We asked the bloggers on the Power 150 blog-ranking index to tell us what technology marketers should be paying most attention to in 2008. Here's what they said.
With the cost of production and distribution of digital content rapidly approaching zero, including distribution to the television platform, the opportunity to create branded micro-content that consumers will invite into their lives becomes a financial reality with a huge ROI upside; it's advertising that people want to watch. This should be the single biggest trend to catch fire in 2008.
Local search. Consumers are learning they can find resources not just across the globe, but down the street. "Findability" is crucial, whether you are a global organization or local mom-and-pop.
Marie Lena Tupot
Mobile apps. But not in a whiz-bang, over-the-top manner; the sort of incremental mobile apps that make ordinary things even easier, like let you pay back friends on the fly, split the check at restaurants, pre-order your coffee so you can bypass the line at a local café, pay your belated phone bill, donate to your political candidate ... It's the little things that take us by storm.
The social music recommendation site Last.fm
deserves significant attention from marketers. The "audioscrobbling" system is quite brilliant and elegant. Every last.fm member contributes to classifying and sharing music by doing nothing more than what they were doing anyway -- listening to music on their own computer or portable player, using the software they already use such as iTunes or Windows Media Player. It's a working example of "sociosemantics," the bridge between David Weinberger's loosely-joined pieces and Tim Berners-Lee's semantic web. Marketers need to be thinking about how new models of consumer discovery will impact the media channels of tomorrow, and Last.fm is a great place to see one of these models in action today.
The most important technology for marketers to understand right now is Twitter and some of the other micro-blogging platforms. It's less a question of how they can directly apply this technology than how they need to understand collective conversations. Some of the most influential people in several different verticals are engaged in a dialogue at any given time on these platforms, and it provides a unique opportunity for brands to reach stakeholders when they're actually listening, which is rare in many of these emerging media categories. The media outlets and politicians are starting to get it, hopefully other marketers won't be too far behind.
Joost de Valk
The technique/technology most worthy of any marketer's attention is SEO. It's the cheapest and best way of getting quality traffic to your domains. Especially due to the emergence of so-called universal search, ie. the integration of the results from vertical search engines like images, books and local into the "main" search results, more chances of driving cheap, high-quality traffic have come up.
With the emergence of Google Docs, Google Apps, and Microsoft Live, I think 2008 will be the year of storing data on the web, not on your hard drive. People now feel more secure letting third party companies hold their trusted data, so they can easily share, access, modify and backup their data in 'a cloud.' That's where marketer's attentions should be in 2008.
The single biggest issue/technology that deserves the most attention is not a site or an application, but more an organizational philosophy. It's the content marketing movement -- which is the philosophy of marketing services not by traditional methods, but by delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content to customers and prospects on a consistent basis. This is being done through all media platforms, and we are seeing companies like P&G and Nike put a large amount of money and resources into these efforts.
Search marketing. This includes search engine optimization, search engine marketing (also called pay-per-click), and dealing with universal search. When Jeremiah and others say that your corporate website is less relevant than ever, they're right. But if you ignore the basics in favor of the hot new technologies, you will fall behind those who made sure they built a strong foundation. Are you highly ranked for your most important keywords and phrases? Have you done the research to know what those phrases really are? Are you paying attention to how you are spending money on search engine marketing? Far less sexy than Facebook ads, no question -- but almost always a better generator of sales.
Online video/TV is the
technology to watch in '08. There seems to be a seismic shift toward digital distribution of video content, more and more video sites are being created, and there is a small camera revolution going on (which includes webcams) that portends a continued rise in user-generated video content. YouTube was just the beginning. Now, there's ooVoo
... the list goes on and on. Oh, and FastCompany.TV
that Scoble just inaugurated. Add to that the fact that people are scurrying to their computers to watch television programs on sites like Hulu, Netflix or DailyMotion. More than any other technology, including social networks, online video is it.
Micro-communication: Marketers need to focus their attention on messaging within internal workforce, as well as the external world. Messages have transitioned from full-blown blog posts and email blasts to short and concise messages. Examples of this trend are Twitter and Seesmic, both of which provides users a way of conveying their messages in short text messages or videos that can be easily consumed by others. As people have less and less time to read full-blown news articles and blogs, they will resort to communicating in as few words as possible. Messages that contain simple headlines and links to other resources will skyrocket in 2008 and beyond. Marketers have to be aware of this in order to sync their corporate messaging down to a level where people can understand, react and make decisions faster than long essays.
My pick is Actics (which stands for action + ethics). Why? Remember The Cluetrain Manifesto idea, that markets are now conversations? There are lots of new channels for getting ideas out there today, but the missing link has been finding a way for companies to listen effectively: getting feedback from customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, influencers, community leaders and so on. That's what Actics does. They are working with the Copenhagen Climate Change Council 2009 (where global business leaders respond to Ball and deliver their point-of-view back to the UN). This means that most of the world's top 1,000 leading businesses will be using this system to listen to their stakeholders within the next year. Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth are adopting the platform as the social network for their 2 million members. It's quite possibly the killer app that's been missing in business's newfound fascination for social networks and web 2.0.
The most overlooked piece of digital technology today is the simplest and most overlooked: the keyword. With 81 billion blogs and websites, business owners depend upon keywords to drive site visits. But we all use the same keywords, so it becomes impossible for Google's AdSense for Search and Content Optimization Teams to help you build truly effective campaigns, regardless of the business you are in. If you are an ad agency, "ad agency" would be a keyword, so would "branding," "strategy," "product positioning," "differentiation," "marketing" and a plethora of other terms we all use. So using keywords, differentiation becomes impossible unless you find a way to identify keywords that only your site can offer.
As a new product concept and product positioning consultant to companies such as Procter & Gamble, I was stunned to find a site with a very simple keyword utility called wordtracker.com
. You plug in the term and it gives you something called a KEI index. The higher the number, the more people are searching for the term and the number of websites containing the keyword are fewer. What a great way to differentiate yourself. I've found gaps covering "Perceptual Monopolies" and "Abstract Dimensions" among others that have captured the fancy of inquisitive clients everywhere, and the best part is no other consultant or ad agency on the planet employ these terms, so I know they're not stepping on my intellectual property or sharing these concepts and philosophies with clients.
What makes a site worth reading has very little to do with digital technologies or web applications, it has everything to do with content. This is what encourages consistent readership and keeps visitors coming back for more. You ask what is most deserving of marketers' attention in 2008 and why? The best illustration of this was at the AdAge IDEA conference, when the BBDO
/GE presentation of their $350 million campaign was followed by the BlendTec guy who does $50 videos on YouTube. As he demonstrated, this increased sales by over 30%. There were no similar metrics given by the BBDO/GE team ... But then again, that's "Branding!"
The one word answer is Facebook. Whatever Facebook application you create for your business, I really think 2008 will be the year that business start to wholeheartedly embrace social media and will start to use Facebook in a big way. Facebook is growing at 250,000 people per day, and the largest growth segment is people 35 and over. Facebook is no longer for kids, and people are using it more for business each day. Smart marketers will figure out how to tap into this audience to engage their prospects and attract more of them to their brand or products. Smart marketers will start to measure how many fans their business page has and how many users their Facebook application has, for example. They will also get their entire executive team onto Facebook. Smart marketers will use Facebook ads, events, groups, business pages and applications to find and communicate with their best future customers.
For 2008, Marketers need to understand the impact of the media fragmentation now occurring as users migrate await from portals and large sites to smaller, niche content sites, and how one of the key technological beneficiaries of this trend -- online advertising exchanges -- will create new opportunities for marketers seeking to improve ROI.
For marketers, the question then becomes how to break down the various "flavors" of exchanges now available. Here are a few suggestions...
Marketers need to know which ones are brand-safe and offer premium inventory (such as ADSDAQ exchange
), and which are remnant and direct response-focused (such as RightMedia
and DoubleClick's AdX ). They need to know what pricing models, targeting technologies (contextual, behavioral, action-based) and publisher types (portals, mid- and Long-Tail, networks, etc.) are available in each exchange.
Ironically, the empowerment of content owners in the exchange model is a key to improving marketers' ROI. Publishers can control pricing for the first time (name your own CPM price, open bidding, etc.) and increase yields as middlemen such as networks step away and technology takes over. The resulting efficiency provides better-performing campaigns to the marketer and better yield for the content owner -- an increase in ROI for all.
Blogging continues to be one of the most influential communications channels for B2B marketers in 2008. This channel is a precursor to a true social network, and allows companies to continue the conversation beyond our traditional touch points. Yesterday's mass marketing strategies don't work -- we're on the customer's time, and by keeping conversations going through blogging, we're increasing the chance that we'll be present when the customer needs our product or service.
We've also just begun to scratch the surface of the SEO benefits of blogging. In the US, roughly 80% of internet use (excluding e-mail) begins with a search. And a majority of business purchasers use the internet for research before a purchase is made. Blogging gives a company a lot of content containing a lot of keywords, and, with a lot of incoming and outbound links, that's SEO gold.
There's one medium that's transcending applications, audience demographics and technology: video. People are tweeting about their video streams on Twitter, fans are embedding their favorite videos into their social media profiles, and there's collaboration and sharing taking place like never before with tools like ooVoo and Seesmic. Marketers need to craft a plan that incorporates video into their social media strategies and across their organizations. For example, live streams from your R&D facility, video blogging from your events, behind the scenes videos about the making of your campaigns, etc.
What works on one tool isn't appropriate on the others. This has to go beyond the classic "make our commercial for us" contest on the company YouTube channel. The Long Tail audience expects to be communicated with appropriately based on the tools of the hour. And they'll want to participate, mash-up and be a part of the conversation. Be prepared to shorten approval processes, let go of production standards, and press record.
Site optimization is already becoming a focus of every marketer in 2008. Why? Because testing and tuning websites is a natural extension to the proliferation of web analytics. Marketers know how important analytics are to their campaigns, but even with all the valuable data-gathering tools out there, there is not a straightforward next step to improve websites. Site optimization through multivariate and split testing helps turn analytics into action, allowing websites to improve and grow with their audience.