We’re two months into 2014, and there’s been no shortage of excitement: Facebook made a $19 billion acquisition, journalists at Sochi flocked to Twitter to tell tales of hotel room horrors, and PediaPress is on an ambitious mission to print all 4.3 million Wikipedia articles. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we think the next 10 months are going to bring even more changes to the digital marketing landscape — here are a few items at the top of our list:
1. A move away from fan metrics
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: how many likes you have on Facebook is not a proxy for how many real-life fans you have. Fan count is often indicative of media spend (especially when a page has many fans but low engagement). In 2014, we believe that brands are going to focus more on creating metrics around engagement rather than purely social fan acquisition.
2. Making Twitter more visual
After a successful IPO, it seems like 2013 was all about Twitter — how much it’s worth, who’s using it and what the potential is for marketers on the platform. (The media’s fixation with Twitter is due at least in part to the way Twitter has dramatically altered news consumption and circulation; there’s no doubt that the journalism community is one of the service’s most loyal.) With the introduction of Twitter Cards, we think 2014 will bring more of a focus on bringing visuals to the platform to drive further engagement and begin shaping a more compelling and more broadly accessible user experience.
3. Facebook makes moves to become a real-time platform
In the coming months, we predict Facebook will continue to make an aggressive push to be a part of the real-time conversation that Twitter has dominated thus far. After mixed results on the integration of hashtags, Facebook Trends are the brand’s next attempt to report on trending topics as they’re happening. While it’s unclear how much of the market they’ve captured, a new SecondSync study found that 60% of TV-related Facebook interactions happen while a show is airing — an indication that their efforts may be paying off.
4. Snapchat as a marketing tool
Speaking of emerging platforms, brands are beginning to find creative ways to unlock the power of Snapchat. (Wet Seal’s recent campaign is a good example of this.) We look forward to the many other ways that brands will begin to experiment on the platform as the service begins to pave the way to brand relationships.
5. The convergence of research and marketing
In the past, marketing and research teams have often operated in separate spheres with varying levels of true collaboration. But as marketing data has become more available and brands have seen the impact of understanding and acting on it quickly, the need to seamlessly marry marketing and research has become clear. As brands continue to allocate budget towards optimizing their marketing, we’ve seen a large number of them add a data analyst to their marketing teams, a role that traditionally sat in research or business intelligence. The shift signals a focus on enhanced analytics that help guide mid-campaign (and even minute-to-minute) decision making and optimization.
6. Cross-channel vs. single platform analysis
It’s difficult to count the number of new channels that have popped up over the past few years — between Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and the many, many channels that peaked and fell quickly, it seems like a new channel gets its turn in the spotlight every few months. But as the channels that have stuck around begin to mature (happy belated 10th birthday, Facebook!), marketers are now tasked with reaching a variety of audiences across multiple platforms. In 2014, we think marketers will begin to take a cross-channel view instead of a single channel view — and when we say cross-channel, we don’t just mean cross-social, we mean incorporating data around site analytics, ad-serving, sales, and beyond — to get the clearest picture of how their marketing activity is performing. This “whole picture” approach gives marketers a better understanding of what’s working, what content is the best fit for one channel vs. another, and where to weight each channel in the overall marketing mix.
7. Marketing is still an art (but with some science, too)
The emergence of new marketing platforms and the availability of data around marketing performance is helping brands be nimble, act faster, and make better decisions. While the art of marketing will never cease to exist, there is now science to complement it. Instead of spending millions of dollars on creative with little awareness of how it worked, brands now have the ability to measure their performance and adjust campaigns mid-flight accordingly. We think many more of them will take advantage of this opportunity in 2014.
Jonathan Farb is the chief product officer at ListenFirst Media, a company that helps brands make sense of the vast amount of data at their fingertips, predict outcomes, and optimize performance.