Let’s ditch 2013 forecast posts. Here’s a wish list

The author waxes disdainful about those ‘What will next year bring in our industry?’ posts, offering instead some hopes that common sense will prevail.

It’s December, which means that if you’ve made even one public statement this year that included the words “marketing,” “advertising,” “social media,” or any variation thereof, you’re now wading through 400 emails from bloggers, reporters, and analysts, all asking, “So what do you see coming up as the big thing in 2013?”

It’s the same email you got last year, word for word, they just did a global replace for “2012” with “2013.”

So here’s what I’ve told them all, and I’m happy to share with you. It’s not long, it’s not huge, and it’s actually not even a prediction. It’s more of a batch of hopes:

In 2013, I hope …

1. … that we finally stop using the term “social media” in a vacuum, as though social media alone is going to save the world. It won’t. It still won’t. Why the hell don’t we know this yet? We’ve had more than six years to figure this out.

Social media is (to repeat this once again) just another facet of marketing—an arrow in the quiver of your overall plan. If you go in expecting miracles from social media and it’s not part of a much bigger marketing, advertising, branding, and communications plan to generate revenue, you’re going to fail.

2. … that we finally stop calling every new thing “the next big thing.” Let’s be honest: Facebook was “the next big thing” three years ago, and I don’t think it’s even close to reaching its full potential. I believe that if management there plays its cards right, it can virtually own mobile advertising. It’s a big “if,” but a decent amount of the signs point to “yes.”

Of course, that might not happen, but at least Facebook has the power to attempt to be the “next big thing.” Most “next big things” don’t have the chops to back it up. The next big thing happens when it happens. It can’t just be summoned by saying it, like “Beetlejuice.” Stop trying to force that label onto every startup with a finished iPhone app and a half-done Android app. It hurts the industry.

3. … that we’re able to convince every company and client with a Web presence that if they don’t spend the year perfecting their mobile presence, they’ll lose over half their customers by 2014.

4. …that we finally understand that email spam isn’t OK under any circumstance, and we shouldn’t even think about mobile spam. May 2013 be the year of the true opt-in across all delivery platforms, where we finally see that, in this one specific case, asking for permission first is better than doing it and apologizing later.

5. …that we finally tap our collective brainpower and come up a better digital video advertising format than the 30-second pre-roll. We know it’s annoying—and we hate it ourselves—yet daily we prevent millions of pieces of content from being seen because consumers close the window five seconds into the ad, 25 seconds before the content has even loaded.

6. … that our industry truly understands that the consumer attention span drops each year. If businesses don’t start marketing under the premise of “super-short attention span theater,” and use the occasional longer content sparingly and when it truly works (i.e., Red Bull’s “Stratos,” which was as much a commercial as it was a scientific breakthrough, and a multiple world record setting event), they’ll fail with video.

Ask for more attention only when you truly have something to blow people away, and let the rest be a few awesome seconds of diversion. (And God help me if this video link below of the Stratos project contains a 30-second pre-roll.)

7. …that marketers finally realize that it’s not about asking customers to share how great you are with their networks, but rather, creating amazing experiences for each customer so they’ll want to promote the business on their own.

May 2013 be the year we all finally get that, in the end, customers love only two things: gloating when a company goes out of its way to do something beyond typical for itself, and complaining when they’re treated like crap. Treat your customers simply one level above crap in 2013, and they’ll do all your PR for you in 2014 and beyond.

8. … and (I ask this yet again, for the fifth year in a row) that companies, brands, agencies, consultants, communicators, authors, journalists, content creators, designers, programmers, and everyone else involved in marketing, communications, and customer service actually spend as much (if not more) time listening to their audience as they do talking at them. If I hope for nothing else from this list, it’s that.

Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out and CEO of The Geek Factory. He blogs at http://shankman.com/ and is on Twitter @petershankman.


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