2012 was an exciting year for digital media with huge leaps in Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo). Applications like Instagram reached new levels of engagement and confronted major conflicts; Facebook built out new commerce capabilities; the mobile world, including phones and tablets, exceeded expectations and appear to be on track to eclipse the laptop and desktop world; major blog platforms entered a new era of scalability; the Twittersphere continued to prove its salt as a go-to source for news, branding, and personal information; online identities and cultural traditions were manifested in brilliant new ways across platforms; Pinterest proved its mettle as an e-commerce changer; m-commerce, in particular, continued to translate into real-world growth; the world didn’t end; and well, we’re now a mere nine years away from the heralded Moore’s Law technological singularity. Yowser.
So what can we expect to emerge as major digital media trends during 2013?
To answer this ponderous question, our team of minds sat down in a dimly lit room in the basement of an old warehouse in Gotham, with Batman and company, and put our thought engines to work (maybe that didn’t happen). What did come out of our meeting of the minds was a list of top trends to anticipate for 2013:
Online Video Platforms and Social TV Matures to New Heights
Major platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and many others are tapping into the streaming market, developing new innovative revenue models and growing niches of consumers and producers alike to participate and grow the online video world. 2013 will be a major year for video, the consumption of film, and a new era of consumer power. Also, there will be an invigorated push for Social TV. Real-time viewers are the Holy Grail and the film and television industry knows this. 2013 will see a flooding of live tweets and social platform integration from watchers, as well as a new social TV ratings standard alongside traditional Nielsen ratings. Besides, let’s not forget Twitter’s recent acquisition of social TV analytics company Bluefin, which is destined to heavily impact the two-screen viewing experience. Furthermore, hosts will be incorporated into live shows more seamlessly and will be complimented by fun incentives.
Google+ Gets an Android Boost
Google+ has had a rough start. However, Android has been conquering the mobile world. The prominence of Android in the mobile market combined with the background syncing of photos and videos will lead to more content on G+, in-turn, breathing much needed life into a struggling G+ social network. In essence, Google’s social network will increasingly be viewed as an alternative to those looking to leave Facebook.
LinkedIn, No Longer Just for B2B Marketing
LinkedIn, as a platform, has been known as the go-to network for businesses, recruiters, and professionals. That won’t be changing any time soon. But as Linkedin reaches the 200 million-member mark, it is steadily generating even greater activity as people turn to posting articles on the network; bringing more eyeballs to their virtual resumes and personal brands.
The Visual Web Moves Beyond Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr
The G+ launch, mobile apps like Snapchat and pictures-only news streams take off (and Facebook continues to follow suit) to attract the masses that really only want to look at photo albums without being bothered by text, links and other status updates. Also see new site designs for major media brands like USA Today and Mashable, entertainment companies, and famous people profiles. And don’t forget digg, as the struggling site aims to revive itself on the back of the visual web. 2013 will entrench the visual experience as a must have.
Social Commerce Speeds Full Steam Ahead From Referrals to Direct Purchase
Only a few marketers have been successful at true social commerce with more using Facebook and sites like Pinterest to generate traffic. Given the boost from mobile commerce over the holidays as well as an ever-growing number of traffic referrals from social networks, expect social networks to bring true e-commerce engines to their offerings. Mobile commerce will lead the way to social commerce, because more and more people will access the web through their phones and other portable devices.
Context Trumps Content (Well, Maybe)
While we understand Altimeter’s Brian Solis hailing context as the new king, we’d like to think content still reigns – but context is his formidable mistress. Truth is, as social media matures, context is going to become a lot more important to connecting people to your content in 2013. Understanding what inspires your target audiences will set the path forward, as we move beyond who they are to including a lot more of what they do, why they do it and where they do it. That’s why, as more people use smartphones as their main connection to the web and social networks, location-specific content strategies will become more of an imperative.
Mobile Advertising Grows Up
Now that we have more insights about the behaviors of Android and iPhone users, mobile advertising is getting a lot smarter and more relevant. Mobile ads are moving away from the display ad model of the web toward being more relevant to the individual’s behavior, current activity, as well his his/her location.
Blogs Explode Again, Yes, Again
Blog and personal website platforms have been dominated over the years by a few key players; Tumblr and WordPress really grew as kings out of the slurry. In Tumblr’s case, that equals 80 million blogs across its network, as well as garnering the eyes and hearts of the 13-to-25 set. However, a new era in visual sites is upon us as beta platforms have been incubating for niche markets, providing new aesthetics. About.me, Jux, Cargo Collective and others will come of age and produce a compelling alternative to Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress, and other major blogging platforms. And for creatives, the options for producing your own visually stunning space on the web is becoming all the more easier.
Augmented Reality Gets Really Real
The mobile world has been exploding at the seams with over half of the world’s mobile phones being smart ones, mobile traffic is surpassing PC traffic, and the app downloads are in the millions. Geolocation is now a super big deal when it comes to engaging customers, especially for retailers. And the most engaging approach to offering location-based services is augmented reality (AR). Besides, AR can be both entertaining and engaging, as it bridges the physical world with the virtual, for both mobile and event experiences. Market intelligence firm TechNavio predicts the global AR market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 54.3% from 2012 to 2016, and we expect AR apps to take off as marketers gain a better understanding of the ROI and consumers become more comfortable with the technology.
Gamification, Gamification, Gamification
With the gamification market predicted to grow to $500 million in 2013, we’ve seen endless examples of gamification projects from consumer brands like Ford and eBay to B2B brands like Pearson and Salesforce. We’ve not only seen games transform business, but even education, our personal lives and, well, the world. The pillars of gamification have proven their engagement effectiveness at producing attitudinal and behavioral change. And given the mobile app explosion, there’s evidence for the success of gamification strategies to take hold in 2013 permeating across most major platforms.
Native Advertising Gains Ground
As brands look for more ways to cut through the clutter to engage audiences, we’re finding native advertising is all around us, from advertorials to Facebook sponsored stories to TV product placement. And we’ll see more of it in 2013 as someone figures out a more reliable measurement model that combines both engagement and attribution metrics.
Multichannel Publishing Finds Its Groove
We’re in the throes of a content marketing revolution, and with that we’re learning more about the consumer journey in terms of how people best learn about brands. As people continue to access information across a range of devices, multichannel engagement will become increasingly critical, creating a need for technologies that offer marketers support for publishing multiple types of content across many channels. Responsive web design will become more permanent in the marketing lexicon because of this.
The End of Online Anonymity (?)
As many debate the end of online anonymity given the rise of social networking and people tying their real identities to their interests, there comes a report revealing that DNA data helped researchers find out exactly who people were online. With more information becoming readily available about who people are and what they do, targeted marketing continues to move beyond traditional geographic, demographic, and psychographic aspects. Consider Facebook’s Graph Search, as a signal of what’s truly ahead in terns of targeted marketing and the future of digital identities. Not only are our approaches to marketing positioning significantly changing, we can also expect privacy debates to ensue.
Social Measurement Will Be Standardized
Well maybe not this year, but at some point very soon, we’ll be moving toward a more standardized approach to social media measurement around content, reach and impressions, engagement, influence, tone and advocacy, as well as value. Organizations, like the Institute for Public Relations, the Public Relations Society of America, the Society for New Communications Research, and the Council of PR Firms have been working towards establishing such standards since 2011. And the next step in the social media measurement equation is about looking more closely at conversions. Meanwhile, the IAB, ANA and 4As are working on debuting standards around advertising, particularly in dealing with the “added value beyond the act of counting the ad exposure, and working toward systemic metrics for social media and making digital media increasingly compatible and integrated with other media,” as NetNewsCheck reports.
Insights-Based Strategies Rule
For a while, a lot of digital and social media strategies relied heavily on experimental tactics and gimmicks, with a lot of test and see approaches. People won’t be falling for that anymore, as they increasingly look for their experiences with brands to be more personal. They want the information that’s relevant to them in the relevant places. Marketers are coming around to this reality. Social media listening and analytics are moving more toward a social media intelligence paradigm because of this. So we’re not just listening and measuring in 2013; we’re analyzing the data, developing actionable insights,and defining focused strategies based on what we uncover about the new consumer journey in a multi-screened world.
Finally, It’s Time to Sound the Death Knell For the Silo
It’s been a long time coming and given all of the above trends — along with a slew of mergers between traditional and digital shops and a more heavily blurred line between advertising, PR, advertising and entertainment — we predict that integrated marketing communications will rule in 2013.
We think all the above will happen but you never know. A year can see a lot of change.
Editor’s note: This post was written by Waggener Edstrom’s Innovation Strategies Lab members: Brian Fiore-Silfvast, Grady Locklear, Lynne d Johnson, and Matt Whiting.