Top 4 Comms industry trends for 2011. Minus January

Social Media NZ approached us (thecommonroom.co.nz) early this year to share a few of our 2011 predictions for the comms industry. The most obvious one that sprung to mind was a general pick-up in marketing budgets and activity and, funnily enough, it’s that prediction that has landed us here, in mid-Feb, still with no article written. So, in the spirit of the current obsession with crowd-sourcing content we’ve asked a few of our key Common Room-ers to submit their predictions for the upcoming year.  Mostly so we can get it to you all before the year is over.

Hayden Raw – Digital strategy and UI design guy

Increase in real time expectations

Increasing access to smartphones and mobile data is spurring on a real-time interaction expectation amongst early mainstream users. We might think our interaction is real-time now and compared to five years ago,it’s pretty close. But the next level, which the early mainstream will begin to lust after, is Twitter style conversation coupled with Foursquare locational relevance on a Google Latitude timescale.

This may not necessarily sound like a big deal to those already entrenched in Twitter, but it represents a fundamental shift in how mainstream users perceive social media’s relevance to their lives and their ability to communicate and be communicated with. Social media is shifting from something checked at home,  after work, or when the boss isn’t looking on your desktop computer to a real-time communication that is available whenever and wherever you want.

Jamie Nelson – Man in charge of techy and systemsy details

Cloud Computing will help businesses eat the big fish

The buzz around computing in the cloud will come to a head this year. The magical thing about operating without a physical server is that there are nearly zero hardware costs. Even an entry-level development server can run to around $11000, effectively pricing some smaller and start up business out of the market. Hosted on the cloud, the littlies can expand and contract to suit their needs, avoiding huge capital outlays. It means we’ll see businesses competing more on skill and customer service, rather than how much cash you had when you started.

Also caught up in this buzz are the changes we’re seeing develop in the finance sector as cloud-based players like Xero gain market share. The ability to automate, self-manage and share the day-to-day accounting tasks you used to pay an accountant to do means the SME market can invest their earmarked “accounting” dollars to get some actual financial consulting value. Pretty cool stuff.

It’s going to be interesting to see both how small businesses use this opportunity to get valuable growth advice and also how the finance sector divides into the “old-skool” traditionalists and the new wave of progressive financial-partner style businesses like our mates at Cloud Accounting.

Helen Steemson – does the creative ideas and implementation

Social, but with added capitalism

Digital social media has been a cost effective way for one-man-bands to get their name out there and grow their customer base. But social media marketing is likely to become less and less attractive to SME’s looking for “free” advertising opportunities as the networks place more restrictions on businesses using the tools.

Facebook has been leading the charge with their limits on competitions run through business pages. In the battle between keeping platforms social enough to please users and commercial enough to please investors, the networks will surely be limiting the activity that makes them no money (or they’ll find a way to charge for it) – things like retweet to win competitions, or Foursquare ‘tips’ that tell users about stores more 20 minutes drive away.

In this way any marketing on social networks could soon require paid media, just like every other communications channel we use today.

Keren Phillips – Boss of branding strategy and making sure all the pieces fit

Agency billing structure

Social media campaigning has sped-up the need for the comms industry to review their billing structure. Old fee-based models for a client/agency relationship are going to come under investigation as agencies desperately try to find ways to protect their margins on these “long idea” digital jobs.

Structures that incorporate the client-service, creative and planning rolls under a set annual fee work pretty well for traditional media campaigns that are planned and executed with relatively low margins for flexibility required. Beyond changing out executions and minor copy or design tweaks, the creative product stays fairly true to the original concept in these kinds of job. In this traditional model, the major proportion of the agency’s costs are incurred pre-launch, with only minimal management necessary once a campaign’s “gone live” and generally, fees are planned and structured on this pattern.

For many digitally-based projects, social media campaigns particularly, the workload for planning, suiting and creative departments is more evenly distributed across the entire length of the campaign. This means workloads for these fee-included departments are harder to predict and scope. In order for agencies to protect themselves from over-servicing to a crippling level they’re going to need to find a compromised system that provides the cashflow security of a fee but the budget accuracy of project based billing systems.

[Image credit: Cordis]

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

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