I suppose you could say that everything in life requires relentless curiosity in order to evolve. But if there were ever a year that exercising our relentless curiosity will become mandatory, 2014 is it. This will be the year of substance, when content is not just written for search engines to pick up, and when things we had hoped would connect become connectable. And most importantly, the value of marketing will continue to rise as consumers define their own individual futures of the products and services they prefer. 2014 is going to be the year when our human curiosity figures out how people, technology and process can finally work together.
Here are my top five predictions for the coming year:
1) "The Internet of Things" Goes Mainstream - "The Internet of Things" is starting to manifest in products that solve problems we didn't even know we had. This is one of the most exciting areas because it includes the "crowd", marketing and the Internet. Allowing technology access to ALL facets of our lives makes things more intuitive and easy. Things like connecting your washing machine to your mobile device to remotely start the next load, or compiling all your credit cards into one single smart credit card like Coin is doing (funded by crowdsourcing, another example.). Our lives are quickly becoming consolidated into a more virtually connected ecosphere, and people and companies are more committed than ever to making the "Internet of Things" a reality. It's the ultimate in control over our time and resources (for more on this, please read Shel Israel and Robert Scoble's book, "The Age of Context.")
2) Social Influence Rises - Influence has been standard marketing procedure in Hollywood and Professional Sports forever, but only now has the power of finding niche influencers and social amplifiers proved its model. In the last year alone, we have seen the rise of influence establish itself and manifest in new service offerings and platforms. Klout will remain the first influence benchmark, but as my friend Sam Fiorella points out, it's just one of many benchmarks. It doesn't solve the challenge of how to measure and increase influence. Watch for platforms like Raynforest, Influitive and Triberr (full disclosure: I am on founding advisory board for Raynforest and use all these platforms) that connect brands and people to form the most optimal partnerships that help disseminate great content to niche audiences that share a bigger curiosity for key topics. It's the first time marketing and public relations have been forced to work together (even though they should have been all along). Everyone's an influencer on something, and 2014 will reveal the technology to connect anyone to others who want to listen.
3) Active Listening Meets Social Selling - While you might think social listening has been accomplished, "active listening" has not, or at least it is rare. Active listening is truly paying attention and engaging based on the context of the digital conversation. Listening is the easy part and makes for some nice reports for your executives. But combining "active listening" into a true social sales process is going to revolutionize and define social selling in 2014. The process of social selling is a strange concept, simply because social media channels are a personal, intimate and familiar "no-selling" zone. However, if we can turn active listening into ways we can solve a problem, that changes the game. The challenge isn't finding someone with a problem; software can do that. It's a human problem. Last year, I accidentally left my iPad in a Hertz rental car after I returned it, and a Hertz representative actively picked up on my tweet mentioning my iPad being left behind. Within one tweet, they reached out, located my iPad, found my reservation and address, confirmed it with me and had my iPad to me within a few business days. Now don't tell me customer support is not marketing (as my friend Michela Stribling so eloquently writes about here)! Hertz for life.
4) Social Technology Opens Up - Marketing technology has advanced beyond anything we have ever seen and yet it remains unconnected and disparate. I, for one, don't think that technology is there yet. We are starting to require a more connected open system where social technology truly integrates with other technologies to combine our experiences into a custom display, one display....one dashboard to meet our needs. Just as we have in any wi-fi device, a standardized platform, social marketing technology needs a unification of standards that marketers can learn to trust and adopt. The power of the crowd will start pushing for these standards, making adoption much easier in the future. We live in a time when all of our systems should be talking to each other, giving each individual in the company exactly the information they need, exactly when they need it. In order for this to happen, systems need to be virtual (no more Excel sheet on desktops!). It is my prediction that closed systems will die and open systems will thrive. This standardization will start taking shape in 2014.
5) The Internet as a Concierge - There is no such thing anymore as business to business or business to consumer. The Internet serves our human needs differently and more personalized every year, and is quickly becoming a personal concierge that helps us fulfill our entertainment, connection, purchasing or learning activities. Quite frankly, I am surprised we're not farther along with this concept, with things like Siri, Amazon or Google search. While we don't have hover boards or flying cars yet (and should) we will have the ability to call up information that a single click (or voice) action delivers faster, more relevant results because it uses the power of the crowd and artificial intelligence. IBM's Watson predictive intelligence technology will soon be integrated into our mobile devices and, as our personal Internet concierge, will know what we want before we even ask.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Despite the explosive growth and relentless power of technology, 2014 will be the year when our own human power of relentless curiosity will connect us to an easier, smarter and more meaningful relationship with ourselves, our families, our communities, our countries and our planet.image credit: http://www.pittimmagine.com/en/corporate/news/2011/tobiasroettger.html