We’ve been seeing it for months: digital communications experts releasing what they believe will be the hot marketing trends of 2011.
I was tempted to make my own predictions, but instead of guessing what I think the trends will be, I thought I’d share how I hope small businesses will evolve their communications strategies in 2011 – trends or no trends.
Integrate digital and traditional public relations campaigns
You don’t have to abandon your tried-and-true strategies, but start looking at a more integrated approach. Striking the perfect balance between powerful digital initiatives and a creative traditional marketing effort can bring enormous success and further amplify your message to a wider audience.
Operationalize social media
We’ve seen some tremendous success with social media from businesses small and large, as well as from non-profits and government. But much of that has been campaign-based, one-off efforts that lose steam as the campaign winds down. What I’d like to see in 2011 is full operationalization of social networking tools. They should be integrated into every facet of your business – internal and external communications, marketing, and customer service. Your customers will see you’re not just in this for marketing gain, but instead you’re interested in a continuing dialogue and developing better customer relationships that are not only driven by sales goals.
Increased used of location-based social media marketing
This year we saw that many were happy to post their exact whereabouts through applications such as Foursquare and Twitter – logging all of their activities minute by minute, and often engaging in valuable digital marketing on behalf of the companies they love. But with the recent release of Facebook Places, location-based social-media marketing has reached a whole new level. With the huge population already on Facebook and the strong, authentic advertising created by engaging customers to “check in” at your location, you’d be crazy not to get involved.
I’ve been talking about video for years: it is a powerful marketing vehicle for businesses of all sizes. But this year, digital video became more accessible than ever. Very affordable high definition video cameras are out there, and cost-effective video production and editing software has evolved to become dead simple. I’d like to see more small businesses creating and, more importantly, sustaining YouTube channels – creating a consistent flow of captivating video that shares compelling stories about your brand.
Many have said that as the years go on, we’ll be more likely to connect on the Internet through our mobile devices than through our computers. More and more Canadians are connecting and engaging with smartphones, so why aren’t more businesses targeting potential consumers through these avenues? Mobile applications, like games, can generate buzz around your brand and create a unique user experience. Perhaps even more important, a mobile version of your existing website that is flexible and can be used across almost all mobile devices is a great way to extend your brand to more users.
Applying lessons learned from social media measurement
It didn’t happen right away, but new and more effective social media measurement tools are cropping up all time. It is now the responsibility of a small business to use the information from tracking and apply it to a marketing strategy. To put it simply: when deploying a strategy pay attention. Read the responses. Track the messages. Have a dialogue with your audience, and then use the information to improve your strategy.
I know that to many small businesses this may seem like a lot, but the key to succeeding in the crowded digital market is to think of yourself as a big business – scale your efforts, and never put limits on your ambition.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.