In 2011, prepare for a shift from social media to social business

Matthew Yorke, President IDG Global Solutions

The social web and related marketing services dominated programs with major technology marketers in 2010. While social began to emerge in 2009, it became a major revenue source and requirement by brand-name marketers.

We expect the growth of social advertising, social listening/analysis, and social content as advertising services to continue in 2011. A recent eMarketer report validates the trend: in 2011, four out of five U.S. businesses with 100 employees or more said they plan to use social media marketing. Recently, Google said the future of online display advertising is social display advertising. We fully expect 2011 to be the year where we stop talking exclusively about social media and start talking about social business.

The mobile train arrives

As for key opportunities and challenges ahead, the mobile train finally arrived in 2010 … the hype long since departed. 2011 will be the year when mobile advertising in all its forms becomes serious business. IDC predicts mobile advertising in the U.S. alone will be a $2 billion business.

Worldwide, more than 330 million smartphones and 42 million tablets will be sold. These new hyper-connected devices, which in the case of tablets will offer rich and vibrant brand experiences for advertisers, will shift consumption habits and take more and more of consumers’ time. The challenge for media companies and advertisers is where to invest: Is it Apple, Google, Research in Motion, and/or Microsoft?

We expect a lot of experimentation around the traditional website experience, as well as iPad-optimized treatments, app-specific experiences, and paid and free app versions as publishers seek to understand the needs of users and push the boundaries on paid/free content and distribution channels. All of this offers tremendous growth opportunities – as long as the industry continues to innovate.

Increasing importance of data

The importance of data rose in 2010, fueled by ad networks, exchanges and real-time bidding (RTB). One estimate shows almost half of display ads are served by exchanges and sell-side platforms, 33% via ad networks, and only 19% by publishers directly. The shift to automated systems will escalate in 2011 driven partly by efficiencies, partly by the real-time elements, and mostly by data.

But data will not be limited to exchanges and networks. We are entering an era of real-time marketing where data feeds a model of intelligent and actionable insights collected by publishers and delivered to marketing clients. Understanding how to capture and analyze that data will be a big challenge for publishers that need to adapt their work flows. There may be an even bigger challenge if the government responds to concerns about data privacy with new regulations.

Social media, mobile, and data crept up on us in 2010. In the new year, these trends will come together and transform the way media companies reach consumers, how content is personalized for them, and the relationships media companies have with advertisers.

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