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Rebecca Lieb's picture

Learning in 2012: My 10 Top Digital Marketing & Media Topics

Another year, another stream of predictions. Not that predictions aren't interesting, mind you, but I've never been one to focus on them. Sure, I avidly follow trends in digital marketing and media, but what really jazzes me about following the sector for a living is the surprise factor. It's not knowing what comes next because next can be so out-of-left-field disruptive.

The other cool thing about this job is it's like being permanently enrolled in grad school. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love constantly watching and learning. So rather than share predictions for 2012, it seems more grounded and sensible to share a list of the top things I plan to study more closely and learn more about in 2012. Perhaps one or two of these topics will turn into a formal research report, perhaps not (oh, to be able to deep-dive into everything!).

  1. Behavioral Targeting: Not to begin on a negative, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced BT plain doesn't work. That's why I'd like to examine it more closely. Having done all my holiday shopping online, as well as extensive research and buying for a home remodeling project, it's appalling how many wasted BT ads I see, most for the selfsame products I actually bought from the advertiser. "This can't be right," says my consumer persona to my analyst persona. "Look more closely at the methodology of all those studies out there that 'prove' BT's effectiveness."
  2. Personalized Search This has been going on a while now, of course, but more and more, your search results differ significantly from my search results. Location, time of day, social graphs, search history -- a zillion factors figure in to what search results are displayed, and as a result, what ads and data appear in your browser. Need to keep up with this continually moving target.
  3. Social Media Fatigue Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Miso - and that's just a few off the top of my head. Just as consumers never watched all of the 200 or so cable channels bundled into their subscription packages, there's only so many hours in the day to update where you are, what you're doing, what you're watching and eating and with whom. This space seems primed to shake out, doesn't it? How will consumer behavior and adoption change, and how fast can new social plays keep launching?
  4. Big Data Collecting, crunching and making actionable data from disparate on- and offline sources will require significant investments in technology, manpower and learning for companies. Big data is all the buzz, yet many marketers still don't know precisely what it is. Everyone needs to bone up on this topic in 2012.
  5. Real-Time Marketing Top consumer brands, notably Pepsi, are starting to take this topic very seriously, and even some B2B giants such as GE are looking at the space. Monitoring, assessing, triaging, assigning, and responding to real-time conversations, events, posts, tweets and other digital information increasingly matters. And like Big Data, the challenges and resources it requires are formidable. A fascinating area to keep an eye on.
  6. Regulated Industries It's fascinating to watch highly regulated industries, such as pharma and banking, attempt to embrace digital marketing in general, and social media in particular. They face formidable barriers and more interesting challenges than most. I'm hoping to speak with more marketers from regulated sectors to learn more about how they're coping.
  7. Internet of Things When everything has an IP address, everything gets a lot more interesting. Once devices from cars to refrigerators and the dog's food bowl are connected, the implications for marketing, communication and even society will take surprises turns. This space is quite simply mesmerizing.
  8. Effects of Social Movements Occupy Wall Street fallout, the presidential election in the US, societal shifts in the Middle East. Social change resonates in digital channels (and vice versa). It's going to be a big year for social change, and that will inevitably impact digital.
  9. What's Starting Up? As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on start-ups. What's launching trend-wise? Who's getting funded? Who isn't? Following the money and the technology is not optional - it's integral to watching this space.
  10. Content Marketing A pet topic, the subject of my most recent book and my forthcoming research report. Keeping a close eye on how marketers are moving into content, which requires a rebalance of thought processes (ongoing, not episodic, campaign-based thinking), as well as new budgets, agency relationship and staffing requirements - not to mention a shift in corporate culture.

That's my 2012 syllabus. What's yours?

Please reply in the comments. And if you're behind a company active in one of the above areas, perhaps we should arrange a briefing sometime this year.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

CMOs Want Technology and Content

I spent this afternoon immersed in a briefing on IBM's most recent research effort, perhaps the most exhaustive survey of CMOs ever conducted. In a four month period, the company interviewed over 1,700 CMOs in 64 countries to learn more about their priorities and their pain points. The full report is available for download (registration required).

There are many fascinating insights in the report, as well as much information that's validating, if unsurprising (CMOs feel they need to better understand social media, data, and technology in general, for example). Two tables are of particular interest given the rise of content marketing and social media.

When asked in which areas they plan to increase the use of technology, responses are overwhelmingly geared toward content-oriented initiatives. Social media, content management, tablet applications - all these are heavily oriented toward the creation of content, not advertising and not direct marketing. SEO made the list, but search advertising didn't. Less than half plan to invest in more email technology - unthinkable a mere five years ago.

Of course, this naturally doesn't mean CMOs plan to abandon email marketing (or any of the aforementioned channels). But these planned investments indicate that worldwide, companies want to create content, interest and dialogue with customers and prospects.

This indication is borne out in their plans for partnerships. In the chart on the left, red indicates near-term, yellow longer-term plans. Call and service centers, community development, and new media strategy outweigh more traditional agency considerations for either traditional or digital advertising.

These are all themes I'll be digging into shortly in a research project: how organizations are reallocating both internal and external marketing resources to balance their need for advertising with the demands of content, social media and conversational marketing  

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Future of Media: Altimeter Group Pilot Event

Advertising: is it dying? In an ecosystem where rolling your own media has never been easier or cheaper, why would advertisers buy media from publishers to spread their messages? What's the new model: advertorial; advertent (as one attendee dubbed it); content marketing? And hey, aren't ads content, too?

Last night a group of advertisers and marketers from all sides of the equation (tech, buy-side, media and agency) got together at the Hangar to discuss these and other very topical issues around the future of media and advertising. As is traditional, we kicked off with a Wiki Wall to rev our brains. Questions included: "In what year will advertising die?" "What works better online, ads or content?" and "When do you build content versus buy media."

There were passionate opinions, dissent, and even +1s.

Fueled with wine and lots of food, conversation began in earnest (ably facilitated by my colleague Jeremiah Owyang - also the event photographer). Some of the major points we touched on encompassed the following.

Advertising isn't dying but...there are more options. Roll-your-own-media is a viable option, and one paying off handsomely for all types of advertisers and marketing, from the biggest CPG brands to B2B and even mom 'n' pop operations. Yet striking a balance between paid and non-paid (more about that below) media is complicated. It means new skill sets, budgets and resource allocations.

Media is changing, often painfully A point that really resonated with the group was the statement that the New York Times has more Twitter followers than it does print subscribers. Ouch. When should publishers throw up a paywall, follow a freemium model, or throw open the gates? It hasn't been easy to monetize Google traffic. To make things more complex, publishers (not to mention media companies like Spotify) are playing in a Facebook world. That means lots of eyeballs, but scant tolerance for buy me/click here now-type messages. Some publishers, particularly in the magazine world, are establishing in-house agencies to provide advertorial for advertisers. But when advertisers begin content marketing initiative, publishers suddenly find themselves in a situation where clients are also competitors. Talk about disruption!

Content assumes multiple guises, resulting in a high level of complexity Where does content come from? Seemingly everywhere. It can be earned, owned, user-generated, aggregated or curated - or a combination of all of the above. Determining what to use, which goes where, how to integrate content with other marketing initiatives, governance, measurement and quality benchmarks is no mean feat. It requires new attitudes, resources and skill sets. Adding element such as targeting to the conversation, and addition channels such as mobile, only underscore how much there is to grasp...and balance.

The conversation was animated and lively - with a fantastic level of participation from the group. But it was the tip of the iceberg. Happily, it lay some solid foundations for my first Altimeter research report on how content marketing will impact the advertising and media ecosystem.

Missed the discussion? No you didn't. We recorded the evening's proceedings - watch the conversation here.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Is There a Digital 180 Degree Law?

Everything old is new again. Apparently this holds true nowhere more so than in digital channels. When there are major, disruptive shifts in digital, the needle doesn't just move. It moves straight across to the opposite pole, 180 degrees.

Why does this matter? It's something digital strategists, marketers, advertisers, media companies and others must take into consideration as they look toward the horizon to plan and strategize. They must realize that in the future things will not only be different than they are now. They could well be the opposite of what they are now.

Following, three examples of the digital 180 degree rule.

Distributed to central to distributed Remember what started the internet revolution? It was the shift from network computing to desktop PC's, from distributed to central computing. It freed users from dependency on a server - everything they needed was right on the desktop hard drive. The past five or so years have turned that advance on its ear. Computing is distributed again. We live in the cloud and rely on mobile devices as much (often more) than our laptops. As for the PC, it's becoming something of a relic. The return to distributed computing changes everything about how and where users interact with digital channels.

Walled garden to open internet to walled (well, solidly fenced) garden In the beginning there was Mosaic and the BBS. Not a lot of people were there. The internet began to achieve mainstream popularity when AOL (together with competitors such as Prodigy and CompuServe) inundated consumers with diskettes that, once installed on a PC, promised a graphical online browsing experience, provided you didn't stray from the parameters of your content provider/ISP. As the "real" internet developed (and broadband proliferated), users ventured beyond these walled gardens into a brave new world. We're beginning to witness an attempt by some of the major digital players to, if not confine users to a content-rich garden, then to at least make it more compelling for them to stay longer, and stray less often. Spearheading this trend is Facebook, working hard to become a one-stop destination for all the news, media, music, streaming video, communications, photos, games, apps and etc. you'd ever need. Why go anywhere else? This trend may not go a complete 180, but it will be interesting to see how Facebook, and perhaps Google, influence (or hog) traffic as each strives to become a one-stop destination for almost all your internet needs.

 

 

 

Distraction from mainstream media to probable primary media  access point. Remember when the web was going to obliterate newspapers, magazines, books, music and pretty much every other form of traditional media? It didn't (and it won't). The 180 degree shift we're in the process of witnessing is the migration of all forms of media consumption to digital channels. Ebooks now outsell hardcover and paperback editions - combined (while ereaders are plummeting in price). Moreover, books are subsidized by advertising on some versions of the Kindle. As consumers cut the cord, TV viewing is migrating to digital, too. New platforms such as GetGlue and Miso make watching TV social, wrapping it up with promotions from retailers and media properties alike. The New York Times has more Twitter followers than print subscribers. Spotify delivers almost all the music in the world - free - if you share what you're listening to with your Facebook friends. DIgital isn't eradicating traditional media. Instead, it's turned distribution, consumption and monetization models upside-down.

In which area will we witness the next digital pole shift? Hypothesize in the comments, please.

All images licensed under Creative Commons

Walled Garden photo - mguhlin.wikispaces.com  Newsstand: Joe Mabel  

 

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Facebook: Socialize Media to Target Ads

In the Q&A following Mark Zuckerberg's F8 keynote today, he was asked how brand advertising will change. His reply? Ads are becoming more social.

Sure, Facebook will still feature display ads on its pages. Stay tuned for açai berry diets and special deals on tooth-whitening for alums of [fill-in-your-alma-mater].

But the apps featured today at F8 are media apps, offering Facebook users (billions of them) new ways to consume content: music, movies, news and books, without leaving the confines of Facebook.  Spotfiy, Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo and the Washington Post are some of the first to offer content within apps within Facebook.

Some initial thoughts.

Discovery & Curation: More media will be consumed on and within Facebook (inevitable, given the size of its user base). At present, Facebook is the fourth-largest referrer to content sites, according to a recent Outbrain study. As more content purveyors offer more app-based content within Facebook itself, that balance could well shift. Publishers will have to consider enclosing their content within Facebook apps to promote discovery and sharing, or risk losing traffic and eyeballs.

New Value Exchange: The traditional media value exchange has always been that users spend a portion of the time they spend consuming content being exposed to advertising. Currently, the WaPo Facebook app displays no ads (this could well change). Instead, if a user clicks an article, they spread it. Their friends are notified that they're reading such-and-such, encouraging more discovery and click through.

Users will be targeted by advertisers based on what they listened to, watched or read. Sure, a concert promoter can try to sell you tickets to Lady Gaga, if that's what you're into. But it goes deeper than that. In a conversation a couple of years ago with Spotify founder Daniel Ek, he confirmed the assumption that it probably (for example) makes more sense to market black leather jackets to heavy metal fans than try to sell them yogurt drinks. You get the idea.

Changing Media Consumption Patterns: With Facebook's ginormous user base, it's going to be interesting to see how content consumption patterns shift. Apps are becoming sophisticated; they "learn" what individual users like and display content accordingly. Friends and connections become one anothers' content curators. Will users become overwhelmed by the flow, or embrace purportedly more targeted content? Will this accelerate or put the brakes on a growing degree of social media fatigue?

Only time will tell.

Content/App Marketing: These days, brands are as much publishers as publishers are. Expect them (particularly lifestyle brands) to jump into the content creation business with both feet. Not that they haven't already, but apps will now become an urgently compelling channel for branded and utility content.

Facebook is saying they have no plans for an app store at present. They're trusting users to recommend apps to one another. As advertisers get into the game, they'll likely push to change this rather than rely exclusively on word-of-mouth. Expect display campaigns to feature get-the-app calls to action, too.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Will the Media Buy Go Bye-Bye?

Social networks. Consumer-generated media. Twitter. Foursquare. YouTube. Facebook. Blogs. Websites, even.

With digital media there for the taking (or earning), what’s the sense in buying it?

Digital advertising and media are certainly not going to go away. No media channel has ever been truly supplanted (movies didn’t kill live theatre, just as VCRs didn’t stop people from munching popcorn in cinemas, despite dire predictions to the contrary). But online advertising is certainly experiencing forced evolution, largely thanks to disruptive social technologies.  

My vs. Buy

Whereas a handful of years ago the digital display people complained bitterly of silos – of being cut off from the main event of the traditional campaign – there may now be a disconnect on the other side of the house as display advertising, still pretty firmly anchored in the world of direct response, becomes disconnected from social campaigns. How should marketers integrate display advertising with social media? Does one drive the other, or do we have Dr. Dolittle’s hybrid pushmi-pullyu on our hands, the fabulous animal who could do two things at once (or struggle mightily to do nothing at all)?

It’s clear that creative and media buying strategies must be adjusted to accommodate a display/social world, particularly as online brand advertising (as opposed to direct response) continues to rise. Emarketer, for one, predicts that by 2015, display ad spend will finally supplant search spend.

The agency role in the new My vs. Buy ecosystem will, of course, be re-evaluated, as will measurement. Impressions, clicks, virtually all measurement standards are up for assessment and new forms of standardization, as a consortium of the major advertising trade associations announced yesterday

As the landscape rapidly evolves, we’re still in a period of more questions than answers, but asking the right questions is a critical first step in coming to terms with tough decisions about allocations between marketing and advertising, of build vs. buy.

If you’re interested in these questions - and in the San Mateo area next Thursday, Sept. 29 - consider joining my colleagues and I for a discussion at the Altimeter Group’s Hangar. Request an invitation here.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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