What Are the Real Challenges for Digital Marketing in 2013?

I was invited to host an in-house training program on digital marketing essentials last week – and to wrap up the program, I have decided to open the floor to discuss what are the challenges for digital marketers in 2013.

Some suggested that “big data” is going to be a real challenge as companies are growing the types and volume of data they are collecting from various sources… and social media and mobile marketing data are adding to the complication.

Others elaborated on the point by suggesting that measurement metrics will become a real challenge because the fundamentals of data and analysis are now getting even more chaotic… as the list of data sources and analytic tools can go on forever.

It was an interesting and very engaging discussion.

The rise of social media has indeed given the long-established digital marketing plans a challenge. In China, social media is about the 500 million+ users who are engaged in various platforms – Weibo, WeChat, BBS, Forums, Wikis, Q&As, Blogs, and SNS, etc.

The models of data gathering and analysis change, as forms of engagement vary. Marketers’ investment “weights” on the different platforms has extended the complexity – not to mention the “rise and fall” of the various platforms’ dominance.

In late 2012, the research company GlobalWebIndex released its quarterly report on the change in percentages for the top global social media platforms (see Figure 1). While Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are still leading in the game; lead Chinese social media platforms Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were showing sharp quarterly decrease in terms of interactivity.

Figure 1: Source: Global Web Index (Click to Enlarge)

A natural question to ask is: China has proven to be one of the most socially active countries and Sina and Tencent are the lead players in social media, if they are showing negative growth in user interactivity, where are the users now? If the users have moved on to other platforms, what should we do with the data gathered previously from these core platforms?

Mobile is another challenge that requires a sustainable combat plan. We have witnessed the blossoming of mobile ads and apps during the past three years – and you can hear so much buzz about how mobile marketing will boom as “The Next Big Thing.” And I must stress that the word “Next” will be deleted sooner than you have imagined.

The rise of the Chinese middle class, and their wide range of smartphones/tablets (at much lower prices as well) for selection, will essentially change your push marketers to change their marketing plans on mobile.

The formats of mobile marketing will change as well, with new ad formats rolling out in possibly less invasive and more engaging ways.

And so by the time marketers can define their roadmaps for social media and mobile marketing, the issue about data collection and measurement kicks in again. It is simply a “given” when digital marketing is to prove its cost effectiveness and efficiencies.

No offense to anyone working in measurement metrics and analysis – but we must cease in creating new terms and models to set hurdles for measurement. Because ultimately the marketers just need a simple, easy-to-follow report to trace and define their future expenses on social and mobile.

So these wrap up my challenges for digital marketing in China in 2013. How about you – what are your key challenges?

Image on home page via Shutterstock.