1. Read, Read, and Read
I consider myself to be an avid trend watcher but you don't have to be overly fanatical about this process to be successful. There are plenty of people like me who are sharing their insights every day on their blogs or potentially within your agency. Check out alltop.com to see a brilliant aggregation of some of the web's best blogs on specific subjects like marketing, social media or trend watching. These people have been doing all the hard work for you while you've been wasting time at night sleeping.
2. Try It and Experience It First Hand
Take the time to try some of these sites or mobile apps that you've read about. If you want to have real insight and be able to recommend these ahead of the curve opportunities to your clients with confidence, then you need to have experienced them first hand. Now more than ever clients are expecting educated thoughtful opinions based on real experience and the best competitive advantage in today's market is going to be knowledge and experience.
3. Size Matters I do my best to get in early and get out before something becomes overly saturated and thus potentially at risk for success. Sites with broad audience appeal, such as Twitter, become useful at around 5 million users and niche community sites, such as Asmallworld.net, can be useful at any size depending on how unique or difficult to reach your target audience is.
If the numbers start to look good in terms of a potential audience, evaluate how much competition there is. Is the website oversaturated now? Will it be oversaturated by the time you're done pitching and developing your campaign?
Look at your budget. Can you afford to cut through the clutter to reach your audience? If not, look at some newer up-and-coming sites. There might be a smaller audience available, but you'll be far more likely to cut through with little or no media spend. Is it better to have 10% of 1 million people or 1% of a 60 million?
4. Don't Be Greedy
I've accepted the fact that there a lot of irresponsible marketers out there. I think responsibility falls on the shoulders of the platforms to put sensible controls in play to help regulate their systems. Web 2.0 was all about collaboration and open systems that allowed for new innovations. In my opinion, it was a little too successful. They need to find better ways to either regulate content in an editorial fashion or give users better control to regulate their own content. I'm hoping Apple figures out how to handle the influx of iPhone applications soon before they follow in Facebook's footsteps in ruining its own open platform.
5. The Future Is for Those Who Have Courage
This should be your mantra going into 2009. There's an increased opportunity to do something that stands out from the crowd by either being there first or by standing out from the pack in terms of cleverness, quality or innovation. While others might get skittish and play all their bets safely, I encourage you to take a small portion of your marketing budgets (or budgets of your clients) and take some risks. The payout could be exponential.
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Freddie Laker is the director of digital strategy at Sapient, a role he's held since his most recent entrepreneurial venture, the digital hot shop, ichameleon, became part of Sapient's Miami office. His passion for rapidly evolving digital marketing industry -- he has led the creation of well over 1,500 web projects from financial institution applications to left-field viral marketing campaigns -- has led Freddie to found the Society of Digital Agencies, a collective of notable digital agencies focused on thought leadership and positive industry change. He also blogs at www.takemetoyourleader.com.