Midyear Review

Every January, pundits and prognosticators predict trends for the coming year. Earlier this year, we sifted through multiple sources to glean what prophecies were being foretold for 2013 in marketing strategy, content strategy, analytics and a few other topics. We decided to revisit these predictions and see what’s actually trending six months into the year.

Two trends that were spot-on:

Customer experience will become more integrated and more social.

Companies will begin full integration of social media across the customer experience. What will really set this apart this year is that companies will use social media to conduct primary activities, including marketing to prospects, closing sales, supporting customers, gathering new product ideas and even improving their supply chain. That this will happen widely will be greatly assisted by the fact that many major enterprise line-of-business applications have recently added social media capabilities to the way they work. (Don Hinchcliffe, Chief Strategy Officer, Dachis Group)

Brands will grow their investments in social customer service to better serve customers who engage with them through social media channels—a group who has been shown to spend 20% to 40% more than customers who are not socially-engaged. As social customer service matures, I expect to see more integration of technology platforms from traditional customer services with social monitoring and team collaboration. This will enable customers to receive the same level of support and information, regardless of their communication channel preference. (James Medd, social media marketing manager, Emailvision)

In our work, ComBlu is seeing these related predictions come to fruition. Many brands have used online communities for many years to deflect the overall cost of customer care and support. The next logical step is to integrate these communities with social streams and invite customer advocates to expand mentoring beyond support forums. Some brands are activating customers as the voice of the customer on live social streams. This goes beyond simply displaying Tweets and posts in the support community and organizing a full digital and social support ecosystem to accommodate multiple but related gateways to the customer care experience.

We are also seeing an uptick in social sales enablement. Some brands are creating private online rooms for both sales teams and prospects to interact, engage around a highly customized content experience and calibrate the conversation. This results in a collapsed sales cycle with the technology companies leading the way in this format.

Brands will focus on matching content with the right point on the buyer’s journey.

Organizations will begin to address the gap between the way our customers seek information during the buying process and the gaps in the information we marketers provide. This will create a greater need for new roles to be created in many more companies, such as Content Strategist, Chief Content Office, Data Scientists (in marketing) and Social Business Managers (marketers spreading into other departments like sales and customer support). These roles will help companies bridge the gaps and address the changing buyer journey. (Michael Brenner, author of B2B Marketing Insider, co-founder of Business 2 Community and Senior Director of Integrated Marketing and Content Strategy, SAP)

2013 will also be the year that the majority of marketers will discover the power of highly-targeted consumer and shopper digital marketing opportunities. These strategically-focused opportunities will deliver more relevant messaging at key points along the path to purchase in order to drive shoppers to key retail channels, categories and products. (Jason Katz, SVP Digital, & Kevin Sidell, VP Digital, AMG)

While a recent search of a large marketing database revealed only 13 people with the title Chief Content Officer, this hasn’t stopped the trend toward parsing the decision or buying journey. Understanding how to align the right content for each distinct point along the decision journey is increasingly important to both inbound marketers and social teams. More brands are going beyond digital user journeys and creating detailed composite views of multiple decision makers and how each interacts with content along the buyer’s journey. Brands are creating detailed content journeys that include a robust ecosystem that contains more than owned digital assets.

One trend that fizzled:

Metrics with Context

One of the biggest industry challenges at the moment is effectively measuring engagement. That’s because there is no universal currency for social media engagement across social media channels. Channel fragmentation is a big part of the problem. Although many brands monitor the major social networks, some of the most important and useful engagement happens in the nooks and crannies of customer communities, blogs, niche social sites and even old-school discussion forums. How to listen to, evaluate and rank engagement to understand brand sentiment, have meaningful situational awareness and maintain reasonably useful objective measures will be a vital topic this year. (Don Hinchcliffe, Chief Strategy Officer, Dachis Group)

2013 is the year social leaps beyond projection/syndication and becomes more about listening, understanding and driving better products and relationships that drive business. Vendors and agencies that provide useful big data analytics (ideally blending the inside and outside of the enterprise) will become big-dollar rock stars. Over 50% of C-level will finally realize social does not only equal Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. (Jeff Browning, Senior Director, Online Strategy, F5 Networks)

While we wish this projection gained more traction, we believe that brands and agencies are still in the “talking about this” stage when it comes to whittling big marketing data down to size. Some strides have been made in the use of cross-channel audience data, but few have put it together in a meaningful way that provides a roadmap for future action.

In addition, we are still seeing most brands focusing on social and big engagement platforms and not doing the hard work to engage in the crannies described above by Don Hinchcliffe. While we’re seeing some renewed interest in optimizing branded communities, we’re also seeing too much “pushing” content at people and no real creation of a true community.

On balance, more predictions seem to be on-trend than not. However, some were softballs, such as:

  • Instagram and Google+ will both evolve as “must have” platforms.
  • “Shareworthy” will be the new marketing currency, aided by my favorite new term: “share bait.”
  • The future of marketing is visual content, which will be the most prevalent form of storytelling.
  • Multi-screen adaptability and screen convergence will drive content strategy and platform development.
  • Slideshare will be the fastest growing platform in 2013, helped by its acquisition by LinkedIn.

We’ll continue to monitor the predictions of 2013 and share our point of view as they continue to evolve…or not!

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.