Over the past few weeks I've been digging into a plethora of new digital marketing and social media tools. No longer can we look at a "Share this on Facebook/Twitter" button on a web page and think we're really going social - with the new tools and technologies out there we're not. Digital and Social Marketing has grown exponentially in the past few years, and even as I look back at some of my posts on Web 2.0 (From my "Why do I Twitter" post in 2008 to my Web 2.0 Predictions post) newly available technologies have really pushed social and digital to a new level.
When I was working with Anant Jhingran over at IBM in Information Management, one of the things we constantly thought about was how the Semantic Web and Web 3.0 were going to affect the social, digital, and development landscape. Surprisingly enough, this was in 2007 and now these practices and principles are now just coming to fruition. Not only are these ideas moving to the forefront - they are being applied and utilized - and not only by software developers - the end users are largely not technical.
Right now, I'm seeing a few trends from smaller companies in this area - most likely soon to be adopted by larger ones - that embrace these technologies & practices.
In no particular order:
(1) Using new web technologies, companies can now create very detailed SEO and SEM strategies specifically tailored to customers. Why is this important or different than how it's done now? Because this can now be implemented much more quickly than individuals or firms doing this with people. It's automated (with some companies even using artificial intelligence) and it takes away the guess-work. Right now it can take months for an agency or individuals to establish a plan and execute this across websites and through campaigns. With these new technologies, it will take a matter of weeks and will be able to scale better than before. Think webmaster and SEO tools on steroids - and automated. Plus it costs less, and we love economies of scale.
(2) No more guess-work needed. Reach out to potential customers when *they* want to hear from you. So many of us have been on the tail-end of this - and it's painful. You're driving a campaign, trying to get leads by getting folks to download a product, then attempting to figure out when it's best to contact those leads after you *think* they've experimented with the trial version enough. Or using social media to reach customers - when is the best time to tweet, Facebook, or blog about a launch, update, or product feature? Yes, we can take educated guesses or use basic analytic engines to figure out the timing estimates here, but that's still heavy-lifting and lots of experimentation. Right now I'm seeing companies focus down on how to actually figure out when is the right time to reach out to customers - using a mix of technologies and analytics engines. Right now some agencies have built scrapped together tools that do this, but we'll be seeing much more "do-it-yourself" tools and larger companies embracing these technologies moving forward.
(3) Your information will be out there, whether you like it or not - and companies will be utilizing it to market to you. You've probably been following the privacy debate for awhile now, but last week it hit new levels as it was unmasked that Facebook applications (and their companies) had been collecting user data - breaking Facebook policies. Now Facebook has pretty good principles around privacy, but some companies are in business purely to get information about you - and sell it. Rapleaf, for example, is one of these. Om Malik did a great write-up last week on this, focusing on how these firms work. Rapleaf's CEO Auren Hoffman has addressed this concern, and focuses on how the company is providing a safe environment for consumers (while still collecting data and creating user profiles based on this). Just to be transparent, I do know Auren and I think he's got a great thing going here - Rapleaf is a smart company in a market where there's a lot of demand for user data. Do I think it's right? Not necessarily, but it is business.
What are some of the caveats of these trends you might ask? I'm still a bit skeptical on how well these technologies work - and if they're stable enough to scale across large enterprise organizations. And regarding privacy? If the government decides to put some restrictions on it, things will possibly change, but that said, it *is* the internet and how can government actually control that? Haven't they tried this before? There's also been some good discussions on how companies must balance old marketing practices with the new ones - which I think most enterprise companies are doing now.
Regardless, Web 3.0 and the semantic web are affecting the way we do social and digital marketing in a way that Web 2.0 didn't. And it's time to embrace these changes or be left behind.