5 Essential Digital Marketing Focuses for 2012


Generating links of any significant value has become increasingly difficult over the last few years, with so much focus on backlinks remaining a solid ranking factor in search engine algorithms still, it results in billions of mass produced spam links every day and more and more online communities, blogs and forums are tightening up the prevention of spam by introducing plugins, stripping tags and really limiting the opportunities that contributors can obtain a link back from the site – the reality is, unless you’re a large brand with an equally large customer base already for email marketing and an equally large social media following to continually push your products/services to, the likelihood of naturally acquiring backlinks for a small to medium sized business is going to prove difficult.

More and more emphasis will be placed on coming up with innovative and creative ways to generate links naturally further still in 2012, and whilst links remain to be a strong ranking factor in search, with many businesses in the same sector competing for the top positions, and Google making further progress in improving their algorithm and combat against spam – those that will really stand out from the rest will be those that have the ability to create genuine, unique, quality and naturally linkworthy content.
Social Weight & Signals

With social signals now affecting ranking in search engines towards the end of 2011, it can only be expected to see these play more of a role in ranking sites throughout 2012. Already, there are companies selling hundreds of ‘Likes’, ‘ReTweets’ and ‘+1s’ however in a bid to manipulate search engines into thinking that these pages are authoritative and trustworthy so it will be interesting to see how the likes of Google tackles this later in the year.

If you have a business presence online and you haven’t got to grips with social media yet, now is the time to do so if you want your customers to find you online. We may even begin to see the power of links decline whilst the power of social rises when ranking web pages fairly online during 2012.
Rich Snippet Markup

The implementation of rich snippet markup on websites using scheme.org microdata has grown significantly during 2011. What this does, is display more relevant information in search engine results against listings for certain types of content, such as events, reviews and authorship. Whilst the implementation of rich snippet markup does not currently bear any direct affect on the ranking of pages, it is likely only a matter of time before this is factored in to Google’s algorithm.

Using rich snippet markup on your website tells search engines much more about your content, this allows them to make a better judgement on whether your content is more suitable for any given search query. The more information you provide and the more relevant your content appears to be to a search engine, the chances are, that in time, your content will be favoured over competitors – via any means possible.

Whilst Google still hold the vast majority of search engine market share, it is essential for any website to predominantly focus on ranking well on their search engine(s) and doing anything possible to influence the chances. Welcome Google Plus.

Whilst not frequently used by the mainstream outside of the tech/digital sphere, Google are frequently stepping up their efforts to combine their search platform with their social platform. This includes the public ‘voting’ of web pages on the web via the use of a +1 button – you would be a fool not to utilise Google+ and ensure that you are doing everything you can to encourage the social interaction and sharing of your content via Google+ as it is the perfect leverage for Google to use their own social platform as a direct social signal (one of many) for ranking web pages plus allows them to incentivise the entire web to use Google+ in a bid for Google to compete with Facebook on the social front.
More Creative and Inspiring Ideas

As with anything on the web, it’s only a matter of time before an idea is exploited, over-killed and eventually abused until the method is devalued / frowned upon by many. 2011 was the year of guest blogging and infographics, both methods of link building / link baiting have undergone considerable attention from the masses – both of which appear to be reducing in quality from month to month.

2012 will no doubt see a new idea, a new way of creating buzz around a topic. It might be a new social media website, it may be a tool/app, it may be the next evolved step from guest blogging and infographics to build links… But whatever it is, it will happen, it will arrive and it will become the next ‘big’ thing… At least for a short period of time on the web.

Top 12 digital predictions for 2012

1-           Gamification Unlocked:

Big Brands become even more playful

The idea of gamification is a simple one: to motivate and engage people by applying game design techniques and mechanics to non-game situations. Points, level progression, badges, achievements, power-ups, virtual currency, quests, puzzles, loss aversion – all of these game concepts are involved in this growing trend that spans areas from education and work to keeping fit and green actions to improved brand experience and loyalty schemes.Right now gamification in marketing is uneasily balanced between hype and reality. 2012 will see a lot of great examples but also a broader understanding of its limits. Brands that create their own closed-badge systems are likely to fail, as gamification is inherently social, either by some element of competition or collaboration between you and your social network friends and contacts. The true winner will be the first massive multi-player multi-brand multi-channel real-life game system, a “World of Purchasecraft” where you and your friends will combine purchasing habits to unlock branded benefits.

2-           Just Tap It!

Wide spread adoption of the mobile wallet

Many of us take our cell phone everywhere; it never leaves our side. It goes where we go – to the cinema, a friend’s place, out to dinner, to the local gym. It’s become a necessity that we carry with us, just like our wallets.

So what if we combined the two? Over the years, the way we pay has changed from coins to paper money to plastic cards. We’re now on the brink of the next era—mobile payment systems. In 2012, we will see the rise of the “Mobile Wallet.” There are currently several ways to pay on a mobile phone, but one of the most exciting technology developments is Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC enables the transfer of data between two devices in very close proximity. What does this mean for brands and marketers? The rise of mobile payment systems is one of many indications the mobile phone will become “the hub and center” of our busy lives. Not only is it a social enabler – bringing us text, calls, email, and Facebook – it enables practicality. Payment systems are just the beginning. In a couple of years we’ll be using phones as identification – license, passport, office pass – as keys to unlock our car and apartment, as boarding passes and subway tickets – all from a simple tap.

3-Virtual Togetherness”

TV and Social Media will fuel an explosion in tools, technologies &platforms for interaction and research

Social tools, technologies and platforms that enable people to interact with TV programs will explode in 2012. We will see innovations that allow people to engage with shows in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

To some degree, TV has always been a sociable activity, whether it’s family and friends gathering to watch a program or colleagues gathering around the water cooler at work to discuss last night’s episode. However, with the explosion of social media, TV will become an even bigger echo-chamber for interaction and engagement for both viewers and TV networks.


4-Online Video invades the living room

Barring global Armageddon, technological change will continue. Gadgetry such as smart phones and tablets have brought about a major shift in media consumption; as they take advantage of the convergence of enhanced hardware and affordable broadband, these devices give their users a new lane on the Internet highway. Video is surely along for the ride. In 2012, the consumption of video will begin to take on evolved forms in new contexts. As the adoption of increasingly consumer-centric, multi-faceted home entertainment technology catches on, video that had previously been consumed online, including YouTube videos, webisodes, and even professionally curated content by established media companies will begin to “reverse-migrate” to the living room. As companies like these continue to pursue innovation toward creating the quintessential multimedia hub, you can bet that content agreements, distribution channels, and strategic partnerships are being created behind the scenes to supply the hardware and software that consumers will find appealing. 2012 is just the beginning.


5-Mobile Marketing will become more social & local than ever before


The future of mobile marketing will be intertwined with social and location-based marketing (SoLoMo: Social Local Mobile). The most successful marketing messages will combine relevance and location with the right timing. Today, 28 percent of U.S. mobile phone owners (55 percent of smartphone owners) rely on their phones for directions or recommendations that are based on their current location. These numbers will grow rapidly. It’s obvious that mobile, by nature, allows brands to talk to the right people at the right times in the right places, and brands will start to use the platform more effectively in the next year.


6-Growth: The only App trend that really matters

The usual suspects have already booked their slots at the top of the app charts and they’re likely to be difficult to depose. Developers and marketers should look beyond Apple’s app store if they want to ride the next Angry Bird.

Expect to see cross-media app promotion and clever use of the social echo chamber to create the next blockbuster. Sales of the iPhone continue to break records whilst Android activations accelerate. Every new device sold either creates a new app or frees up a second hand smart phone that could be re-cycled into an emerging market. So even though app usage will consolidate around those at the top of the charts, there will be a tsunami of demand from first-time smart phone users exploring their new device. A rising tide lifts all ships, and in-app ad spend will continue to explode with the key beneficiaries being the mobile ad exchanges and enabling platforms.

7-Social CPG e-commerce:

Tiptoeing between engagement and marketing leads us back to traditional marketing vehicles.Currently contributing to less than 5% of all consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales, CPG eCommerce is poised for continued growth as online grocery shopping becomes more main stream. Firstly we are likely to see an increase in paid media which raises awareness and knowledge about the benefits of CPG ecommerce, and more CPG ads on shopping sites such as walmart.com. In addition, CPG brands will cautiously experiment with using social media to drum up ecommerce. “Social commerce” needs to be approached with caution because fans primarily want to enjoy a genuine relationship and a sense of community with others like them. Marketers therefore need to be careful not to tip the balance of engagement toward marketing. There is no “dislike” button but if there is too much focus on selling instead of delivering an experience with the brand, consumers can vote with their wallets or even worse negatively influence others in a very fast and powerful way. We have all seen how quickly bad experiences can morph into a bad situation for a company, quickly eroding the equity that has been carefully built up over time.

8-The Social Graph will generate meaningful data for brand measurement

Facebook now definitively owns our social graph. With over 750 million users (and growing), our real-life social networks, personal and professional, have been mapped. Nearly every social platform now takes advantage of Facebook Connect, to bolster user experience and adoption and to create more value for the service and its users. And users constantly generate a stream of data that gives us a higher level of insight into their habits and attitudes than we’ve ever had before. This is the age of Big Data, and brands will grow even more eager capitalize on it. With the Facebook identity so thoroughly enmeshed in the development of new applications and platforms, it facilitates aggregation of that data, while Twitter’s functionality as an information-sharing platform means

9-Regulators narrow their focus as consumers pay the real price for ‘free’ access

With mobile and digital out-of-home allowing for ubiquitous media engagement and interactions, consumers will be confronted with the prospect of paying to manage the way data about their online activities is shared. Their options might include paying for applications that will manage their identity information, paying to access  content that would otherwise be free of charge, or they might simply have to disconnect from networks where information sharing is the cost of entry. Most consumers will not accept these options. Therefore, regulators will need to take a closer look at the actual conflicts in the marketplace as they continue to define the permissions paradigm for digital data sharing. While the model of ad-supported content promotes ever-increasing data flows worldwide, the detailed digital dossiers on consumers generated in the process will be a concern.

10-The arrival of Seamless Sharing Social networks have established themselves as an integral part of today’s online experience. Tomorrow’s successful social networks will be those that allow users to overcome barriers that separate them from others; online traffic will be content-driven, not platform-defined. We see the beginnings of this trend in the “sharing” buttons that are on many web pages. It is estimated that 50% of the world’s 10,000 largest websites now include such links, leaving the other half to realize that the real power of the web is in sharing. While “shareability” is a relatively new concept, ideas like virality – a natural consequence of sharing – have been an establishe measure of online success for some time. While Google+ will not merge with Facebook anytime soon, sharing seamlessly to either network (and from one to the other) is starting and will establish itself sooner rather than later. Shareability will open up an interesting opportunity for brands: those that create the most innovative and engaging pieces of content will ride the shareable wave and reap the benefits above competition.

11-China will see ‘One Stop Shop’ convergence of micro-blogging, social networks & information portals

The explosive growth in social media has had undoubted world-wide repercussions, least not in the world’s most populous country, China. Though Facebook is officially delisted, social media thrives under the umbrella of local alternatives like Ren Ren and Kaixin, both overwhelmingly used by locals. With a keen desire to broadcast and share opinions, bloggers (over half of Internet users were purportedly active bloggers according to the China.Network Information Center (CNNIC) in 2009) migrated towards the user-friendly environment of the Social Network Sites in which to provide personal musings. That tide, however, is turning fast- as is ever the case in China- with the advent of micro-blogging (the most popular being Sina.com’s Weibo). Weibo is fundamentally different from Twitter and offers multi-functions that essentially make it a simplified version of a Social Network Sites. In China, where recreational time is a premium, this is critical. Weibo, for instance, offers visual, audio and video facilities and enough character spaces (140) to give substantive feedback. Layouts are basic, easy to follow and users can split interfaces into different categories, themes and threads.

12- Online Advertising:

Real-time decision making takes centre stage

There will be an increased demand for real-time campaign insight, fuelling the emergence of intelligent automated decision-making processes for campaign optimization. If 2011 was the year that real-time bidding emerged in Europe and took hold of online advertising in North America, then 2012 will be the year when the impact is felt across the industry. Media buyers will invest heavily in their demand-side platforms and become accustomed to responding to real-time analytics. Industry players such as market researchers and creative agencies will rise to the challenge laid down by real-time purchasing of media, and create solutions that can provide a) real-time ad evaluation and b) realtime creative recalibration. The nature of real time will permeate online advertising throughout 2012, and the successful players will be those who learn to merge real-time data from media plans with insight,analytics, and creative evaluation into a holistic approach to truly optimize their online advertising on the move.


Some Key Social Media Trends To Look For In 2012

In 2011, social media had its share of growing pains. Large brands and corporations took to social media in force to try to find footing in this expanding medium. Some brands found success, while others found peril and new PR nightmares.

Here were a few key trends  for  2012:

1. Social TV Integration

Many shows have already begun to integrate social TV, either through polling or integrating social elements within the show. See my example of how both the UFC and WWE are integrating social media into their programming. Social media played a pivotal role in the last presidential election, and it will likely be more integrated into political broadcasts.

2. TV Is Going Online in a Big Way

2012 will be the first time that the Super Bowl will be streamed live to the world. Since the Super Bowl is generally viewed as the mother of all advertising spectacles, it will add a new dynamic into the digital component to advertising and social media integration.

3. Facebook Credits Take Center stage

Facebook in 2012 has the potential to project its power and truly take Facebook credits into a viable currency. There are lots of estimatations for Facebook, I watched a documentary last night about Facebook. There are many opinions where Facebook leads and reshapes the new digital ads but it is also discussible what if people starts to dislike it ?

4. Big Business Has Woken Up

The way corporate entities approach social media is shifting. Many companies realize that setting up Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts is not going to cut it as their social media strategy. Brands will need to seriously shift their perspective by treating social channels more like communication channels and less like an advertising channels in order to make a difference. From my perspective this transition has already occurred, judging by the extent to which brands’ Twitter accounts are now used as channels for CRM and customer support, managing pissed off or happy customers in near realtime.

5. ROI Is Still Huge

ROI will remain a key metric to any social media strategy. The concept of engagement is now becoming more and more an excepted metric. CEO adoption of social media is improving, and more CEOs are recognizing the benefits of humanizing their brand by taking to Twitter.

Customer service, research and image branding could all be considered social media intangibles, yet all three are obviously important in business. Social channels impact every single aspect of business from human relations to finance, sales, operations and legal. It’s important for everyone to understand how social media affects their role and responsibilities. Opposite of television, social media is a dialogue vs. a monologue and if a brand is able to collect opinions real-time in high volume via social channels like Facebook polls, they can save a great deal of money on formal research studies.

There have been a lot of discussions about social media fatigue and whether brands refuse to play for that reason. With over a billion people on social media it’s irresponsible for any brand not to have some sort of presence. 2012 will be the year for brands to go beyond cookie cutter campaigns and really determine how it not only adds value to their company, but how it adds value for their customers. 2012 will be crucial for companies and social media. For those who don’t see a direct correlation between social media and sales consider:

“Social media is an ideal tool for moving people up the fan ladder, from being a casual fan of a brand to a loyalist, because the communication channels allow people to build stronger emotional connections with brands.”

So in 2012, the question is, how will your brand use effective strategy to move people up the fan ladder from interested to foaming at the mouth brand zealots?