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The Next 10 Online Trends

This article originally posted by Smart Company.

Advertising

The internet advertising industry continued to grow in 2009 and will do the same in 2010, but the next 12 months is expected to see the ongoing development of mobile advertising.

Last year the Interactive Advertising Bureau forecast the online ad market to pass $2 billion by next month, representing a 27% increase from 2008. While the downturn forced spending down in 2009, it’s safe to assume that figure will rise in 2010.

The mobile advertising scene is fairly new, so naturally few SMEs are actually investing in the sector. But Apple’s recent acquisitions of Quattro, along with Google’s purchase of AdMob, shows the big players are serious about the mobile space.

But Thomas says businesses should think about advertising on prominent sites such as social networks, in order to keep up with the market.

“In the last 12 months we have started various campaigns using Facebook ads with quite good success, and it’s getting better. Businesses should be taking advantage of the solid targeting available through sites like Facebook.”

“We’re certainly seeing more advertising on Twitter. You have sites now which are allowing companies to hire someone with a million followers to tweet their messages. I mean, it’ll cost you, but the return on investment of that tweet could be huge.”

YouTube senior product manager David King says the growth of viral content, pieces of media published online which gain popularity in a short amount of time, are opening businesses up to new advertising models.

He says if a business finds a piece of content it created on a YouTube video, it can choose to place an in-video or AdWords advertisements rather than claim a copyright violation.

“These advertising structures are really geared towards taking control of what users upload. It’s only relevant if you’re uploading content, but if you are a small business and are doing that, this could be relevant for you.”

Reputation management

Most businesses are at least operating a website, but even those rejecting the online space need to be aware of how fast rumours and allegations can fly in the digital age. Several companies have had their reputations tarnished within hours from the activities of either rogue employees, or a botched advertising campaign.

Griffin says businesses need to control their reputation by monitoring what people are saying about them.

“The answer is, companies have been pushed into conducting a social media marketing campaigns without research and without adequately addressing the risk factors associated with social media.”

“2010 will see companies embracing the need to address the inherent risks of social media, with enterprises moving towards a scientific and empirically based approach to managing risk.”

Last year, Domino’s Pizza landed itself into trouble when two employees posted a video of themselves handling food unhygienically on the internet. Cotton On experienced backlash on Facebook when it continued to sell baby clothes with slogans such as “They Shake Me”.

Griffin says businesses can avoid such catastrophes by carefully monitoring who is talking about their brand, and being ready to address any situation as quickly as it appeared.

“The many and varied social media ‘fails’ of 2008-2009 will see companies and institutions take a measured, risk-based approach to these platforms.”

“Auditing, monitoring and analysing social media platforms along with risk mitigation strategies will become standard fare for those companies looking to protect and enhance their brand on social media platforms.”

Marketing

While mobile advertising may be taking awhile to heat up, many businesses are developing new and interesting mobile marketing campaigns to draw people into their stores.

Google has developed a system whereby users take a picture of a barcode with their mobile phone and use the search engine to find information. Closer to home, Hoyts Cinemas currently runs a promotion where movie goers with Bluetooth activated on their handsets sometimes receive discount offers via text messages when they walk into a lobby.

But it isn’t just big companies which are using mobiles for marketing. Peter Shipman, who owns a casual Mexican restaurant in the US, bought ads in university newspapers to advertise a barcode sent through text messages used to claim discounts.

US company Jagtag is now developing a technology used to identify barcodes through camera phones, when it is then sent via text message in order for the user to receive a discount code.

Thomas says this year will see a number of companies bring mobile marketing strategies to the forefront of their campaigns.

“There are going to be some really good creative ways people will start to get customers in store, and sending messages out like that… providing they don’t break any spam laws.”

“We’re going to see these companies start to realise how much activity is occurring through mobiles, and then we’re going to see them respond by commissioning campaigns of their own.”

Thomas also says a number of companies will begin to commission mobile apps, especially on the iPhone, purely for marketing purposes. Whether this will gain them revenue or purely open their brand to a new audience, the mobile apps market will become part of an online business’s marketing strategy in 2010.

Content

The growth of the internet has allowed businesses to publish content of their own, including blogs, pictures and even videos. King says SMEs should think about creating some sort of content on YouTube or similar sites such as a tutorial, and see a fan base grow.

“There are a lot of smaller to medium sized businesses which have really operated with a focus of specifically gearing themselves towards publishing on YouTube, and they really make a go of it – and we give them a global audience to do so.”

But King warns businesses they must be generating useful content, without the appearance of a blatant marketing pitch, and not be scared of entering a new area where they might not have experience.

“As these things become more commonplace, consumers love them, but unfortunately businesses which have been relying on older business models do not. I really think they need to get over that a little bit. Ultimately the consumer is right, and they are going to spend their time the way they spend it.”

“Businesses need to really stay focused on that consumer experience and not get hung up on the comfort of the way things used to be. The more businesses can try and anticipate where things can go as opposed to stopping it, I think that’s the best place to be for them.”

Open Source

Once upon a time, businesses wouldn’t trust open-source programs in favour of branded, more trustworthy software solutions. But now open-source has given SMEs a way of operating high-end programs without substantial costs.

With popular programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird, Open Office, WordPress and Joomla now gaining notoriety, organisations are beginning to realise open-source programs aren’t just technically inferior rip-offs, but legitimate alternatives.

A number of organisations, including the British Government and the French police force, have openly supported open-source, while Gartner research from late-2008 indicates the majority of businesses in the Asia/Pacific region took up open-source in 2009.

And with the development and popularity of open-source Android operating system continuing to grow, open-source is likely to play a major part in a business’s IT strategy in 2010.

Cloud computing

Two years ago “cloud computing” was viewed by many businesses as a buzzword with no particular meaning, used by tech-heads who didn’t quite know what they were talking about.

Now, using cloud services has become an essential for businesses. Whether they are backing up their data or using a piece of software hosted on external servers, cloud computing is now a part of everyday operations for many SMEs.

Cloud services have branched out into three main categories: applications, also known as software-as-a-service, infrastructure, used for data backups, and internal service providers for businesses with customised apps and programs.

Analyst firm Gartner recently named cloud computing as one of the top strategic technologies for 2010, saying it could be exploited in a number of different ways to customise programs and apps to a particular company’s needs.

“Using cloud resources does not eliminate the costs of IT solutions, but does rearrange some and reduce others. In addition, consuming cloud services enterprises will increasingly act as cloud providers and deliver application, information or business process services to customers and business partners.”

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