Seven Trends To Watch

1. Good employees will leave. With the economy turning just slightly (we all hope!), it is likely that employees who have held fast to stability may begin to look around a bit. And as job growth returns, good companies will come looking for your best people. Talk to your staff and make sure they understand your vision for growth and stability. Let them know there is a plan, and share it with them. Listen. Make the workplace fun. Challenge your staff. Find ways to become the place you always wanted to work.

2. Personal branding of human assets. People use Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media to let the world get to know them—and their brands. Rather than fight a losing battle to control social media use, organizations should recognize, value, and leverage their employees’ personal brands. People involved and invested in social media can be assets to a business. Take advantage of your staff’s abilities, interests, and personal brands. Use employee’s personal brands to help build your company’s brand through your own form of co-branding. If managed wisely, social media can become a valuable asset.

3. Direct interaction with customers. Driven by digital media, more companies are turning to special events that put them face to face with customers. From event sponsorships to product sampling with the public, companies should use social media and online advertising to generate excitement and online discussion about events and products. Consider it Word-of-Mouth 2.0.

4. Social media comes of age. 2011 is the year in which social media as a part of marketing really comes of age. Learning to interact with customers where they choose to be has become a driving force for marketers. It’s not too late to resolve to learn about the online habits of your various customer segments and profiles and to participate with them in the world of social media.

5. Continued media fragmentation. The days of buying the top two television stations and biggest newspapers in a market in order to reach everyone are gone, meaning organizations must shift from a shotgun to a rifle approach. Take extra time in the planning phase of media and assume that every action you take allows you to focus on highly targeted audience segments where people may be grouped by lifestyle or personal interests as much as by demographics.

6. Metrics and tracking become standard requirements. While social media continues to mature, its older sister—search—continues to lead the way in measurement and tracking. Web tracking provides valuable insight into customer actions and the opportunity to make marketing budgets work harder than ever. Paired with online ad placement and social media monitoring, the ability to understand your brand’s customers, potential customers, and critics is more fine-tuned than ever. Invest wisely in tracking, monitoring, and SEO so that your money works harder than ever.

7. Customer opinion will stay on the throne. The opinions of fellow consumers are king and among the most trusted sources of information that buyers turn to today. Put together a plan this year to listen to customer opinion online and engage with those customers. The risk in not engaging is greater than the risk of being dinged a time or two by customers online. Remember, people will talk about you whether you are there to listen and engage with them or not.

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