Five Trends to Keep an Eye on in the New Year

In 2011, Attention and Curation Will Be King, Says Steve Rubel

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Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel
Get out your crystal ball. January is prognostication time, and it seems like anyone today with a keyboard is an Information Age Jimmy the Greek.

I'm no different. Here are five ideas I've flagged for the new year. Consider them my guiding principles.

Attentionomics: Despite all the advances in digital analytics and data mining, when it comes to social media, most marketers still rely too much on reach and/or impression metrics. The vernacular may have shifted from GRPs to RTs, but our overall approach remains the same: We still measure eyeballs.

Unfortunately, impressions do not adapt well to a world where media scarcity no longer exists. The reason is that, to some degree, reach and impressions are empty data points.

The Facebook news feed, which is personalized based on our social graph and how we interact with it, doesn't always reward the businesses that have the most fans. Twitter, meanwhile, cascades millions of tweets that many will never see.

In 2011 marketers must begin to realize that return on attention -- starting with share of time per user per month -- is a far better way to drive toward conversion. Reach and impression metrics will fade into the background as supporting data.

Curation: The democratization of content creation is arguably the greatest and worst thing to happen to the web. On the plus side, we now have infinite information choices. The downside is that there is simply too much stuff and not enough time.

So we will seek out curators to separate art from junk. Some will be automated. Others will be powered by humans. And a subset will use the best of both.

Brands, too, can become curators. Grab the opportunity. Own your zone.

Developers: Time and again, we've seen that the most successful digital businesses are those that have become platforms -- part of the internet fabric.

Facebook isn't just a social network, but also a platform that can conceivably make every website hyper-personalized and social. Similarly, Twitter is an entirely new platform for news that has spawned a tremendous ecosystem of applications and services.

Marketers typically don't try to become platforms or court developers. That's all about to change. Innovators will begin to take assets like content and data and turn them into tools (APIs) that developers can use to create new value for consumers. This will help the more-savvy companies vastly expand their digital surface area.

Transmedia storytelling: Humans crave stories. Technology constantly advances the art of stories, yet it creates new expectations.

The proliferation of mobile and social technologies has altered how and where a business narrative unfolds.

Marketers need to recognize that not everyone will digest a story as a whole. We're now a society of media snackers, jumping from one piece of content to the next. However, each venue is different. A story that's told on Facebook should be different from what's conveyed in a mobile application or through online video.

This dynamic requires that we teach and equip employees across an organization to tell stories in their own voice through text, audio, photos and videos in ways that convey a business' master narrative.

Thought leadership: According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, consumers are increasingly seeking out subject-matter experts when making purchasing decisions.

In 2011, companies will recognize they must activate credible individual expert voices who can create and/or curate content and conversations to be more attractive to their constituents. They will find ways to position such individuals as highly specialized thought leaders and activate them as ambassadors in social spaces they own (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and YouTube embassies) and as envoys in venues they don't (e.g., blogs).

Steve Rubel is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
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