Trends I’m Watching 2011

Trends I’m Watching 2011

1. Facebook’s Temporary Web Dominance

This is the Big Trend next year as the new-new Facebook rolls out. The Olds will protest, while the kids couldn’t care less. In the middle though, a notable number of regular people will love having all their communication content in one place. This will create an enormous opportunity for marketers and hackers alike. More than half of whom will completely screw it up. That’s OK. We all learn from our mistakes. You can avoid a few by working extra hard to narrow your focus and segment your audience so that you don’t get stuck in the bottom bin. Relevancy and immediacy are your best shots at earning attention on Facebook.

Facebook will not meet disruptive competition in 2011. Ubiquity is not going to serve them in the long run, however.

2. Communication Fatigue

Facebook, Twitter, and all the other new ways of receiving communications has driven many to overload. Last year I mentioned going off-the-grid as a major trend, and it continues in earnest during 2011. We see it manifesting in a number of other trends that are worth paying attention to.

Empathy erosion
Much like our indifference to other drivers when we are wrapped in gleaming steel and chrome, our digital indifference to “the other” grows. This seems ironic in light of our own growing number of machine-mediated personal contacts and social-graph. On-line bullyingwill continue to shock us in 2011 as more and more people distance themselves from each other with technology. This creates a specific problem for customer service managers as human-to-human contact becomes potentially more confrontational. This is important to marketers as social customer services (SCRM) becomes more integral to the marketing process.

Location Shift
Location Services were all the rage in 2010, but now as the mobile device gets more sophisticated, location services will go into the background. Despite their best efforts, Foursquare and Gowalla and their kin will slow their uptake. Location services will work in the background as more people check in with out “checking-in”. The key to success with check-in services is meaningful reward. Until that arrives in the form of more sophisticated couponing, there is too much risk in announcing yourself.

2. A Social Media Dip ?

The global uptake of social media will continue to mask the real story in 2011.

Managing information flows and trying to teach machines what is and isn’t relevant really is fatiguing. Maintaining attention is getting tougher. The loss of efficiency is enormous but just as attention wanes from friends, it gets more and more commercialized. Social media becomes a highly effective collaborative tool (with it’s own social codes and cues) inside the enterprise as collaborative software hits mainstream adoption this year. Yes. If you want to make someone hate what they love, pay them to do it. In 2011, social media grows up and becomes work – just like in real life.

We watched this trend closely last year and see it only heating up further. In 2011 enterprise communication tools get simpler to use, more focused in their application, and more easily integrated into Business Intelligence reporting.

3. IPTV and On-Demand Programming

If you have kids, you already see this trend emerging. For those who don’t run a cable company’s head-end– or have kids– the impact of NetFlix has yet to be felt. It is very real though– even if you don’t watch TV on a PC, iPad, or other device. Heavy users of IPTV are hogging your bandwidth, ISP’s claim, and scaring the crap out of everyone in the content business. Now, there is real competition for the set top box. If you have fallen in love with all-you-can-watch programming for 7 dollars a month (plus broadband) be prepared to be frustrated as the war for on-demand TV programming heats up to uncomfortable levels for everyone.

In my eyes the most important story for 2011– that came in 2010 –was the peering dispute between Level 3 and Comcast and its implications for net neutrality. When you couple that debate with FCC and FTC approval of the Comcast’s merger with Universal, it’s clear that consumer content and marketing communication strategies must adapt in 2011. Key to adaption is finding programs that integrate content and brand. With attention at an all time premium, segregating content from advertising is more risky than ever.

4. Improved Legacy Media Advertising Revenue

The economy is turning around and advertising revenue is a great indicator that the world is not ending. While election and issue advertising over-stated revenue growth in the 3rd quarter, year-over-year things should look much better. The Recession is over and inflation is just around the corner. Meanwhile for many re-emerging businesses, investment in marketing communications will look smart again. With all the digital distractions, simple advertising will feel right– even with unmeasurable results. Still it will be hard to find an ad that isn’t somehow tied back to a digital element. That is where the value will be claimed.

5. Crowd sourced programming for radio

Jelli and Listener Driven Radio are only the beginning of this trend. Technology gives radio stations new abilities to turn programming over to the listeners in a way that makes the once-derogatory term “jukebox” an antique. These services- and those that follow- are destined to grow in popularity at a very rapid pace. Now if radio can only figure out how to monetize it, it could be a very big deal for the once-beleaguered legacy media channel

6. Print’s Migration to Digital

As tablets grow in popularity, print has an opportunity to recast itself. Corroboration is an essential part of the new media landscape and truly effective content strategies from trusted content brands will help people will find their way out of an ever more sticky echo chamber.

I think the most important thing to remember is something Fred Wilson said at the end of 2010 “Restricting access to content doesn’t work. Someone else’s content will get filtered and curated instead of yours”.

Here’s proof

It’s all about a better ad model for legacy media. Accountability is essential if print can find pricing models that help advertisers justify costs revenue will return, even if margins take a little longer.

7. Curation
With the debate over the long tail all but over the new debate centers around curation or the collection of meaningful relevant content ordered in a creative way that brings value to each element collected. Facebook will become a center of curation in 2011. Measuring that curation will have marketers awash in data that could provide astounding customer insight. Will we get that? Will we be able to afford it? Those are essential questions for 2011.

For businesses and individuals just becoming social, Curation is a useful short-cut content strategy almost anyone can use to increase attention. the keys: get good at sourcing and get narrow. “Narrow your focus and broaden your appeal” was never truer than it is in effective content curation.

8. Authority
Good curation seeks authority. Authority has become the ultimate attention economy status symbol. in 2011 people go beyond seeking just an answer or a point of view but the correct answer and the best-informed (or most similar) point of view. Authority becomes the holy grail for the search engines and content providers. Trouble is, machines still can’t understand the words and content as well as they can scan it. Not even close. This metric will improve as we roll through 2011, but it is hard to know how useful it will really be; as issues like sentiment and context elude machine-driven analysis.

Authority is the win for legacy media in 2011. It is at the center of its value proposition. To leverage, legacy media needs to crank out more content–open up the firehose all the way. Get it branded and get it out there– but avoid the temptation to seize the browser . If you can’t void using stumbleupon or take great pains to find a new method of measurement and avoid caging your audience with frames.

9. Corroboration

With so many sources of information how do you know who to trust–particularly when all the sources you read are biased at best and partisan at worst?

A few years ago I worked on a study at the CDC to understand public perceptions of “Public Health”. Part of that research was understanding how people internalized information as true. One thing we learned was that most people need to corroborate information. They need to see the information repeated in multiple places–not just a single source–regardless of the expertise or credibility associated with first source. That’s one reason curation matters.

News– Content is tough. Speed and accuracy win. News organizations need to learn how to sell speed and authority to their sponsors. these things matter. People like to be believe they are the first to know things. but even more importantly they want to fell right about what they have learned.

Shopping– Purchase dissonance hurts everybody’s business. There is always risk associated with converting cash to goods or services. For the past 100 years branding helped reduce that risk by giving the buyer the sense that they knew the good or service though recognition of the brand. Now, in addition to branding buyers have the ability to corroborate pricing and performance to reduce purchase dissonance even further with collaborative buying.


Announced at Salesforce’s dreamforce this year, this tool is going to drive small and mid-sized businesses to the cloud in ways no one could have predicted.

This is one of the more elegant and profitable use of the cloud. Salesforce stock shot up in 2010 for good reason. Getting data in a universal and easily accessed state is the goal for technology over the next 5 years at least (if not forever). That’s why was- IMO- the single biggest product launch announcement in 2010. In 2011 I think we’ll see lots of examples why.

11. Apps: The inevitable return of the fat client.

Adobe air and its spawn have been way underrated in their importance. As Facebook becomes more important to most people’s everyday lives, ways of navigating through the noise of pointless status updates and marketing incompetence become essential.

Further, enterprise IT has to recognize the threat and value of Facebook to the business. Apps to the rescue. With irreversible trend of a mobile workforce and the work / personal digital identity conflicts in full reveal the only solution in the near term is a fat (local) client. Developers rejoice: you really can commit to building for the box again. Just make sure the box can move.

If this sounds more like a 2009 forecast to you, you’re caught up in the hype. Apps have yet to really penetrate the enterprise. Legacy software is a big reason for the slow uptake. That roadblock will start to come down this year.

12 Outlawing Anonymity

What good is looking into the future without a scary part?

While the debate about wikileaks continues into 2011 the lesson for our dear leaders is clear: End Anonymity Now . In return for the ability to keep ourselves insulated and entertained we seem to gladly trust huge amounts of personal data to the providers that be (regardless of their political affiliation). This is disturbing to a few of us, but not disturbing enough to most of us.  Those with nothing to hide may have a lot to lose.

Of course we know anonymity is a thing of the past . It’s also different from privacy. But there is an important difference between anonymity being difficult and being illegal. Everyone will begin to understand that difference in 2011.

There will be clamoring for a clearer definition of journalist. For the last decade bloggers have been able to get press credentials with relative ease, that won’t be the case going forward. Consider that Universal/Comcast merger mentioned earlier, and the threat of investigative blogging and leaking to the legacy media. Conspiracy is hard, but shared interest is easy. In 2011 we’ll be asking “who benefits” a bit more often.

Fortunately, leaks will be impossible to contain and secrets tougher to keep. New sites will emerge and old ones become more well-known. My bet is that in 2011 the government will continue to embarrass itself with Assange and others who would take his place. Transparency wins. Let’s hope that’s more than rhetoric in 2011.

13. What’s Next–
If you were in early-in to social media you are a winner– if you weren’t, you’ll find the value of your social media efforts dubious at best.

Novelty wins the digital marketing ROI war– plain and simple.

Here’s the secret to burn on your frontal lobe: If you are early to adopt a communications method or channel, you win because there is less noise and less expense– even though the perceived risk is higher. Remember that when you are reviewing mobile marketing strategies or thinking about QR code promotions this year.

Trends I’m not watching in 2011: 3DTV (gamers only– bigger next year), “augmented reality”(not till 2015 at least), and the ever-escalating mobile device feature/benefit claims war (yawn).

Read more social media predictions here