1) Community Engagement will become the Driver of Local Media
Local news used to be the province of the local newspapers, radio stations and TV. It’s become clear consumers will digest local news online as newspapers shut down, and on the Internet, all media are equal – TV, radio and print websites compete for the same eyeballs. A swelter of recent big media portal deals – for example, MSN/NBCU/Hearst, to cover local news threatens local media institutions through sheer size and scale. Curatorial portals – Huffington Post’s local editions and Outside.in (with investment from CNN among others to support content development for CNN Local editions) will aggregate the news, and local reporter infrastructure will be nurtured at citizen journalist engines like Examiner.com or AOL’s Seed.
Here’s the problem: local is local. Media portals need to figure out how to engage the community at a grass roots level so they have drivers and participants pushing the conversations and attracting their peers. Portals believe they can scale and develop the website traffic required to support a local advertisement model. However, communities may develop their own home grown commercial systems for the same reasons why “buy local” is becoming a mantra; and the portals aren’t entitling ownership of their local media systems to the community. For that reason, a community may rather spend its local advertising dollars with an on-the-ground local publisher like Minnpost or OaklandLocal, or even a Chamber of Commerce sponsored local media resource than CNN Local.
2) Mobile + Local advertising = Penny Saver 2.0
The first local advertising and search media are starting to emerge: Postabon facilitates the broadcast of local discounts and coupon offers and Milo searches for specific products at the large chains like the neighborhood Best Buy by accessing the store’s inventory database. Expect popular geotagging applications like FourSquare and Gowalla to integrate local coupons and product search. These coupons are not perceived as advertisements. If they save you money, they are called “unexpected cash”.
These systems help solve the consumer impulse buy decision (“I’m shopping at the mall tomorrow, what stores are having sales?”). Traditional search engines haven’t been able to answer these temporal questions down to the local level (try querying Google to find a snowboard sale in your town this weekend).
3) Mobile + Advertising + Pubsubhubbub = Alert systems
The real time web is pushing business society into a new value paradigm that rewards those who can react instantly and systematically to opportunities. A concept not unlike Wall Street program trading, these new systems work on alerts that ping users for decisions. Mobile devices eventually won’t need “refreshes” to alert; they are always on and by extension, almost coerce its owner to be “always on”.
For consumers, marketing companies like Local Thunder will connect merchants with their community through rich media content development and RSS feeds for alerts. Google’s Pubsubhubbub essentially deploys RSS feed data in real time so alerts can be time and location targeted.
We start getting into Augmented Reality / Minority Report territory when coupon alerts popup as one walks by a store, but some company will make this real time location based alert system a reality, if not a hit, by the end of 2010.
4) Advertising as Content
Infomercials got it right; advertising as content engages customers at the story telling level. And the content may be ridiculous:
Today’s business can no longer resort to trite marketing, and say “buy from me because I’m honest… high touch… lower priced… give great service” with a straight face any more. It now comes off as, well, an advertisement.
Advertisements used to be crafted to lead into the “call to action”. In 1960’s Madison Avenue’s ideal world, consumers would make the purchase decision based on the facts presented in the ad or by the incessant aggregate impressions made in what has always been called “branding”. In the fuzzy world of social media marketing, where is the call to action?
5) Everybody becomes a marketer, and some will become sales closers
The call to action still originates from consumer need. A call to action may simply be an attractive price, but in many circumstances, the transaction close is facilitated by a personal sales pitch or a referral. As advertising becomes content driven, the combined testimonials for a product or service become far more persuasive to support the call to purchase. Testimonials and ratings of local services (like the current standards Yelp.com and Citysearch) will be built into every local media resource (see Postabon‘s rating system). In fact, Yelp has elevated the standard so that the 5-star review is becoming the minimum parsing criteria for real estate agents because so many have this grade.
So how can somebody profit from providing testimonials and otherwise supporting the marketing efforts of others around them? Locals will do the same things they did pre-Internet with their Chambers, Lion’s Clubs and networking groups – support each other. New social media – enabled referral systems will be built out locally through Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and through the new local ad applications.
The bigger trend will be the development of local affiliate marketing systems that compensate referrals. Think of websites that have an Amazon affiliate widget or link that compensate owners if their users go through the widget to buy Amazon stuff. Companies will provide applications to build local merchant guides for use by other local business websites to create networks of affiliated services. And local affiliate marketing systems is only a start; affiliate marketing programs extend sales forces without adding overhead, and we’ll start seeing mainstream adoption by enterprises developing strategic partnership programs.
Related: The essence of affiliate marketing
5)a) Everybody can become a traveling sales person
Anybody can become a virtual mobile storefront using the upcoming Square, a secure, simple to use iPhone application with a credit card reader that allows anybody to become a street merchant. Point-of-sale becomes redefined when anybody can potentially sell anything anywhere.
6) Virtual socializing and Webinar ubiquity
Webinars are social media too. They are already changing the landscape on how people meet for business on the cheap, and worry the airlines.
2009 British Airways face-to-face campaign
Current webinar systems like Webex are still too difficult to use. Within 2010, some company will develop a simple to launch, one-click web meeting system that can broadcast live discussions across ad hoc participant groups. Call the concept adhoc webinars. Why will this work? Webinars can become venues like happy hours where groups can meet and share. The key is ease of use, anybody should be able to participate so weekly scheduled meetings can expand as more people know about them. Imagine Robert Scoble producing a one-click webinar party every Friday afternoon to discuss ideas – he would essentially have an interactive TV program that can be produced on the fly without studios and cameras.
Virtual socializing is the natural evolution to social networking because it’s location independent. One example in the real estate world are the virtual REBarCamps that aggregate speakers and audience together in a virtual national conference.
7) The grass roots Web
Website and application development should be simple enough for normal folks who know nada about code, but still want to custom develop a clean, workable application by themselves without hiring tech talent. The ascendance of plug/play blogs and WordPress themes and plug-ins, and Ning based social network applications facilitate the quick building of applications by non-techies. Add in automated features like Facebook Connect, Twitter Lists, Posterous posting, and the latest mini-applications that provide snippets of value to the website, and website development is becoming accessible and experimental to the masses. However, I’m frankly surprised there isn’t more activity to provide simple plug/play applications to individuals and SMEs… will 2010 be the year?
Speaking of websites, the next great media company won’t have a website (h/t Steve Rubel).
8 ) The stream is more important than website
Anybody immersed in the social media already knows this. The content stream constitutes a conversation, and can be perceived as far more “real” than a calculated marketing-focused website presentation. The same new paradigm that makes an advertisement seem promotional applies to websites. Yes, conversations can happen on websites but there are likely many more occurring on Twitter, Yelp, Facebook and other blogs that are deemed more credible because they are third party commentary.
AshtonKutcher.com the website does not exist. He is a Twitter celebrity whose breakthrough social media credential was challenging @CNNBRK to a 1,000,000 follower contest. Media presence isn’t just website traffic, it’s providing value to the readership through new media channels… which leads us to the reason why anybody can now become a media resource, if not a media star:
9) Curation is the new syndication
Mass media used to rule syndication, now anybody can curate and present content across a panoply of social media platforms. Curating breaking news is key to readership – it’s the reason why people follow CNN, Marketwatch or engadget. Twitter has distinguished itself as the forefront application for breaking news, and anybody can use Twitter Lists to curate Twitter feeds by topic, geography and industry. Curation tools, like Outside.in Publisher for hyperlocal news, are being developed for local content publishers.
Curators are the new news editors, and the window is open to create new media properties. Curated local media will be a focus because there’s a media void that both national media and independent journalistic efforts are now trying to fill (see #1 above).
10) A new era of open social media (the adjective “social” will soon be redundant)
Facebook and LinkedIn are closed networks simply because they require confirmation of “friend” status. Frankly, it’s just too much manual clicking to accept a lot of friends. Twitter has distinguished itself as an open network that can amass networks of millions of followers, and is the application closest to a personal broadcast media. Facebook certainly sees the power of massive networks (being the biggest one itself), and in order to compete with Twitter’s broadcast power, will unveil similar broadcast functionality. Simply put, in 2010 Facebook will create an opt-in setting that allows users to open their status updates to anybody who wants to follow them. Becoming a Facebook Fan today is similar but statuses can’t be filtered within the main feed. Once 350+ million Facebook broadcast systems are potentially unleashed, they can be curated categorically like Twitter Lists and conversations more conveniently filtered. Yes, Facebook already has Friendfeed as the model, but it needs to be simpler to use, and will likely cede to a new Facebook open network product.
LinkedIn can open itself up the same way. Since LinkedIn is a more industrial network, value would be derived from curated lists developed by users based on industry or discipline. Although LinkedIn Groups encourages industry conversations, they are generally sparse and hard to follow if one has joined many Groups.
Once networks open up, conversations become even more multi-channel than they are today. A Tweet that gets syndicated across Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networks will provoke dialogues characteristic of each network. Clients like Tweetdeck and Seesmic see this coming and have integrated multi-channel monitoring systems. In the latter part of 2010, evolved versions of Google Wave and the Google OS, and possibly Facebook, will provide the same multi-channel operability integrated into their offering.
Related: Check my 2009 predictions for social media last year.