Monday, 7 May 2012

Drew Benvie, social media expert and UK group managing director of Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital, blogs about digital trends in 2012


Between drawing some things, checking in for my discount and skimming through a stream of tweets to get the day’s news, I try my best to step away from the fire hose every now and then and reflect on the broader trends in social media for marketing and communications and think about what’s coming up for the year ahead.

This year I worked with our UK team in 33 Digital to author our third annual trends report looking at what we think will be the big plays for the year ahead, based on our experiences at the coalface. From almost mainstream to bleeding edge, here is our top 10:

1. The Interest Graph: Think Pinterest and think the Like button becoming the ‘Read’, ‘Bought’ or ‘Listened’ button. This is what all the information that advertisers, brands and marketers want from you. Yet, unlike before when this required customer research and questionnaires, now it gathers information about what you buy when you shop online, what you search for, who retweetsyou, who you share or interact with on social networks, the types of content you enjoy reading and much more.

2. Putting businesses on the map: Location-based services have been expanding a lot over the past few years. Foursquare has emerged as a clear leader, doubling in size in the last six months, and Facebook check-ins from your mobile will want to say where you are too. The integration of location-based services and business will expand in 2012: this means anything from free gifts and discounts to other location-based offers and services.

3. Tablets are changing communications: It started with the iPad but now the tablet revolution is not only changing how we surf, it’s affecting how we share, shop and consume media too. People have been putting aside their netbooks and newspapers as tablets allow brands and companies to publish and market information in completely different ways. Think beyond the app to how your brand can be more relevant in the tablet economy.

4. Social media celebrities: These are people that are experts in their own field, influencers, communicators, and people who provide feedback to marketers about whatever it is they are into. Your CEO or brand ambassador is your potential loose cannon but also your secret weapon.

5. The socialising of TV and music: 70 percent of trending topics on Twitter in the UK are about what’s on TV. Chelsea beating Barcelona in April has become the most Tweeted event in history. Hashtags appear at the top of TV shows all the time now to help engage the traditional users, but we will start to see next generation TVs that feature social channels as an engraved and inbuilt part of modern television.

6. Social media & internal comms: We are beginning to see the third type of media. There is earned and there is paid-for. Now there is employed. Find out how to mobilise your workforce to maximize every opportunity whether that is to spread the word on a new initiative or product, or to hire the best talent. A social platform such as Yammer, Ning or Posterous give brands the ability to engage with their most powerful audience: their staff.

7. Cashless payments could unlock a wave of innovation: This is the ability to pay for things without the need to hand over cash or pay online in the traditional way. The recent announcement of Barclays’ PayTag technology, which allows you to pay for items using a sticker than can be connected to anything, is a great example of this.

8. Gamification: Game dynamics offer a low-cost way to enhance some of even the most basic products. Everyone needs to unwind and this is a great chance for brands, companies, developers or publishers to be innovative in the way they deliver information and let us play at the same time.

9. Forums: Forums have existed almost since the advent of the Internet and in 2012, we will continue to see the natural evolution of forums – whether that means a topic discussion on a website, or a Facebook community page debate. New platforms such as Quora are joined by an ever strengthening presence of traditional such as Money Saving Expert, Mumsnet, Pistonheads and so on.

10. Automotive app stores: The next wave of innovation in social media is on perhaps the most underutilised portable computer – the car dashboard. Auto brands are bringing out their own app stores, social networks and location-based services. Watch out for innovation and opportunities in this space.

It really is an exciting time in social media, where the only thing holding brands back is their imagination.

Drew Benvie is UK group managing director of Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital. Drew is a seasoned agency MD and digital and social media PR specialist. Drew was named #1 most respected individual in New Media Age's 2011 Reputation Online survey, one of PR Week magazine's 29 under 29 (a long time ago now), named in the PR Power Book, and has picked up awards for his campaigns including PR Week, The Holmes Report and Reputation Online. Drew also first wrote the Wikipedia page on social media. Drew's background is in corporate, digital, technology and social media PR, having worked agency and client side for over 12 years. As one of the earliest UK PR and marketing practitioners to foster social media and use it in mainstream campaigns, Drew has represented brands and organisations across all sectors throughout his career.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @drewb  


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