When we talk about trends in the Digital space it’s easy, even convenient, to start assigning responsibility for that movement to whoever happens to be leading the charge that minute. What’s worth noting is that a trend never really belongs to a platform, it belongs to the people wielding it. With that in mind, I present five macro trends to watch. In these cases, it’s now brands driving much of the innovation rather than resting until a platform mutates itself.

Geolocation Is Bigger Than Foursquare

While Foursquare recently announced an excess of 40 million check-ins and 15,000 new users per day, what’s really worth noting is that location-based initiatives transcend the platform itself. Large brands such as Pepsi (client) have begun experimenting with geolocation initiatives such as Pepsi Loot. This program is designed to encourage consumers to check-in at locations that serve Pepsi beverages in order to earn points, which can be redeemed for items such as downloadable music from Universal Music Group. In addition, McDonalds has announced a partnership with Facebook, which is working on integrating its own geolocation capabilities into the platform. As location-based programs increase in popularity, “where are you?” is becoming the new “what are you doing?”

Real Time Is Bigger Than Twitter

From Facebook’s news feed (which updates as you view it) to real-time analytics tools (imagine if Twitter and Google Analytics had a baby), the Web is increasingly becoming real-time. The implications of this for brands are the opportunities to not only monitor what your customers are saying about you in real time but, in the case of real-time analytics, to be able to see what they are doing on your own domain digital properties. Responding to information and trends in real-time can prevent a negative Groundswell against your brand and even yield insights about your consumers.

Social CRM Is The New Marketing

Social CRM or “Customer Relationship Management“ is a social-media version of “Customer Relationship Management.”

From Altimeter Group:

Social CRM represents a continuing journey by organizations to deliver the right customer experience at the right time. It’s not just about technologies. It’s NOT just about business processes. It’s fundamentally how to and where to reengage with customers in both social channels and the traditional world.

 

Early examples include @comcastcares on Twitter and Best Buy’s Twelpforce, which harnesses hundreds of “Blue Shirts” who provide customer service via Twitter. Best Buy also does this through Facebook. While in its infancy, Social CRM and the need to integrate legacy processes with social systems is an important trend to monitor and act upon.

Shopping Is Better With Friends

With Facebook’s recent release of its open graph, nearly any activity can involve your friends. Sale.com is one of the first sites to integrate the “like” feature from Facebook, drawing friends toward favorite deals and e-commerce outposts as endorsements fill their personal dashboards. Online shopping is sure to become a more social experience.

Social Media Infrastructure, Scale & Integration

How to organize around social media is becoming one of the industry’s biggest challenges. The issue is part technology (social content management systems), part process (how to respond to a crisis) and part people (training and compliance). Social CMS platforms such as Awareness and SocialTALK offer early solutions to the problem of managing a brand’s content across several social networks. Edelman offers a “belt system” training program for large organizations, focused on ensuring compliance around basic skills. Google recently announced it is hiring a “head of social.” The broader trend is that large organizations are looking to formalize their efforts around social media.

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