2010 was an exciting year in the world of online marketing. The Bing and Yahoo search alliance, Google Instant, new mobile devices and even a major motion picture about the rise of a social network. While it's hard to tell what the next year holds, I don't think anything is slowing down - in fact, I see momentum building even more and more.
Having been a part of the online social and marketing space for nearly 7 years, here's what I expect to see take shape in 2011.
Social media analytics
Following up behind 2010 will be more options and services that can help you establish the impact of your social campaigns. Be weary of straight up Social Media ROI solutions that are fast to put a dollar amount on every retweet and every Facebook ::like::. I'm all for accountability and data, but I don't think the social space has matured enough for us to understand how A leads to Z.
In a blog I wrote several months back, I advised to stop trying to measure every social media effort. While I took a little heat from this, I stand by my words. My point then was most companies struggle enough with trying to get any meaningful social media strategy and culture going. Focusing too much on the numbers too early on is like building a moat around a brick wall - it's not like you needed the help in stopping forward progress. Instead, in 2011, I think more of the companies that are diving in head first by hiring full time social media teams along with those that are becoming established can begin to dive into the data and put some accountability on the sweat equity.
I hope to see more brands invest in a mobile strategy by going beyond just a mobile friendly site or iAd impression. It seems the infrastructure for one online platform to work in collaboration with another is being laid faster than highways in China - take for example an iPhone app that's nothing more than a shiny interfaces for a website or network. Is adopting to a smartphone world just about smart phone compatibility of your website or is there something we're missing - something we haven't quite seen yet. This one is harder to pinpoint but I wouldn't be surprised to see a game changing mobile strategy hit the seen in the months ahead.
Social Authority Optimization
With Google and Bing now using social media authority as a search engine ranking factor, we will become more obsessed with optimizing social media profiles. Let me explain…
"Social media optimization" started to make a name for itself back in 2008. The goal of "social media optimization" was to optimize your social network profiles well enough that when you search their brand or service, their social media profile showed up in the search results. This was a way to get more real estate on the first page of Google. The recent changes to Google and Bing's algorithm is something different. This new algorithm change means Google and Bing poll your social media authority/activity as a factor in ranking your website. Think of it like this:
Rankings = site optimization + links + social media awesomeness*
What I'm calling social authority optimization** accounts for this and it think we'll see a lot more of it in 2011
*this is a very oversimplified example - don't take it too literally
**for the record, I think buzz words are silly - but for the sake of differentiation pardon my silliness
Facebook had its fair share of privacy uproars in 2010 and I think they're hardly out of the woods yet. And with more web analytic platforms and services popping up (some of which track you on an eerily detailed level), and the implications of wikileaks on net neutrality, we may begin to see the kind of paranoia that keeps Winona Ryder off the web.
The new local focus of Google search results is like that minor leaguer who not only got called up to the majors, but is now being asked to bat cleanup in the playoffs. The elements that rank a site in the search engines changes all the time (remember last year at this time when there was such a thing as a Yahoo search algorithm?), but with Google now integrating these local search results into their primary listings, we're seeing one of the more significant facelifts to Google than we've seen in a long time. Google also just began promoting it's shiny new Google Places iPhone app, making valuable information - like reviews - more accessible (why the Google Maps app on the iPhone still omits reviews is beyond me).
The only thing holding back the impact of this into 2011 is that it's mostly only relevant to local businesses (location irrelevant? move along - nothing to see here).
Something/someone gets shaken up considerably
This one I'm leaving wide open, but I think we're either going to see a new major player hit the stage and/or watch a big one leave. With Facebook prepping for a 2012 IPO, the amalgamation of social awesomeness and organic search, the significance of local, growing privacy concerns and history as our guide, I think there will be something very different about January 2012 compared to January 2011.