While our 2011 marketing forecasts were on target, the big surprise was the lack of a major marketing campaign that attracted and held consumer attention. This may be attributable to the evolving nature of social media and expanded use of smartphones and other connected mobile devices.
Combined with 2011's top three news stories, this translates to a different type of marketing outlook for 2012.
To get your 2012 marketing plans on the right track, here are the top seven online marketing trends.
1. It's not just mobile! Consumers are device indifferent. Marketers, you must be present where your prospects and customers are. Smartphone usage reached a tipping point in 2011, according to comScore.
Furthermore, concurrent device usage occurs during all waking hours. The devices people use change.
Go beyond giving lip service to mobile and cross-media strategies. Integrate mobile into your overall marketing plans. But understand mobile isn't limited to smartphones! It's tablets (iPad), e-readers (Kindle), and other forms of gaming, commuting and out-of-home devices like games, GPS, and in-store signage).
Actionable marketing strategy: At a minimum, incorporate mobile marketing, specifically a mobile website, mobile search, and mobile-friendly email into your overall marketing plans.
2. Social media marketing grows up and moves out of marketing. Accounting for one out of every four minutes spent online in the United States based on Nielsen data, social media is the number one online activity. If you think social media is for teens only, you're behind the times. 2011 proved social media networks can't rest on their past accomplishments. While Facebook and YouTube remained the top two social media networks, other social media networks emerged and evolved. LinkedIn's IPO yielded increased interest in the content-rich B2B network. Tumblr, a microblogging site popular among teens and twentysomethings, started attracting marketing interest.
Actionable marketing strategy: You need an integrated social media marketing strategy tailored to your product offering and target audience. Integrate social media into your overall marketing plan.
3. Content marketing makes brands media. As social media and search optimization fodder, content marketing has become a critical component of every marketing plan. Junta42 and MarketingProfs research revealed that 90 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing. Since it's more important than ever to build your brand and to distinguish your offering from your competitors, content marketing enables you to provide brand value and meaning for your customers by offering information prospects and customers' needs at every point during the purchase process.
Actionable marketing strategy: Develop your content marketing plans including your editorial calendar to align with your overall marketing promotions and social media initiatives.
4. Real time matters more than ever. With connected prospects, customers, and the public, marketers have to be on top of the latest news and changes, not just your direct competitors.
Actionable marketing strategy: Have effective brand monitoring and related analysis in place to track your brands, products, senior executives, as well as your competitors. Ensure that your organization is ready to act on these dynamic events with a real-time communications plan. At a minimum, have a crisis management plan in place.
5. Email isn't dead (yet!). Communication counts. Examination of 2011 revealed that major events were shared via social media platforms in real time due to the speed of information transfer and the breadth of our connections. Don't let this social media connectivity blind you to the importance of the less sexy email that is the glue that keeps social media participants returning to their sites. While real-time connections mean marketers must be on top of events more than ever before, they also need a way to communicate directly with their prospects and customers in a targeted way.
Actionable marketing strategy: Build your email house file and related database to ensure that you have the means to communicate in a targeted way with your prospects and customers.
6. Commerce happens everywhere. 2011 showed that commerce continues to move online. Understand that purchasing is no longer just a two-way race between retail and digital commerce. Social commerce and mobile commerce are gaining momentum.
This translates to purchase decisions made at retail locations via mobile phones once prospects see the product. Therefore the combination of social media, mobile, and local matter.
Actionable marketing strategy: As a marketer, understand you can get prospects and customers involved in creating products and providing pre-purchase information such as ratings and reviews. Ensure prospects and customers get the information they want and need regarding your products when and where they want it so that you can close the deal via the platform they choose.
7. Actionable metrics count, not just collecting big data. As a marketer, you need to be able to not only gather input about your prospects and customers but to translate this into useable data that gives you information upon which to act and modify your marketing at every step of the purchase process. This means integrating your existing social media, content marketing, and mobile metrics.
Actionable marketing strategy: Determine which metrics are most important to driving your business and make sure that you're collecting the appropriate data from which to develop these measures.
As you incorporate these forecasts into your 2012 plans, understand that it's critical to monitor the environment for current events and to keep track of your marketing to ensure that it's on course to achieve your business goals.
Are there any other marketing trends that you foresee as being important in 2012? If so, please include them in the comment section below.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.
Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.