At the start of every new year there are always a host of blog posts and articles listing predictions for the next big thing or trend that will define the year. I think 2012 is going to be mainly about the maturity of social media and the acceptance that it’s now a fundamental part of business. Construction marketers have to focus on producing more relevant content and ensure that it reaches their target audience at the right time in the buying cycle and through the right channels. Using social data to gather valuable insights will enable the creation of more effective, measurable marketing campaigns. This year the continued merging of mobile, search and social will play an important role as content production and sharing takes centre stage. Below are some predictions about what digital marketing trends are going to shape the construction industry in 2012.
1. Construction businesses becoming more social
2011 was the year of ‘social business theory‘ and in 2012 we will see more practical execution. Social media is going to be accepted as something that is here to stay and will become a fundamental business function. A true social business requires a change in culture and has to include employees, customers, clients, partners, supply chain members. Optimising collaboration is the key, finding new ways to interact with partners and suppliers online beyond email and file sharing with more effort made training and enabling employee social media activity.
Construction companies must learn social media best practices and implement these when developing their marketing strategies. Social media marketing is becoming more scientific and analytics will increasingly drive marketing success. If you’re launching a new building product, you simply won’t be able to ignore social media and the communication and distribution opportunities that it provides. Your customers are going to continue talking about your business online, so it’s up to you to monitor these conversations and act on the data you gather. Companies need people and processes to manage and interpret the huge amount of information because data is only as good as the action it drives. Marketers have to develop actionable insights from this social data.
2. Increasing growth of mobile usage
There is no doubt that mobile is going to play a huge role in 2012 as it has become an embedded part of our lives. Smartphones have revolutionised how we consume and create content on the move; this will only continue to increase with the combination of mobile with social and location as 35% of the UK currently access social networks on their mobile. New behaviours and technologies such as QR codes, mobile payments and augmented reality will take off and become the norm. Understanding and leveraging changing behaviour on mobile devices will be a key element in strategy development and product manufacturers have to think about how they can use them to provide value for their customers and prospects.
3. Providing remarkable content to your audiences
Content is being consumed at a higher rate than it is being produced. In a recent B2B study, 60% of respondents indicated that they plan to increase their content marketing budgets over the next 12 months. Content marketing strategies will mature from just being about customer acquisition and focus on customer retention which requires more educational content on specific topics, in the form of ebooks and whitepapers. Marketers should realise that their participation and opinion is one of the most valuable online assets because people want to learn from ‘knowledgeable experts’ in a specific field. This shift requires construction companies to act more like publishing companies.
Producing branded content that tells a story, be it in video, audio, blog or infographic format will be widely shared through social networks and can spread the word about your company. This type of content is more engaging and meaningful than product promotions and competitions. Online traffic will become even more content driven and not platform defined as the presence of sharing buttons on web pages will continue to increase. ‘Shareability’ can be measured to determine what content people share and how information can travel on the web. Companies that create shareworthy content will reap the SEO benefits as social signals and actions play an increasingly important role in search.
4. More companies will integrate their marketing activities
Integration is the biggest challenge facing businesses and is one of the key elements separating social media marketing success from failure. Companies within the construction indsutry have to move beyond simply setting up social media accounts or adding share button on their website or newsletters. Instead, marketing in 2012 is about fully integrating ALL your marketing activities across different platforms, channels and media. This is the year where multi-channel, multi-screen and multi-content will dominate. Campaigns have to focus on long term execution with an emphasis on proven results that social media marketing is having a positive impact on achieving business goals.
The integration of social media signals into search engine results is important. SEO and social are not separate, they work together and social is a necessary element of traffic-driving success. Moreover, search results are getting a lot more personal and customised to individual preferences, especially with the growth of Google+. Marketers have to think about producing content that will be shared, tweeted, liked and +1’d to increase online visibility.
5. Huge crackdown on greenwashing
Sustainability will continue to be a buzzword for many companies in 2012 as companies strive to develop ethical businesses, however companies have to be wary of green washing claims. The term ‘greenwash’ describes claims of sustainability or environmental benefits which can’t be proven. These claims can relate to products, services, or an entire company in its operation. As key decision makers become increasingly swayed by environmental credentials and impressive policies, the construction industry and in particular product manufacturers will feel a rising pressure on their marketing campaigns. Brands can no longer make bland and general claims about their environmental efforts and instead people are expecting more details about specific initiatives.
Through 2012 and beyond you’ll start to see more and more brands being pulled up for using greenwash in their marketing, and the ASA has just published a briefing document to help bring clarity to sustainability marketing and environmental claims. So just how green is green? Notes from the ASA’s seminar in 2008 entitled ‘Environmental claims in advertising: Is green a grey area?’ offer a useful starting point for your reading.
What do you think about these predictions? Which other trends will play a big role in 2012? Let us know…