Reality Digital Crystal Ball for 2010

by || 02/16/2010

Robert Proctor, head of EMEA at Reality Digital looks into the Crystal Ball and predicts the major impact events for the digital sector in 2010.

Social Media for brands will benefit from improved analytics and measurable ROI.

Whilst 2009 has been a rollercoaster of a year from an economic perspective, Social Media as a marketing tool has continued to make considerable headway, not least for its cost-effective delivery of a young, focused audience in a social and engaging format. However, despite rapid technological advances and some individually inspiring campaigns, the market as a whole is yet to fully understand and make best use of the tools at their finger tips. There remains the need for education and thought leadership from the sector pioneers about the tangible benefits of a cohesive social media strategy, and the positive impact on brands.

Taking social media to the mainstream business sectors will require methodical and considered evidence of return on investment. As competition amongst providers is set to intensify in 2010, those that offer stand-out propositions through clear, improved analytics programs and demonstrable ROI, look set to prosper.

Focus on strategy, not tools

Once again, the economic downturn has highlighted the importance for businesses of not having their eggs all in one basket; those that have been most nimble have managed to off-set the worst effects of the recession. It’s all well and good recognizing the importance of a social media campaign to brand extension and certainly, 2009 has seen a rapid increase in the number of tools able to deliver social media outreach – however, without a coherent, educated strategy, willingness and enthusiasm to utilize the preponderance of tools is only half the job.

Aside from the few brands who have executed coherent and strategic social media plans, the vast majority of businesses are currently using a hodgepodge of tools, which are not cutting the mustard, in terms of strategic delivery. Whichever tools they are using, it is essential that strategies include room to accommodate the advent of new tools. Whilst Twitter and Facebook have attained iconic status in 2009, the very nature of the sector, in terms of its rapid evolution, means that they will not be here forever; new tools, technologies and methods will rise and take their place. As such, the message for brands and businesses in 2010 is to remain nimble, and look to sector specialists to partner with, not just technology providers, to help them make the right decisions, providing an all encompassing strategy that is flexible and manageable.

Content controls

Whilst the age old maxim that content is king holds true, there will be major questions and concerns throughout 2010 with regard to the management of that content. With ever increasing avenues of content publication available, off-set by the ever-increasing cannibalistic nature of the sector, the importance of control of, as opposed to carte blanche distribution of, content, has the potential to cause numerous headaches for brands if not carefully managed as part of a forward thinking strategy. Brands will face important questions such as whether the content they have uploaded to a hosted or community building site be available, even after the particular site du jour shuts down, and how to protect and better manage their current assets to ensure that they can be speedily up and running the next time around.

It is not rocket science, but the message once again is about being considered rather than blindly enthusiastic. In the words of the great social media pioneer Rudyard Kipling; “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and fill the unforgiving minute with a sixty seconds of considered social media strategizing, you’ll be a step closer to a successful 2010”. Or words to that effect.

Mass adoption of single sign-on tools / techniques

The importance and necessity for brands to stay nimble and flexible will be evidenced further by the mass adoption of single sign-on tools and technologies. The likes of OpenAuth and OpenID will allow an ever increasing audience of community members to establish and carry with them their online identity, accessing numerous social media accounts across platforms. The continued development of single sign-on technologies throughout 2010 will facilitate the sharing of information, enhancing the ability for people to better communicate with brands and their peers. The brands that are able to respond and cater for this will be the brands who are better able to communicate with potential customers.

Monetization

The old chestnut of monetisation is never far away and it is sure to be paramount in both publishers and advertisers minds during this tough trading period.

For traditional publishers who have finally woken up and moved their business into the digital arena, the ‘new’ threat of social can seem like the final straw. In a world that has developed through ‘push’, the idea of openly embracing ‘pull’ is totally alien. However with more and more users choosing to spend increasing amounts of their time in social environments, publishers whose business models rely on advertising sales (and therefore unique users/page impressions), need to wake up and smell the coffee – A social media strategy is not a nicety it is a necessity.

Similarly, as true as this is for publishers, it is for brands and advertisers; if the traditional aggregators of users (the publishers) can no longer provide volume, then advertisers will need to invest in new channels and mechanisms for reaching and engaging with their target audiences.

Whilst properties such as Facebook and Twitter can provide obvious access to users and indeed certain levels of metrics, there still remains a fundamental disconnect: the users belong to Facebook and the conversations belong to Twitter. By hooking in to these networks, brands do reach people (especially through Facebook Connect etc.), however by doing so, there is a clear argument that all the brand is really doing is helping to build Facebook or Twitter’s business, rather than their own.

Whilst social outreach and social media optimisation (SMO) are a vital part of an End to End social media strategy, the fundamental issue is for brands to create a ‘home’ for their users to come back to.

Brands must create environments and assets that add to the conversation, give credence and validity to users opinions and above all listen and respond to the crowd’s voice. Without this, brands can create as many YouTube, Facebook and Twitter profiles, pages and channels as they want, but ultimately they will all be short lived and vacuous experiences for the users.

Reality Digital Inc.

Reality Digital, Inc. is a provider of enterprise-scale, white-label digital media solutions. The company’s comprehensive family of products and strategic services enable global brands and agencies to socialize digital content and deliver more relevant and engaging community experiences to their customers. Reality Digital provides the building blocks needed for companies to manage, publish, distribute and monetize rich media on the web. Since 2003, the company has leveraged its core expertise in digital video to help leading global brands in media, entertainment, sports, travel and retail to drive brand recognition and deeper community involvement through social media.