2014: Time for marketing to get personal

The New Year is always a good time to take stock of your marketing activity and refresh your approach but what should you be considering and how will 2014 be different from last year? Here are my six predictions for the year ahead.

Extending the engagement

I think we will see brands doing more to continue their relationship with customers away from the primary point of engagement or purchase. What do I mean? Take the TV show Breaking Bad. For most television programmes the audience is only engaged with the series when they are watching an episode. However, Breaking Bad maintained its relationship with its audience through innovative use of social media. Each of the central characters had their own Facebook page, which was updated throughout the series. Saul Goodman even has his own website – http://www.bettercallsaul.com/.  What does this mean? It means people talk about the developments in the programme the following day with their friends, but they also remain engaged between episodes through the updates posted by the fictional characters in the real world through social media.

Pictures will say more than a thousand words

Facebook posts with strong images, photographs and illustrations attract more engagement and interest than words alone. Pinterest and Instagram continue to grow, and with new services, such as Flipagram, allowing people to combine pictures with personal music, I think we will see even more focus on image-led communication over the next 12 months.

Social advertising

Declining newspaper sales, fast forwarding through adverts thanks to personal hard disk recorders and Sky+ and other such ad aversion means marketeers will look for other routes through which to push their messages. It’s no surprise that with Facebook and Twitter now being public companies that their advertising products are becoming more sophisticated.

As a marketing agency tasked with helping clients make the most of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve already started to use Facebook advertising and promoted posts with impressive results. We can tailor messages to reach people in specific locations, of specific ages, gender and most important of all, relevant interests.

Twitter is the latest platform to introduce paid for advertising. We’ve managed to attract applicants for our latest vacancies by using promoted Tweets with great effect. Being able to target Twitter users who are interested in specific topics, who tweet about them or even follow certain TV programmes allows you to target millions of potential users. Yes, it’s in its infancy and lacks Facebook’s ability to target specific towns and cities, but it is a platform to watch. I think we will see an increasing number of brands using promoted Tweets and promoted accounts to reach out to people over the next 12 months.

Creative content

I’m going to be brave and say that I don’t think we will see any major developments in the number of social platforms that are launched. I don’t think we will see a new Pinterest or Tumblr bursting onto the scene. Facebook will stay ahead of Google+ in terms of its user base and Twitter will plateau as people find it increasingly difficult to stay abreast of the updates issued by the several thousand accounts they follow.

What this will mean is that the content marketeers produce for distribution via social media will have to be even more creative, compelling, disruptive, engaging and most important of all, worthy of being shared. Marketing will have to work harder than ever before to create cut through. Story telling, audience participation and a subtle selling message (perhaps even a lack of selling all together) will be the social priorities of brands in 2014.

Mobile growth

In the last two years, owning a smartphone has become the norm rather than the exception. This Christmas, Britons have spent millions on tablets. The result? An increasing number of people using portable devices to browse the internet, shop and find information. A responsive website (which changes layout to provide the best user experience depending on the screen size of your device) is now essential for practically every business or organisation.

With the continued rise in internet-connected mobile devices, I think we’ll see geolocation services used more and more in marketing. Foursquare and Facebook’s check-in functionality go hand-in-hand (pardon the pun) with mobile devices.

Blogging and content marketing

My final prediction is that there will be no let up in the number of organisations that take to blogging and producing content for websites as they seek to build an authoritative reputation and enhance their chances of being found through search engines.

Just looking at the number of results Google offered for ’2014 marketing predictions’ (a staggering 109,000,000) shows that website owners, marketeers and content producers are seizing every opportunity to highlight their views and engage with people through comments.

Content will be increasingly repurposed and reused. We will see articles appearing in news media (both print and online) and then being tweaked for publication online, whether it be the writer’s own website or sites owned by third parties.

The number of people becoming ‘professional’ bloggers will also increase in 2014, meaning that companies, brands, products and services wanting to raise awareness, build their reputation and influence their audiences will have even more media outlets to target.

I’m sure there’ll be lots of other changes over the next 12 months to keep us on our toes and to offer us new ways of communicating with those important to us. If you’ve got any thoughts or predictions of your own, please do share them in the comments below.