A-Train looks into 2010 with some predictions

With 2009 behind us – and good riddance – we have the empty slate of 2010 before us. By all accounts, 2010 promises to be much better, if only because it can’t get much worse.

 

We here at A-Train Marketing, however vigorously some of us pour over economic forecasts, are not economists. We are, you guessed it, marketers and communicators. So, what you can expect from an A-Train 2010 prediction is how businesses and organizations will be communicating and creating buzz in 2010.

 

Even outside observers of marketing can likely predict the answer to the major trend of 2010: social media. It’s almost cliché, isn’t it? With that in mind, we will get a bit more detailed and try to predict how organizations will be using social media.

 

Settle down, people. Many have said that 2009 “came into its own” in 2009. It became mainstream. This is true. Social media was the shiny new game everyone clumsily played, not totally getting it. In 2010, social media will no longer be novel, but essential. Our fascination with it will move from the technology to the relationships it allows us to develop, foster and harvest in increased exposure to our core audiences. As on blogger, Shel Israel, put it, social media will be “about as tumultuous as watching paint dry and as significant as the adoption of the automobile.” If you’ve yet to jump in, you are behind the curve. It takes time to develop a robust presence in this new media, get on it in early 2010.

 

Finally, a new acronym. Ever hear of SMO? No? You will. SEO, or search engine optimization, what ensures you are high on the list of returns from Google searches, is still important. But as people increasingly seek information through social media, there needs to be an increasing concern for SMO, social media optimization. In part, this is organic: use the medium well and people will find you. But this year we predict new metrics of measuring the success of social media efforts. This will allow companies to fine-tune approach, optimizing efficiency of social media investments. This way, you can measure your RIO, return on investment, something very difficult to do previously.

 

Ever wanted to go into publishing? E-blasts, blogs, Twitter, Facebook – businesses and organizations today are expected to go beyond their core services and actually offer content. Content creation will increasingly be a part of core services across all industries in 2010. For success in engaging your audiences with this content, it must be rich, informative and creative. Some of you right now are reading this and shaking your heads. “I own an automotive repair shop. Why would I create content?” Ok, Mrs. Mechanic, let’s say you service Subarus and there is a recall. Wouldn’t you want to increase your business by letting your customers know about it through an e-blast or blog entry or tweet? That’s content. If you’re frightened, A-Train can help with any content needs.

 

Not ‘C’ level – yet. We all have something to learn from Dominos Pizza. No, not admitting your product sucks, as the brand did at the beginning of 2010. The lesson is to have a social media policy in place for employees. Dominos employees made a YouTube video of them doing things to sandwiches that should never be done in public. When the video went viral, the pizza chain had no significant social media presence through which to respond. Most employees know better, but having a social media policy that covers any grey areas of employee expectations of how to represent brands online is essential in 2010. What’s more, with 93 percent of businesses planning to continue or begin investing in social media in 2010, expect to see a host of new job titles at large companies like, “social media manager” and “social media czar.”

 

Shh. I’m tweeting. As many clumsily began using the new media in 2009, there was a ton of noise. Not audio-based, but chatter that is useless. It really gives this media a bad reputation, and tolerance of it will reach a low in 2010. Users will seek value of relationships, not volume of connections. This means cheap attempts at marketing – contests, meaningless surveys, giveaways, etc. – will be passé and frowned upon, as will outright promotions even in mediums of high tolerance like Twitter. What people will look for – see above – is actual content. While 2009 saw an emergence of crowdsourcing, in 2010 savvy users will find the benefits of sourcing through online communities. This has begun with the addition of Twitter lists.

 

Attack! Sadly, the downfall of these media’s ubiquity is its attractiveness to those without the best intentions. Change your password often. Use a different password for each platform. And be sure your password is Level 5 (hint: password123 is Level One).

 

Certainly, there are more than a few of you reading this that are still intimidated by social media. The fact is, it is here to stay and no longer will be used to give you an edge but is necessary to keep up. We left out the technology advancements that will happen this year – geo-locator tools and alternate reality software, primarily – but without adopting you will be two years behind. Call us if you need help.