Stay on the digital cutting edge

Digital marketing and social media have changed very quickly in a short period of time. In 2013, three trends will play key roles in determining online success.

Trend #1

User experience (UX) is more important than ever. UX is the strategic application of both logic (user testing, research, technical functionality) and emotion (aesthetics, design, instinct) to create an optimal interaction between people and technology. Whether you’re a B2B manufacturer or a consumer products company, your web presence must be strategic, elegant and easy to navigate. Your customers have been trained to expect the same seamless and easy online experience from you as they do from a multi-national conglomerate.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be thoughtful. Gone are the days of B2B excuses for antiquated websites and rambling product and service explanations. A bad website is a bad website, regardless of the intended audience.

Flash-based home screens and over-complicated navigation bars are soooo 2009. Design is smarter now and so are your customers. UX can also have a significant effect on how search engines rank your site and your content. If Google can’t find you, it’s likely your customers won’t either. If you haven’t thought about your website’s UX since it was built, it’s time to catch up. Much has changed within a short period of time. Think of it this way — just because you can still cram yourself into that light blue polyester leisure suit doesn’t mean you should wear it. It’s not working for you anymore and all of us are judging you because of it.

Trend #2

Mobile first. The mobile mindset isn’t just the future – it’s here NOW. More tablets and smartphones are being sold every year, outnumbering desktop devices. As a result, people rely more heavily on the mobile experience than the full-web experience. When planning for any new online tool or website, think mobile first. And remember, there’s a big difference between being mobile-friendly versus mobile-optimized. Just because someone can access your “mobile-friendly” website and sort of find what they need doesn’t mean they walked away feeling fantastic about your brand.

A truly mobile-optimized experience – often referred to as responsive design – takes into consideration how a person wants to interact with your information and content – while on a small screen and likely from a wireless network of unpredictable strengths. Hence, download speeds, button sizes, navigation, information prioritization and even localization of information are important.

Trend #3: Branded content. 2013 will be the year when brands work to make their social media content creation a sustained, professional endeavor. Similar to website expectations, social media expectations are also increasing. The days of setting up, tweaking and experimenting in social media are over. Brands that will truly shine will have moved to a much more professionally managed and strategic social media presence.

Social media has become integral to people’s lives and interactions. Hence, the creation and curating of relevant content can add tremendous value and result in significant brand benefits. The ways people participate in social media are quite simple: read, watch, comment, like, share. But you have to make things that people can read or watch, comment on, like or ultimately share, OR enable and encourage others to make those things (a.k.a. content) on your behalf. Content has to be fresh and compelling, entertaining and informative, while also remaining consistent with your brand. Successful efforts take a lot of strategic thought, time and skill to establish and maintain the content engine required for a sustained social media program.

Branded content increases participation, but also feeds the hungry beast known as your customer. Some larger and more progressive marketing organizations have built significant in-house publishing teams, but most brand teams can’t do it all alone. Content can come from internal sources and external agency production partners as well as directly from your audience. Striking a balance and doing it strategically requires guidance and a thoughtful investment of time and money. Now is the time for you and your organization to decide how to go from being merely present in social media to being content-optimized and truly succeeding.

digital marketing & social media

  • Companies must make user experience a priority to ensure their web presence is engaging for their audience as well as optimal for search engines.
  • Companies should think mobile first when creating new online tools.
  • Brands that will stand out will have a professionally managed and strategic social media presence.

Sara Meaney is president of strategy and growth for Milwaukee-based Hanson Dodge Creative.

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