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Insight/ Market Research

Digital Marketing’s Midyear Reality Check

by Scott Koegler
Contributing Writer

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Heading into 2011, there was no shortage of stories of what the new year had in store for digital marketers. Now, with 2011 nearly at its midpoint, it’s time to check in on some of those predictions and see whether they are still on track--or heading in a new direction.

1. PREDICTION: Brands will concentrate on creating their own content.
>> Midyear Update: As print publications continue to contract, fewer opportunities exist for brands to be covered in feature stories. As a result, companies are finding it necessary to create their own content. “Brands can enhance their authority by combining their internally produced content with related content from a variety of sources,” said Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire, in an interview with

That external content might not always agree with the company’s points and could even be that of a competitor. The key to creating credibility for a brand is to become what Deshpande terms the “go-to resource” for a given topic area by curating content from three distinct sources: authorities within the company, external authorities (even competitors), and peers. “These are the sources customers will find on their own,” Deshpande said. “By providing a single publication that combines the resources customers seek out, the brand gains credibility.”

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Curation involves republishing content from other online sources. To keep away from copyright issues, Despande recommends using the “Google rule of thumb,” which means crediting and linking to the original source. Doing so will build your own credibility as a resource, and provide both publishers with the additional traffic.

2. PREDICTION: Social media will be increasingly used for market research.
>> Midyear Update: Measuring sentiment about a brand can be done at a basic level by posting a survey on Facebook, for example, but quick surveys of Facebook friends is not likely to replace the deep analysis that can be achieved with more sophisticated Web analytics. “The ‘listening’ mode that involves monitoring activity across the social media sphere needs to be augmented by measuring activity if any viable conclusions are to be drawn,” Brent Dykes,
Adobe’s director of industry consulting and blogger, told

For example, the use of semantic technologies that can associate words and meanings across diverse sources holds promise. “Automated tools are emerging that promise to deliver actionable results,” Dykes explained, “but even if the tools are available, it’s up to people to evaluate and implement the results.”

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Customer activity needs to be both monitored and measured, and the results must be evaluated. Staff needs to be assigned to the work, which might mean allocating more resources to take advantage of the findings.

3. PREDICTION: Use of mobile devices will accelerate.
>> Midyear Update: Portable devices enabled by GPS and other location-sensing technologies, along with applications that allow users to manually identify their locations, are growing in popularity. “I think the writing is on the wall for this to continue to happen,” said Mike Sprouse, CMO of Epic Media Group, in an interview with "[Location-based services] is an area most major tech companies are investing heavily in.”

Elizabeth Shaw, a Forrester analyst, told that she also sees augmented reality slowly becoming part of the mobile equation. “I’ve had clients ask about the use of augmented reality, but I don’t believe it’s all there quite yet,” she said. “However it seems that China and Japan are doing more in augmented reality on mobile devices already.”

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Applications that leverage mobile devices and the way people use them can become significant elements in marketing efforts. “Apps like Groupon and LivingSocial are likely to see more funding, and that leads to more strength,” said Jake Wengroff, Frost & Sullivan’s global director of social media in an interview with

Next: Four more midyear updates.


4. PREDICTION: TV advertising costs will increase.
>> Midyear Update: That television advertising would cost more in 2011 is a trend that seems to have been missed among 2011 predictions. But according to Andrew Frank, social media and marketing analyst for Gartner, “Not many predicted that TV ad prices would increase this year, but that’s what has been happening.” With the significant attention focused on Internet properties, the importance of TV advertising was thought to have faded from the attention of many marketers. “What’s changed,” Frank explained, “is the cable companies have moved aggressively to widen their distribution to include Internet access. Several have developed iPad apps to stream live TV within the home to subscribers.”

>> What CMOs Should Consider: The most important issue, according to Frank is, “CMOs should use less intuition and rely more heavily on applying real science to determine which media to use.” Frank explains that analytic tools are emerging, but they are still expensive.

5. PREDICTION: Social media will increasingly focus on monetization in 2011.
>> Midyear Update: This trend is tracking and even accelerating at the midyear mark, Frost & Sullivan’s Wengroff said. “We see companion products that are being integrated into the base suite and are moving toward advertising models,” he said.

One example of how this is playing out is that Facebook has developed a series of preferred agencies it refers customers to so they can build customized Facebook pages. Wengroff said he has not seen any referral fees publicly announced, but believes that since application developers typically need to pay for access to platforms from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Google, Facebook is likely using the same strategy.

Another way social media is stepping up its monetization efforts is by exploring the opportunities in B2B. “As an example of this strategy, Monster has recently become a Facebook agency for listing jobs and is integrating its platform with Facebook,” Wengroff explained.

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Watch for strategies that offer income opportunities or ways to create an income stream from social media integration. The social media properties are looking for opportunities to partner with businesses in new ways.

6. PREDICTION: QR codes will slowly emerge.
>> Midyear Update: Turns out the use of QR codes is exploding. “The surprise at this point is that QR codes seem to be everywhere,” Forrester’s Shaw said. The ability to point a smartphone at a printed page, television screen, or computer screen and instantly interact with the intended destination is a powerful capability. And the nearly ubiquitous spread of portable devices with the ability to read and interact with these codes is making them popular for nearly all types of visual media.

But while QR codes are proliferating, “At this point it’s unclear how much use they are getting,” Shaw said. “We are not finding any metrics about usage or about successful campaigns that have used QR codes.” One issue could be that while QR codes are great for connecting with mobile devices, they are less useful when users are using their laptops or desktops because there simply is no convenient way to use QR codes on the larger devices.

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Marketers might have already missed an opportunity with QR codes by not providing sufficient incentives to users. “Users may have already become disenchanted with QR codes because there has not been enough promotion in the form of rewards or coupons to incent their participation,” Shaw said.

7. PREDICTION: Facebook will not take over the Internet.
>> Midyear Update: Social media is certainly hotter than ever, but it’s about more than just Facebook, as evidenced by the recently announced LinkedIn IPO. “Social media is growing. in general, worldwide, and growing as a marketing tool, Epic Media Group's Sprouse said. “Yet Facebook is not supplanting everyone else in terms of ‘taking over’ and making everything on the Internet about likes.”

>> What CMOs Should Consider: Watch all social media properties and their influence spheres. Facebook might be a giant, but it isn’t always the right or only social media community for every market. Understand your audience and find the social platforms they prefer, then engage using multiple social media tools.