thought I’d quickly summarize a few of my predictions, comments and hopes that I have for 2010.

thinking statue

  • Death of buzzwords:I’m likely being too optimistic here, however I sincerely hope that this will be the year that everyone stops confusing social media tools and applications with the much more important philosophical organizational culture changes taking place in the world of business, government and non profit organizations. The tools and technology are not the drivers of this revolution, they are merely the facilitators. The key players are you and I and how we adapt our behaviours to truly participate, collaborate, and be genuine. Otherwise we will become obsolete.
  • Live search goes mainstream: Those of you that are still living in TUD (Twitter Usefulness Denial) should hop on over to a little search engine called Google and try searching for anything. Next click on “more options” and hit the “updates” feature. Welcome to the world of “live” search results that now incorporate Twitter updates. Here’s an example of what you get if you search for “airport security” after following those exact steps. Throughout all of my social media 101 presentations, I have always emphasized that the most important element about Twitter from a marketing perspective is that it is the world’s largest live conversation database. There have been numerous specific Twitter search applications (e.g. Twitter Search) that have leveraged this for a while now thanks to the open API. Even “Twitter.com” itself, finally caught on to the growing importance of search by placing it front and centre on its new home page. Awareness about this crucial element of Twitter has always been limited, as evidenced by the surprised faces I still get at numerous presentations to marketing and communications professionals that still think it’s merely another social network to waste time on (or to follow celebrities). However, now that Google has tapped into this database, users no longer have to be in the social media circle, or even know about Twitter for that matter, to be influenced by it. Further still, if Twitter disappears down the road or is bought out, very little will change. The community will simply migrate to the next dominant platform. Search engines won’t care which one it is either. As of now Google’s live search feature isn’t just tracking Twitter status updates, but Facebook Status’ (if enabled) and Google Talk updates as well. Welcome to live search. You may want to re-think how to approach your search engine optimization strategy.
  • Augmented reality: If you haven’t read my post on “Why you need to focus on mobile right now” then I suggest you do so before reading on. Augmented Reality (AR), as defined by wikipedia here, is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality. AR is now being made available to the masses thanks to the rapid advancement of mobile device technology. Just like with social media, the tool here is not the game-changing factor but rather the concept itself is. We are no longer limited to our 5 senses when we are on the go and interacting with the physical world.AR is bound to revolutionize the way we interact with our surroundings.  I can now point my mobile device camera at a store or restaurant and have the screen instantly overlay metadata such as restaurant name, specials, reviews, menu, etc…Take a look at the Top 10 Augmented Reality Apps to see some other examples. After this Christmas, my shopping experience has changed forever thanks to applications such as Red Laser. Note that these apps are not just limited to the iPhone. Whether or not you have the  Nexus One, Palm Pre, HTC Touch or one of the newer BlackBerries will soon be less and less of an issue. As long as you have GPS, internet access, and the ability to download applications for your device, you’re set. It just so happens that at the moment, the iPhone has the most applications. Not for long though; have a look at this San Francisco Chronicle article about the AR industry which predicts that the industry will hit $700 Million in the next 5 years .
  • E – Readers (i.e. digital book reading devices):If you haven’t been to your local electronics store in a while, you may want to pay it a visit. Whether it’s the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader Digital Book, Barnes & Noble E-Reader, or Kobo on your mobile phone, these devices are getting better and better. Even myself, someone who loves to feel the books and newspapers I read in my hands, is realizing that something tremendous is happening in the world of book publishing. Think back to what Napster combined with MP3 players did to the world of CD’s and music labels. The same thing is happening to digital book storefronts combined with e-readers. Just like with music, it wasn’t until the MP3 players came along that the mainstream really jumped on board. Burning cd’s was easy, but still a bit of a hassle. Digital books (also known as eBooks) have been available for a long time, however it hasn’t been until now that proper reading devices have made it easy and practical for users to read content on the go. Remember, most text content on the web is scanned, not read. Reading online has never been comfortable due in large part to eye fatigue and outright discomfort of staring at a screen and using a mouse not made for reading. It’s a personal hope of mine that these devices stop competing with each other this year and agree on a standard, common platform. Just like with BluRay vs. HD-DVD,  VHS vs BETA; only one can exist in the long run if mass adoption is to take place. In the meantime, start thinking about getting your PDF’s and longer texts converted to e-reader friendly formats and make these available on your website and in e-book directories. Personally as a marketing consultant, I’d love to have access to annual reports, business magazines, textbooks, legal documents, etc.. in this format as opposed to printing out the PDF’s and wasting paper. Remember, these e-readers are never going to completely replace printed material, but rather supplement it and make content easier to consume while on the go.
  • IT finally at peace with other branches re: social media adoption: This could be wishful thinking, however I am starting to see a noticeable trend of IT departments not being so controlling when properly approached. I’ve seen far too many branches of organizations try to completely bypass IT for not letting them install various tools. Rather than focusing on the tools, begin the conversation with what it is that you are trying to do and why.  Ask them if they would be willing to help you achieve this by building a case for middle management or senior management (which ever one is the main barrier in your organization). You’ll be surprised as to just how many people have likely already successfully gone through a similar process in their organizations. Collaborative efforts have resulted in resources such as the Social Media Policy Database, or for all of you Canadian Government public servants, the Guideline to Acceptable Use of Internal Wikis and Blogs Within the Government of Canada
So there you have it, I could keep going but I think that’s a good starting point for your SWOT analysis this year. In other news, CEPSM is currently undergoing some exciting major internal changes (hence why I’ve been so silent lately). More to come as soon as everything is official. Cheers and welcome to the New Year!
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