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Top Digital Marketing Trends in 2014

digital marketing laptop Top Digital Marketing Trends in 20142013 will be known as the year organizations began embracing different tactics for digital marketing in a big way. It will also be known as the year of the biggest social media changes: Twitter’s IPO announcement, Google and Facebook’s algorithm updates, and the list goes on. This trend of disrupting the digital marketing arena will continue into 2014 and beyond. Here is a roundup of what we predict in 2014 for the digital marketing industry:

Content continues to be king

Social Media Today reported that 78% of CMO’s believe custom content is the future of marketing. Most marketers have embraced and accepted content as a major resource in their efforts. Along with this, there has been an influx of content discovery apps which support the growth trend: Flipboard, Pulse, and Fancy (to name a few). If you’re not dedicating budget towards content development, it may be time to consider doing so!

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Facebook Sued for Scanning 'Private' Messages

Two Facebook users have sued the social network for allegedly scanning the “private” messages that users send to each other on the platform.facebookmessage 2

“Contrary to its representations, 'private' Facebook messages are systematically intercepted by the company in an effort to learn the contents of the users’ communications,” Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley allege in their complaint, filed on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “This practice is not done to facilitate the transmission of users’ communications via Facebook, but because it enables Facebook to mine user data and profit from those data by sharing them with third parties -- namely, advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators.”

The lawsuit centers on allegations that Facebook scans users' messages to each other, in order to determine whether people are sending their friends links to other sites. Campbell an Arkansas resident, and Hurley, of Oregon, say that Facebook then “follows the enclosed link, and searches for information to profile the message-sender’s web activity.”

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Spredfast Starts 2014 with a $32.5 Million Bang

z-spredfastSpredfast announces today a new round of funding, $32.5 million, led by a new strategic investor, Lead Edge Capital, the investors behind Marketo, among others. This latest round is nearly twice the amount of its most recent (February 2013) round of 18 million dollars. I caught up with Rod Favaron, CEO, earlier this week to discuss the latest news and what it means for one of the major (and remaining) independent providers of social media management software and services.

“We’re going to be spending a lot more on the product,” with new developers hired mainly in Austin, and they’ll be announcing soon the launch of several overseas locations.  “With major global brands like British Air, we’ve made a promise to open offices closer to home, and we’ll be delivering on that promise.”

Even with the new funding, how does he feel about competing against such enormously deep-pocketed competitors like Salesforce, which acquired BuddyMedia in 2012, and Oracle (Vitrue)?  Not to mention enterprise vendors like SAP, Adobe, Hootsuite and others who are growing and acquiring more and more pieces of the SRP (Social Relationship Platform) puzzle.

“My sales force has a big grin on its face when they’re competing against Salesforce” and other vendors.  “If we look at the rate of change in this market, for example with Facebook, what you can now do, our competitors simply can’t move as quickly as we can…. Buddy was state-of-the-art when Salesforce bought them, but the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are moving at 100 miles per hour.  Buddy Media was more competitive seven quarters ago.”

Spredfast is focusing its innovations on two major areas: leveraging the targeting now more available from Facebook and Twitter, and with it the ability to promote content discovery and sharing, with more solid metrics of engagement, not just “likes” and fans, that build a solid rationale for content marketing.

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Social Media is Not The Savior, But...

It’s still surprising how many businesses are ignoring social media. I’ve heard the various arguments against – that it’s a fad, that it’s mostly kids (nope), that there’s no social media 6significant value-add – but none of these stack up in the face of ever-growing data to the contrary. I'll admit, even I was once sceptical of the benefits of social media. I viewed social media as complimentary to traditional media channels, nothing more. It would never overtake traditional press and broadcast platforms. It would never become a critical pulse for business. I was wrong. And now, while I can understand where those opposing views stem from, my response to these people is that you're viewing social from the wrong perspective. In 2014 it's going to be more important than ever that your business has an active social media presence. Here’s a couple of the points to pass on to the unconvinced as to why social media is more valuable than they may think:

1) Don’t think in terms of immediate value, but in potential value. Some brands might be able to ignore social media, go on about their business as they always have, leave those new channels to others. Some brands can do this and suffer little negative impact, but the more important element here is that by ignoring social media channels, you are missing out on massive opportunities that are waiting to be taken up. There are millions of conversations happening on social media everyday, some of them are relevant to your business. By ignoring them, maybe you’re not losing anything from what you currently have, but you are missing out new opportunities. Having a dedicated social presence takes time and investment, but it has the potential to produce amazing results, many of which you wouldn’t even be aware of if you didn’t actively track and participate these conversations. Or, in more immediate terms, there are opportunities out there, right now, that you're not aware of because you’re not actively participating in social media conversations. They're going on as we speak.

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Why Newsletters are More Important for Social Credibility than Facebook

As someone who runs a curated newsletter for entrepreneurs, one question I am often asked by fellow entrepreneurs is about the futility of spending resources on a service newsletterthat does not bring revenues directly. It is a valid question given that I spend over two hours everyday curating content for my subscribers. So what is the rationale behind spending resources on a property that does not bring any tangible returns? The answer to this is social credibility.

Before I elaborate on my answer, it is important to take a look at why newsletters are important. According to a recent study conducted by Radicati, there are nearly 2.9 billion email users in the world - that is more than the number of Facebook and Twitter users combined. With such a massive reach, it is a surprise that email marketing is not spoken of in the same breath as social media marketing or SEO. If “social media” can be an industry, so should email marketing be.

Besides reach, another important reason I am bullish about email newsletters is the decentralization of control. Unlike social media where Facebook and Twitter have the discretion to control what content gets seen and doesn’t get seen by its users, email is basically a chronologically ordered list of content that needs to get seen by the user one way or the other. Of course, there are similar controls that exist in email as well (like Gmail’s recently launched inbox tabs). But for a wide majority of users and purposes, the inbox layout has stayed the same and will continue to do so.

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The Latest Social Media Stats Promise a Happy New Year

The latest social media stats from Pew Internet Research promise a very happy new year for social media marketers. The study released yesterday reveals that 73 percent of online adults use a social networking site (SNS), the highest percentage we've seen yet.

Even more exciting is the news that 42 percent are now using multiple SNS. This means the cross-promotion possibilities for social media are increasing and we can have confidence in exploring other platforms besides the big two, Facebook and Twitter. For people who are concerned that their Facebook messages are not being seen (still the king of stats by the way), the fear of investing time on other platforms where audiences are building should begin to disappear. Here are some of the key takeaways of the new research:

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  • Instagram users are just as likely as Facebook users to check the site daily. Photos and videos are still the media that grabs attention.
  • LinkedIn and Pinterest both have more users than Twitter and Instagram. But, don't let those numbers fool you, just let them inform your process. The people are there, but are they your people? You still need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each platform and understand if they will help you reach your goals. Pinterest's strength is still women (4-to-1) and LinkedIn's strength is still professionals. Take a good look at the demographic information on the research report.
  •  The majority of single-platform users are on Facebook. Facebook is still at the top of the heap. Your challenge for 2014 is learning how to build a corps of ambassadors there that will magnify your content so it gets seen.If you haven't dabbled in Facebook ads yet, this might be the year to try it out.  If your Facebook strategy is pushing news-only, you may get lost in the fray.
  • The demographics of each individual platform will help you focus in on strategy. If you're just looking at bottom line numbers for a platform, your strategy is lagging behind. There is an excellent breakdown in the report on platform-related demographics. Become familiar with who is where. It will help when you are deciding a personality for each platform you use.

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