The last days of summer are here and this is an ideal time to create your digital marketing plans and initiatives for the new year. To help steer your brand and focus your attention (and budget) where it will do the most good, I’ve outlined what will be critical to your brand for 2012:
1. Review your website’s metrics. Analytics can help provide insight and focus for your brand. Spend some time looking at how visitors to your website are engaged. Are they visiting what you feel to be your most important sections? Are there any surprises? Do you have a high number fo visitors, but not much engagement? Many of the answers to your marketing questions can be found in information you already have at your fingertips.If you have no idea on how to approach looking at web analytics, you should considering consulting a specialist. In many cases, the investment in a professional will yield a better performing website and a new approach to your online marketing campaign. If you fancy yourself a DIY marketer, there are several fantastic websites that can inform you with the vocabulary you’ll need and some very savvy advice.
2. Content Strategy is this year’s media buzzword and with good reason. The idea of content strategy is not a new one-it’s the need to determine what your most important messages are, focusing them for your audience(s), and publishing them within an infrastructure that will allow them to be found by your end user. In a marketing environment, this becomes a very critical role. As your website or digital material moves between Copywriter, Designer, Web Developer, SEO Specialist, Creative Director, Media Buyer and Project Manager, the vision of message can loose it’s intent and your brand’s need. Having a specialist who can focus on the larger vision of presenting content and message to the end user will help hone your project and deepen it’s impact in the market.
The role of Content Strategist is a particular discipline. This team member is typically part of the User Experience team and will likely have a background in an editorial or information architecture role. For smaller projects, the role may be filled by an editor or writer, but the position is critical for projects of every size. As 2012 approaches, don’t be surprised to see this title appear in your agency’s roster.
If you’re curious about content strategy, Erin Kissane has recently published a short book that has helped define the role for the industry, The Elements Of Content Strategy.
3. Get visual. Your website may be beautifully designed. It probably presents your branding and acts as your perfect digital representation of your work and offering. These are all good attributes for your website to have. Critical actually. By getting visual, I mean that you should look at what kinds of messages you are presenting to your audience and bring them to life with graphics. 83% of human learning occurs visually, why would you not want to share your messages using the quickest and engaging medium?
Expressing your data may not mean an overhaul or having whole sections of your website redesigned. Visualized data can exist side-by-side with your text data or as a supplemental element within another channel. Facebook, Slideshare and Google+ are examples of channels that are very graphic friendly and come at no cost besides a time investment. To see how other brands have used infographics to visualize data, take a look at sites like Visual.ly and FlowingData.
4. Mobile Accessibility is now a requirement. Smartphones now represent a majority of new phones sold. We are a mobile culture that is growing to expect that everything is available all of the time. Being mobile does not mean that you need to support every device on the market. It does not mean that you need to have 2 versions of your website or that you need to create a massive infrastructure for this growing audience.
You DO NEED to make sure that your website works on relevant devices. A nod back to #1 on my list, analytics will show you how much of your audience is mobile and in most cases, what devices are most popular with your audience. You should also look to see what your site looks like for mobile users. Is it legible? Does it show up? Are the links and buttons easy to use with your fingers (touch displays present lots of issues for tiny buttons). If you’re not happy, start a conversation with your designer, agency or web development team. They’ll likely be happy to hear that you want to address these users and have suggestions to make you mobile.
5. Optimize Your Digital Assets For The Tablet Revolution. Apple’s iPad is currently the market leader for tablet devices. This new category, little more than a year old is influencing website design and application design. Equally as important, many influential voices in media and marketing have adopted the tablets as their preferred device for browsing, meetings, and general browsing. For the marketer, this means that your digital tactics should look and work equally well on these touchscreen devices as they do on desktops and laptops.
Another design challenge? First mobile, now tablets? It may sound daunting, but the task will be easier than you think. From a design perspective, tablets lay in a middle ground between smartphones and laptops. Many of optimizations you make for your mobile audience will work equally as well for the tablet devices. Here are the big issues that are pertinent to the tablet user:
- Hover effects: With tablets and all touchscreen devices, information that may have been available “on rollover” or “hover” will not be available. For touchscreens, there are only two states of user interaction “click” and “drag”. Any information designed for rollover interactivity should be reviewed and redesigned.
- Adobe Flash: Adobe Flash is not neccesarily bad, but for low-power tablet devices, providing a Flash alternative is best. If you’re using Flash for video, almost all tablets currently available support HTML5 with native video support-a better solution. There are many frameworks which will serve the appropriate media to devices that support it. This will provide the best user experience. If you are using Flash for interactive elements, check with your developer or designer and confirm that there is alternative content for users who do not have Flash installed or cannot support it. Such solutions are best-practice not only for tablets, but for search engine optimization as well.
- Forms: One of the trickier tasks on a touchscreen device is to populate a form. The keyboard on these devices must occupy screen real-estate-which means that you may loose up to half your message area. To create an optimal experience, be sure that each field in your form is labeled in plain text above or beside the entry area. Validation, the text which tells you which fields are required before submitting, should also be clear and next to or associated with the field not meeting requirements.
If you have not used a tablet device or iPad, you should make an effort to try one out so you can see what the user experience is like for your tablet audience. Tablets are now easy to come by, but if you would like to test a particular platform, head to your favorite consumer electronic store for a test drive.
6. The return of email. Not as much of a return as recognition: From a marketing perspective, email is as relevant as ever. Despite the explosive growth of social media marketing, interaction with your audience via email is still reliable and for many type of communication, preferred. Email is the medium for statements, notification and required action. With respect for privacy, capture your user’s email addresses and use it to communicate pertinent and relevant messages. You should also be sure that your unsubscribe mechanism provides an option for your user to choose frequency or contextual controls over unsubscribing from your brand. Maintaining your user’s will be easier and less costly than acquiring new ones.
This list is a response to trends I am seeing in the industry and what challenges I think 2012 will bring to marketers. Since this time last year, the advertising industry has seen several changes from the popularity of tablet devices as a mature content platform to the rise of the Technologist as a leader in many advertising and marketing departments. If you have any questions about my 2012 list or would like to add to it, leave a comment below.