Technology

Digital strategy 2013: Predictions from the industry gurus

Fi Bendall /

It was a big year for social media and digital strategy in 2012 and industry experts are predicting plenty more on the horizon for 2013. Here are some of the more interesting forecasts making the rounds.

Business and social to blur

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, which provides online services for entrepreneurs and businesses, says: “2012 was definitely a year of growth, with 66% of small businesses surveyed by Vertical Response saying they spend more time on social media now than they did a year ago.” Social media usage will doubtlessly continue to grow and is an important tool to interact with customers.

Her top prediction in 2013 is that there will be a “blurring of the borders between business websites and social media” and that expertise in technology becomes more important than ever. We live in a tech-driven world and small to medium sized businesses will need to adapt and evolve or risk obsolescence. Internet technology and concepts now permeate every function of business, from accounting to supply chain. Read more here.

Mobile to lead the way

Daniel Backhaus of Social Media Today predicts that as mobile device proliferation drives anytime/anyplace access, it will greatly increase network traffic and growth in “mineable” data volumes, which in turn will accelerate the growth of both cloud computing and analytics to extract value.

One of his predictions was, “When in doubt, think mobile and especially tablets”. Mobile phones have become smartphones during 2012, and tablet usage is now eclipsing the smartphone numbers by threefold in the case of the Apple iPad to iPhone adoption.

In 2013, expect the computing environment – along with our lifestyles – to move away from the desktop and even the laptop, with users relying more heavily on their smartphones and tablet devices to do business, stay connected and share.

User expectations are exceedingly high in terms of navigating a site for informational purposes, to complete a task, to make a purchase or a donation. Users will expect a browsing experience akin to the simple, intuitive navigation found in buying a book on Amazon or the crisp visual experience of inhaling your Facebook stream via the Flipboard app.

Daniel’s other top prediction was, “Recreating mobile ads to support user’s goals”. In 2013, mobile advertising revenue will continue to fall, although its collapse is temporarily dampened by the popularity of tablets, which despite having mobile functionality, are usually used to consume data. This makes interruptive advertisements somewhat more tolerable.

However, the breakthrough will come to advertisers that realise interruptive ads “do things to people,” so they shift to “doing things with people”. This works by reimagining “ads” as software that supports users (of the device or site) who are engaged in what’s most important to them. Where interruptive ads take away from users, “software ads” support them.

Small businesses will need to identify the users they want to engage and map their work streams; what knowledge or tools you have that could support users in unique ways and design “ads” to deliver the support. Read more here.

Privacy no longer an issue

Chris Abraham, a leading expert in online public relations with a focus on blogger outreach, states: “Some of us see a benefit in over sharing”. He also says, “I’ve become obsessed with carrying my Nexus 7 tablet all the time so that Google can stalk me and become ever more useful – to me.”

Until now, social stalking software companies have been so afraid of being accused of privacy invasion that they’ve intentionally limited the amount of share one is able to provide with their friends. He predicts in 2013, this will soon end. The value of being able to actively passively share where you are, what you’re doing, even when you’re not going out, is too high to prevent the boldest of us to participate gladly.

2013 will be the year when Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google and Bing will have convinced you to cross-integrate your calendar, email, search history and privacy setting in such a way that there will be a small, easy step — infinitesimal, in fact — toward location and context-awareness, with opportunities to share everything: what you’re doing, where you are, how long you’ve been there, and whether you’re a regular.

Abraham’s prediction for 2013 is that, “The coming year will mark a watershed, and privacy will no longer stand in the way.” Read more.

Forget check-ins, recommendations matter

JD Lasica, a writer for Socialmedia.biz, states that in 2013: “There will a rise in a number of new arrivals on the recommendations bandwagon, so much so that it’s now officially its own sector.” 2013 will be a year to make way for online recommendations: “Check-ins will become quaint or even unhip from a year from now.”

While most of us aren’t about to log into Facebook to rave about our latest purchase from Bed Bath & Beyond, we may take a snap of our cool new crockpot with our iPhone 5 or Android, upload it to Instagram and share it on Foursquare and Twitter. Recommendation technology is seeping into our lives through social sharing activities that are becoming part of the invisible fabric of our lives.

The current champ of geolocation, Foursquare, is working hard to reinvent itself as a social recommendations engine. Read more.

Four big tips for 2013

Justin Fishaw, manager of content strategy and development, works with DigitalSherpa to customize unique approaches to social media and content marketing. He has presented his top four social media predictions that small business owners may want to prepare for in 2013.

1. Video will be vogue

There’s already overwhelming evidence that video increased engagement, and in 2012 we saw the rise of Tumblr and Pinterest. Fishaw believes that in 2013 we will see an even larger rise in the use of video.

This means two things: an increase in video being posted to the Internet and an increase in the commercial video published by small to medium sized businesses.

You can take a high-definition video on your phone, edit it, make it both web and mobile friendly, and post it across all social sites. He recommends getting ready to put together a video content strategy in 2013 – a move that will give small businesses a way to stand out from the competition.

2. The fall of Twitter

The average user spends 21 minutes a month on Twitter, way behind Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Couple that with the increasing difficulty of sorting through Twitter’s noise and eventual need to increase ad revenues.

Fishaw believes in 2013 that Twitter will lose a lot of the steam that drove the micro-blogging site to over 500 million users in 2012. Make no mistake though: Twitter isn’t going to disappear completely in 2013. There is still a ton of opportunity for small business to leverage Twitter’s power to build brand advocacy, monitor social discussion, and drive website traffic.

3. Social commerce will increase

It’s already known that recommendations drive much of online commerce, but this will move into social media with players like Pinterest and Facebook getting involved in social commerce.

For small businesses, this will mean giving incentives to recommend your brand online, rewarding those that do, and seeing social media as another recommendation platform. It won’t be enough to have a social media presence and enable fans to purchase online. It’s time to manage all aspects of online reputation, while creating mobile-friendly websites. Smartphone consumers have terrible ADD; if they are even slightly confused on how to navigate your website they’ll move on to tweeting, pinning, refreshing, and instagramming.

4. Social TV

We already have hashtags appearing during TV programs, Google TV on the way, and reality shows, like The Voice, and X Factor featuring social media comments during air time. Social TV, the epitome of channel convergence, will be the hybrid of social, video, and TV. Commenting and sharing during airtime will be much more common, for both programming and commercials. When you add in the steady growth of apps like Fango, an entertainment ‘check-in’ application, you can see the entertainment industry fully colliding with social in 2013. Read more.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of digital and interactive consultancy company Bendalls Group. With over 20 years’ experience, Bendall has worked with global brands including BBC and Virgin, and is an expert in how businesses can approach strategy in the digital world. You can follow her on Twitter at @FiBendall, and can contact her through Bendalls Group.

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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