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Last year was a transitional year for most of the industry and now the traction of these changes are likely to take hold on the cold hard surface of consumer engagement.

Not to foreshadow any impending doom, but many of us are likely to see elemental change happen faster in this coming year than ever. And though it appears I waited until after the year turned, I blame my iPhone alarm clock and its 2011 bug.

Quality becomes the new quantity

Most of what we see or hear has a number tied to it these days. Twitter followers, tweets, retweets, likes, comments and so on. It’s the new personal scorecard. Telling people you have a zillion followers is a kind of reality, but does the largess of the number connote the quality of what you did?

We like approval from others and people that we know especially, but this collusion of opinion and information is not always the truest form of value. Now yes, there is always a blend to that fact and it's not about you or me personally, it's about how the numbers are used. And what will be more important this coming year is how relevant all you see, hear, do, tweet really is.

So as a first step, ratings should become deeper than one out-of-five-star rating or “was this helpful?” if we are going to be able to sift through the hyperbole of quantity.

That sucking sound you hear: Agency Consolidation

There are too many agencies and digital services for clients to manage. People like to say that social agencies are winning over traditional digital agencies (traditional digital...really?) but that's too much of a red herring to ignore.

All digital agencies, some specializing in one area or another, are competing. What will hurt them all is too much specialization. Yes, too much specialization sounds sexy but it usually means a very low ROI and not a lot of value for the long term.

There are too many devices and platforms shifting and changing to make pop-up agencies rationalize their value. Many times this past year and in the future months, the mobile and social although inextricably linked will be competing for client budget.

It’s not a competition when eventually you are competing with yourself. So what all agencies need to do is acquire, build, mentor and refine capable technologies and people that are all working harmoniously and are measured in an egalitarian form. Easier said than done I suspect, but it will be the next agency model.

Take 5 Mr. HTML

You'd expect me to say "Flash is Dead" or that "Javascript is too hard" and someday maybe I will. For now I'll hold back.

What is going to happen is that HTML 5 will start invading a lot of work. Some of it super creative work and some banal and purely functional. Again, this wasn't purely because it was better than everyone else, it's a device-driven change, and yes, it's a Steve Jobs-driven change too.

In the end HTML 5 will take a sizable share of the development work for new media and to what end only our collective imagination can tell us. Let’s get comfortable with HTML 5 before HTML 6 comes out with Web 4.0 at its side.

Group shopping therapy

Yes, the billion dollar baby of Groupon is probably the first to come to mind. And the principle in itself will be the next phenomenon of online retail madness. What it has and probably will become is a natural progression in social media and online shopping.

One scenario might be that, rather than buying through Facebook, you'll be linked through Groupon and do your own kind of collective bargaining with brands that are willing to talk to you. Facebook may not like this, but even the investment cash rich have to adapt or adopt to be in on the group game.

Paying for it

The last stage of adolescence for publishing is upon us. The big publishing brands have been our “virtual parents" of content for long enough. This will be the inevitable jumping off point for the poignant and the popular in publishing.

The NYT will be a paid subscription in the early part of the coming year and many others will follow. What will separate the wheat from the chaff of online magazines and news is how valuable they are to the reader.

The paying for professional online content will be the true end of the physical publication and it seems that the public is ready to cut bait.

Virtual acknowledges the physical

Retail is the last bastion of the counter-digital experience. Apart from a few interesting showings, apparel retailers have been the last to take digital to the physical experience. And to be fair, buying an article of clothing is a highly personal and particular psychological experience for the buyer.

Apart from the tactile, what will change is in the service methods that consumers receive in stores. Best Buy has done an amazing job in re-engineering its model to the products and consumers through training, design and digital.

Now digital you say, big whup! Well, the interesting thing is that Best Buy didn't develop any new digital technology to change its business, they just used what was out there.

The TWELP force idea was one of the best things Best Buy could do for themselves, not to engineer the virtual world of Twitter to its wishes, but to adjust its customer service to the use of Twitter as a service tool. Brilliant thinking and a sign of things to come.

Location, location, location

We all know Foursquare has made an impact on social media and those who consume it. In the coming year Facebook will simply turn up the volume dial and have quintupled the subscribers of Foursquare.

But this isn’t just about people checking in anymore. Now businesses can instantly register all their locations and you’ll have a networked location experience. If you travel a lot like I do, this may be a good thing, or creepy.

Like many features that come and go, this one won’t go away and Facebook will dominate. So 2011 may see an end to the first footer in location-based marketing (sorry Foursquare, you needed a better logo) and exciting forays into location-based marketing.

The year of mobile...again

Mobile has been the Godot of the technology launch world. Since 1998 I've been hearing that next year mobile will be big, and each year it never happens. Well I think the mobile era has finally come to reality.

The Android and Apple platforms are solid, well engineered and ready to change our world. Applications and optics have been the two elements that completed the mobile cake. Gone will be the short-lived and quickly unused "app candy" that has been prevalent in this first era of smartphones. 2010 was a platform building year for mobile, now its time for lift-off...finally.

White spaces will be filled

Mobile's eminent arrival to the vanguard will not be purely due to its longevity in the device game. Remember back in June when in the US the broadcast signal was no more? Well now your mobile phones will be on it in a big way.

Recently AT&T added to its bandwidth portfolio in a play to win the mobile war. This along with other purchases will give consumers a lot more to do at the end of the arm than wait for a signal to come up or for email to download. The age of dial-up speed on mobile devices is coming to an end. Hooray to that!

Content and malcontents

Now with all this newness around, one cannot help but notice the burnout that ensues when engaging in this new world. Why? We first need to wake up and understand that the life blood of all these devices, applications, networks, widgets and the like is the content that is delivered through them.

In the past couple of years, media and content didn't work out this relationship and the dissonance of random information has been shortening attention spans every minute.

Our next evolution in the digital world is in moving beyond the simple fascination with new apps and devices and the true application of them in our lives through valuable and relevant content. No longer will we have the shallow mash of video banks that produce banal instructional information with no context or emotional connection.

Bad content will fade and the rise of “storied products” will be delivered by transmedia producers through multiple screens in a multitude of contexts.

Alright, that last one was a brainful. Get whatever rest you can before starting the year. It's going to be a good one.

Dorian Sweet

Published 4 January, 2011 by Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is VP/Executive Creative Director of TrueAction and a contributor for Econsultancy.

4 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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Jack Sedman

Exciting stuff, particularly mobile + location services. Will be interesting to see if marketers can avoid saturating users; how we're going to strike the right balance and still stand out from the crowd...

almost 6 years ago

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Mikko Rummukainen

Great thoughts!

I think this year will be the one when companies start to standardise their social media endeavours in a more meaningful way, and it will become easier to interact with brands relevant to you either in terms of entertainment (e.g. Red Bull's FB page), customer service (multiple examples on various platforms) or promotions (e.g. on Foursquare or Groupon).

almost 6 years ago

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Nicole

There are some great points here. I especially agree that more retailers need to bring their digital and in-store experiences together. Some apparel retailers are doing better than others. Urban Outfitters comes to mind. It's also interesting to watch the cosmetics industry start to get into the mix. I'm hoping to see more cosmetics brands embracing social media and using it to communicate with their customers in 2011.

almost 6 years ago

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Jimmy

Foursquare's importance doesn't feel like it's a lasting trend. It has 4 million users, but most of the people I know who have accounts have stopped using them. Perhaps it's like Twitter, and you need a critical mass of people who know using it before it's any use, but I find it hard to get excited about.

almost 6 years ago

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FourSquared

Looking forward to see what Facebook does re: social buying. There are very few entry barriers - they have the platform, the user base, etc. etc. There are 1000 sites like Groupon already - just a matter of time till Facebook eats a big piece of that pie.

almost 6 years ago

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Dave

In regards to your section about group shopping and the hypothetical of using Facebook as a platform to launch to Groupon, do you think Facebook is trying to counteract this with the Facebook Coupons platform they demoed a couple of months ago? That idea is exciting to me, and can be yet another way Facebook turns to be the best platform for small/local businesses that have no budget and a primarily limited proximity-based target audience.

almost 6 years ago

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Adrian

Very interesting and thought provoking predictions. In particular three things stand out for me: 1. The ability to provide a one stop shop for clients will become increasingly important as too many agencies is a real hassle and the various delivery platforms will need to be run in a properly integrated way to get the best results. 2. Mobile is coming of age (at last). 3. Quality content is king (always has been and always will be). Exciting times indeed!

almost 6 years ago

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Mike

In terms of the agency structure debate, I think there is the potential for a more fluid model where clients and agencies are able to put together virtual teams.

This would allow for blends of skills to match the needs of the client at any given time and with any type of objective.

Freelancing is becoming more attractive to workers and hirers and with the advances in online collaboration technology the ability to manage virtual teams effectively is improving all the time.

almost 6 years ago

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Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

I think advocacy marketing will come into its own in 2011. This is the concept whereby in the social era companies defocus on editorial content and move to content generated by advocates to market their products. The social web is a firehose of opinion and brands will learn how to filter, find and reuse the voices of its advocates. I wrote about the subject here http://bit.ly/ePplun

almost 6 years ago

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Dave Cable

I'm excited for 2011 and the influence of location based marketing, of which could see some great tie in's with Group Shopping. But as ever, it will need to be a fine balance between promoting useful, valuable brands and products to consumers over bombarding with offers if you walk down the high street! Otherwise, best practise is still as valuable as ever - quality content from influential contributors is key. Nice work @EConsultancy

almost 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dave Cable

I'm excited for 2011 and the influence of location based marketing, of which could see some great tie in's with Group Shopping. But as ever, it will need to be a fine balance between promoting useful, valuable brands and products to consumers over bombarding with offers if you walk down the high street! Otherwise, best practise is still as valuable as ever - quality content from influential contributors is key. Nice work @EConsultancy

almost 6 years ago

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Clare Brace

The most interesting part for me was your comment on quality not quantity. 

I am finding that things can become a bit saturated at the moment and people are doing things becuase they think they should rather than there being any real benefit to it.

Location based marketing is something which I am not to fond of. I thought the whole point of the internet was to open up information from across the globe? 

almost 6 years ago

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Mike Dalton

Thought provoking...

Particularly interesting is looking at quality over quantity, and whether we'll at last move away from the 'app candy' in 2011, and into useful, relevant and profitable engagement via mobile and social media. Achieving total stand out is becoming harder than ever with so much information available, and businesses needing to deal with specialized agencies. I suspect users will soon tire and become far more discriminating about who they follow, and who they engage with outside of their social circles. I'm also curious about the demographics of the 'technolgy embracers' - are they now extending into a much broader groups? Exciting times, and lots to think about...

almost 6 years ago

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Tom Eldridge

Good overview of potentially things to come in 2011.

With regards to quantity vs quality I think there is scope for social graph tools and services to exploit the move away from the former to the latter. 

I would also add that this year you should see some eye watering evaluations and IPO's taking place without the figures to back it up. I think the tech market will over heat over the next 12 months the bubble potentially bursting in 18 months.

almost 6 years ago

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Taulbee Jackson, President / CEO at Raidious

It's ALL about the content. Great post!

Taulbee Jackson

President / CEO

http://raidious.com

Raidious makes the content that makes digital marketing work. 

almost 6 years ago

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Lara Brown

It will be interesting to see if this is the year for mobile. Was in a meeting with execs recently and everyone was still in front of their laptops. Regarding Best Buy, the TWELP idea was cool but didn't they get their lunch eaten by online retailers?

almost 6 years ago

Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet, Managing Director at TrueAction Europe

Great comments everyone! I'm not sure if I can, but I'll try to respond with my further thoughts to some of your questions. As far as FB, it's going to be competitive with just about anyone out there (Groupon or not) as they have a semi-captive audience to test and try copycat (or internally generated) apps and strategies on. Separately, i like to think of the aforementioned brands in two categories; the fantastic and the functionally beneficial. Also, no technology has proved to having staying power without being able to constantly evolve. Google, for instance. On the other hand, if FB thinks "we are the internet" they should truly take a look at how similar a statement that came out of AOL in the '90's. As far as Best Buy and their bad profits. I haven't heard the latest speculation on why they were in decline in their busiest season. But I don't think their new way of approaching their customer service was truly to blame. I would think that the market for electronics having been eternally competitive and with razor thin margins can get burned by the smallest shift in online over in-store purchases. Again, the jury is still out. Many thanks, Dorian

almost 6 years ago

Rebecca Hayman

Rebecca Hayman, Marketing Manager at CACI

If the geolocation market grows as you predict, we are likely to see the generation of rich new sources of dynamic geographic information. This will have huge implications for the creation of more targeted, personal and relevant advertising. To read more take a look at the blog post: Check out who’s checking in: Putting location on the marketing map http://www.caci.co.uk/imblog/

almost 6 years ago

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Dhana

Year of mobile is back. Actually, it isn't back, it has just started and will only grow from here.

over 5 years ago

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