Pumpkin spice lattes are back in full swing, which can only mean one thing — annual budget season is upon us. I, for one, really enjoy this time of year – mostly because it brings out the most interesting, forward-looking conversations with our customers and colleagues. In my conversations this year, I am hearing two major consistent themes (and this consistently transcends locations and customer-type – I hear this from London to SF as well as from agencies and brands). The themes are:
- Digital & traditional have officially become one; and
- The digital marketing/communications toolkit is being consolidated into three main categories of ‘must-have’ tools
Let’s fall into each one a bit more.
Digital and Traditional Have Officially Tied the Knot
Most of our customers, especially the bigger agencies and enterprises, say that every pitch and project they work on in 2013 will include digital strategy. “There is no separation between traditional and digital for us here at XXX,” is a common refrain. In the case of our agencies customers, they are integrating digital into every single pitch, regardless of whether or not their client asks for it. The most innovative teams I’ve met are integrating their “traditional” and digital teams, which is very good news.
Will the reality match the rhetoric when all is said and done? I hope so, but I have a couple of concerns: some agencies are still pitting their digital and traditional teams across clearly defined battle lines. Doesn’t the fact that you have separate “digital” and a “traditional” teams make it hard to fully integrate the work? The other concern I have is the fact that when there are separate teams, the digital teams remain dwarfed by their “traditional” counterparts (both in number and influence). That said, 2013 will very likely represent another major step forward for digital and it will finally become more than a “extra shot of espresso” to any communications effort.
Three Major Categories of Tools for the Digital Marketing Toolkit
This second theme interests me the most, not only because Traackr’s products falls into one of these categories, but because it demonstrates that the digital communications market is maturing. When companies start organizing their tool selection around clear categories it tells me that the market has moved beyond experimentation and is starting to understand how each type of tool solves their specific needs. When you see marketing communications budgets organized around defined categories of tools, you know something is up!
The three major types of tools we see our customers organizing around are:
- General Monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, etc – I hear there are more than 300 of these tools today)
- Influencer Analytics (Traackr. Anyone else worth mentioning?)
- Social Media Management (Wildfire, Buddy Media, etc)
1: General Social Media Monitoring Tools
These were the first tools to be used by digital communications pros. Serious digital marketing has always started with listening to the vast conversations flying across the social web. The problem with general monitoring today (and in the future), unfortunately, is that it becomes less and less valuable as the ‘noise’ of the web increases. As the number of posts generated on the web continues to grow exponentially, so does the amount of ‘junk’. We actually estimate that over 70% of the web’s content of the web is either pure junk (spam, content farm, bot, etc.) or completely irrelevant to a marketer. This means that more and more manual time is spent with the data coming from a general monitoring tool in order to identify the important stuff. Originally designed for daily monitoring of social channels, general monitoring tools are now mostly used for generating reports on overarching metrics (total # of mentions, followers, etc.) which can, in theory, survive with a significant margin of error.
2: Influencer Analytics Tools
2013 will be the first year that tools such as Traackr will become set line items in annual budgets. This is partly due to the advancement in these tools over the past couple of years — we have certainly come a long way! But the rise of influencer identification tools is really due to the fact that they solve the main problem mentioned above: there is too much noise to get to the valuable conversations. Tools like Traackr filter the web to direct you straight to the most important and actionable data for communications — the right people. And, in the case of Traackr, we take it step further by giving our customers access to the right content by the right people (as well as a slew of other invaluable insights). Influencer identification tools and analytics dramatically reduce the time a digital marketing professional spends gathering information so that can focus on good, smart execution.
3: Social Media Management Tools
These tools are also becoming a necessity for managing all of a brand’s owned assets. The ability to quickly disseminate content and engage people through multiple channels quickly and easily is really important. This also explains why we are seeing such huge acquisitions in this space of late (Wildfire, Buddy Media, etc).
So there you have it: the three required types of tools that are making their appearances on 2013 budgets around the world. Keep in mind that what is most important here is not the categories specifically, but the emergence of definitive categories for digital marketing tools. The market is growing up and so are the tools. This is all good. Until the next disruption, when it starts all over again… 🙂