As everyone is keenly looking forward to the New Year, new beginnings, and making wish lists of what we hope the year will bring, let's spend a short while looking back to 2010.
We may well find some lessons from the year that may help shape what we do with digital and brands in 2011.
Here's what stood out for me as the good, the bad, and the ugly in 2010:
1. More folks got active on social networks
Not just more people came on, but they came on more often as well. Part of the reason was the ease of access, and partly because of mainstream media's uptake of social media in a big way. It is common to see 'Breaking Tweets' on the news these days. These provide people an easy way to be seen and have their 140 characters of fame (15 minutes is so passé!)
2. Proliferation of apps that spread the reach of social networks beyond the browser
This has taken social networking and the Internet to people where they are – and made anytime/anywhere access a reality. Mainly thanks to mobile Web and plug-and-play applications.
3. Greater integration by social networks with each other
This has allowed people to be present on multiple networks at once without having to log in to each network separately – so now one can update Facebook from Twitter and vice versa. It has also helped people maintain what's largely a single social stream with their network, rather than having to update news about the goings on in their lives multiple times. This in turn has given them the opportunity of using the extra time to be truly 'social'.
4. Rise in user-generated opinions and their spread and influence on brands and issues
There's been a wave, a movement driven by the velocity and intensity with which people have started expressing their views using social media. Across markets in the region, there have been several instances of these social voices impacting brands and influencing opinions on everything from the media and the government to social causes and the choice of sports teams.
5. Recognition by conventional marketers and media of the newest, emerging power media - consumers
Marketers and media have realised that it isn't their messages or their media selections that create the greatest influence amongst people. Instead it is the power of the people itself that has the greatest believability amongst other people. Peer power or the opinions of 'folks like me' is the newest media of influence.
6. Easier means of sharing, participating, publishing than before
Almost everyone can be a Web publisher today thanks to ready templates and plug-and-play tools that are getting more intuitive by the day. Sharing and participating in social streams is almost as easy as clicking a button. Strong 'Like' there!
The Bad 1. The check-box attitude to digital still practiced by many marketers
Some years back it was "Let's do a website". Now it's "Let's create a Twitter profile" or "Let's do an iPhone app". These are means to an end, not an end in itself.
2. Subordination of ideas to technology
Flash isn't an idea. Neither is augmented reality. They are technologies that can bring ideas alive. There have been so many cases where the only cool part is the technology.
3. Limited integration of digital with the real-world (on-ground) brand experience
The real action of most brands happens on-ground, in stores, and on streets in cities and towns. Digital that doesn't recognise this and facilitate an online-offline connect is missing a big opportunity.
4. Treating fans as a 'media buy' rather than a constituency to be nurtured
True fans are not 'bought' but they are earned, over time, and over many positive interactions. But treating them as a number to be achieved gives you the number. And nothing more.
5. Digital more often being an online rendition of the main communication idea, rather than being intrinsic to the marketing planning process
Digital is more than banners and landing pages or Web expressions of main line communication. Putting a TV commercial on YouTube does not even start to scratch the surface of the true potential of digital.
1. The growing menace of spam
Not just email spam, but spam postings via social network sites, and fan pages. One could call this the anti-social side of social networking.
2. Issues related to privacy and security of personal information
'Free' should not mean one needs to give up privacy and potentially expose one's social networking and online behaviour patterns to being used by marketers to sell you stuff.
Now that we have had a look at what has been, I will share with you 11 themes that smart marketers will embrace in 2011 in the next column.
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Ashok is an award-winning global and regional Digital, Brand and Social Media Marketing leader with nearly 20 years of client and agency-side business experience on brands that cut across the spectrum from one-cent candies to million-dollar hotels stays. He has been passionately leveraging Digital to grow brands since 2000. Ashok is also the founder and author of 'The Future of Digital for Brands', a highly regarded global online community of over 3000 marketers spanning 65+ countries. You are welcome to join the conversation around The Future of Digital for Brands. He can be found tweeting at @ashoklalla.