When the Oreo Super Bowl blackout tweet went viral, marketers everywhere recognized a paradigm shift. Oreo set a new standard for tremendously well-timed and extremely relevant content. Consequentially, sporting events, awards shows and season finales became the source of inspiration for many brands’ posts throughout the year.
2. Visual Content
The rapid rise to success of Buzzfeed and Pinterest are a powerful testament to the influence and viral potential of visual content. But in 2013, we saw an enormous growth in visual platforms at large. The top three fastest growing apps of 2013 were all image-centric. And Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, Pinterest, Flickr and Buzzfeed all achieved substantial user base expansion (With approximately 24 million users worldwide, Vine grew a whopping 403% between the first and third quarters of 2013).
Last year was action-packed with history-making moments in visual content. To name a few: Twitter acquired Vine in January. Twitter updated Twitter Card functionality in the Spring. Instagram introduced Instagram video in the Summer. On September 8, 2013, Dunkin Donuts introduced the first Vine TV ad on a professional broadcast (#DunkinReplay featured below) and followed it up with a series of Vine ads on Monday Night Football. Facebook and Twitter both made images larger and more visible. Facebook introduced auto-play videos. Pinterest added rich pins (AKA, "super pins"). And infographics, which combine images with a minimal amount of text to explain a topic and provide statistical information or data from research studies, experienced the largest year-over-year increase in usage of any content marketing tactic in 2013.
3. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!
If you didn't read that and hear Jan Brady complaining that mobile is getting all the attention, try again, because I want you to remember that 2014 is going to be all about mobile. Don't believe me? Well, get this: The International Telecommunication Union reported that there were 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions in February 2013. Can you imagine how much that figure has grown since then? The ITU expects the number of mobile subscriptions to reach 7.5 billion by the end of 2014, which means there will be more mobile subscriptions in the world than there are people.
There is no question about it. Mobile devices are surging in popularity by the day. And not just in terms of sales. Consumers are using smartphones and tablets more and more to surf the web, research brands, conduct transactions, visit their favorite sites, view their social media profiles, post pictures and read and reply to emails... The list goes on. Half of all social interaction already takes place on mobile platforms. And some experts predict that mobile internet usage will eclipse desktop internet usage in 2014. Regardless, mobile data traffic shows no sign of slowing down. Simply put, your content NEEDS to be accessible to mobile users.
Responsive design is no less important today than it was last year. It's just that these days it's pretty much a basic requirement. You see, consumers have come to expect an easily accessible, seamless experience across all channels, so websites and apps have to be adaptable to and optimized for all screen sizes and device types. Forging ahead, it’s going to be increasingly important for content creators to tailor each piece of content to the particular device or channel on which the consumer will most likely view it – in order to deliver (and measure) relevant marketing messages at key points along the customer journey.
This is a mobile revolution, People! It’s time to fight or fly. But seriously though, you basically have two options: Either you will get with the times and embrace mobility, adapting your online strategy to fit a multi-screen world or you will surrender your weapons and suffer a slow, but certain (not to mention, terribly depressing) demise. I urge you to make the better choice and start making some headway in improving your mobile presence. Today.
4. Social TV
Social TV refers to technologies surrounding television that promote communication and social interaction related to program content. The market gained serious momentum last year. Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships in social TV seemed to be popping up left and right.
i.TV, a TV guide app that fuels content discovery for AOL, Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly, acquired GetGlue, a social networking website and mobile app for television fans, and then received funding from DirecTV. Several cable networks and media companies (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and Fox, to name a few) started using startup Digit Media’s NextGuide service, which provides a personalized second-screen entertainment guide across linear TV and streaming video. Comcast teamed with Twitter to roll out See It, a Comcast platform that connects Twitter conversations and promotions around content to the actual viewership of TV shows, movies and sports. And Apple acquired social analytics firm Topsy and immediately thereafter received $42 million in funding from DataSift (another social analytics platform). If all of the above-mentioned are not a signpost telling us that social TV is about to GET REAL, I don’t know what is.
With all of this amplified validation from so many multi-channel video programming distributors, the market is finally starting to show signs of maturation. As the cable and satellite companies strive to win back subscribers who have migrated to online platforms and services (like Netflix and Apple TV) for all of their media consumption, we can expect broadcasters to continue finding new ways to engage viewers and drive viewer interaction. The major players will continue investing in and adopting second-screen technologies that offer cross-screen utility and transform the consumer's living room into a unified-screen experience. Don't be surprised if social TV is the future of television.
5. Big Data
There was a deluge of big data buzz in 2013. But mark my words, big data is not just a buzzword. Big data is a really big deal, because it can lead to big insights and big action. When paired with good analytics, it has proven to inform timely decision-making, drive effective campaigns, stimulate company growth and boost the bottom line for many organizations. According to McKinsey’s Statistics on Marketing and Sales, combining good data with smart marketing analytics can increase a company's ROI by 10% to 20%. And big data leaders have – on average – 5% higher productivity and 6% higher profits than other companies.
Despite strong evidence that big data can bolster profitability and success, many brands are still struggling to focus in on the data that truly matters, translate that data into meaningful customer insights and measure the impact of digital marketing on sales and profits. As CEOs demand substantiation of ROI, marketers are becoming the largest demographic of technology buyers. Unfortunately though, many have yet to become more sophisticated with the technologies they’ve acquired. This is a critical hurdle that must be overcome.
Also, social media— and therefore, social data— are still largely isolated from business-critical enterprise data sourced from Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence and market research. This lack of a holistic view of social signals in the context of other enterprise and external data can lead to partially-informed decisions, missed opportunities, increased costs and hazardous outcomes. Most marketing automation and CRM software to date enables marketers to fill blank boxes, route customer service inquiries and build dashboards for analytic reporting. While these tools are all helpful in solving the simpler problems a marketer faces, they are likely too static to meet the needs of our evolving digital world, wherein our customers and our marketing strategies are mobile first and real-time.
As brands seek to unlock the potential of Real-Time marketing and connect disparate data sets across channels (online and offline), big data initiatives will continue to be a key priority for marketers this year. I believe we will see more marketers shifting their focus from simply establishing a social game plan to building a solid foundation for a holistic approach to converged media strategy – one that drives everything from product development plans to CRM programs to one-to-one marketing approaches that deliver relevant, actionable messages to consumers.
Bringing converged media strategies to life requires the alignment of social media strategies and insights with business objectives and KPIs. This is the only way to effectively measure and optimize social marketing impact. The brands that truly integrate social into all business efforts and departments will be well equipped to deliver the kind of transmedia storytelling that consumers will want to be fully immersed in.
Go Forth And Innovate
Marketers must answer the call of innovation and find new, creative ways to acquire and retain customers by leveraging social media, social data, and unique real-time web and mobile experiences. There are many challenges ahead of us in this new year, but the journey will be extraordinarilly rewarding for brands that capitalize on the trends described above. What do you think? What do you predict the top digital marketing trends of 2014 will be?
Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make 2014 one to remember.