When iMedia asked me to write a piece predicting the top digital marketing buzzwords of 2012, I thought, "Sure, that's right in my wheelhouse." I don't claim to be a jargon rockstar, but at the end of the day, if you need to take your tech speak to the next level, I can help you skate to where the puck is going to be. But rather than trying to boil the ocean, I'm going to keep this thing at 30,000 feet and focus on the low-hanging fruit.
If you're not grinding your teeth after that opener, you did better than I did when I wrote it. While I'm as much of a shameless slangster as the next digital marketer, I suffer the double whammy of being painfully aware of it, which creates lots of cringe-worthy moments for me. Last year, for instance, I made a New Year's resolution to stop using the word "robust," because it makes me throw up in my mouth a little. I lasted about three weeks, until a client presentation in which I stopped myself in mid-sentence and declared, "I was about to say that a dedicated app would be more 'robust,' but I made a resolution not to use that word any more. Ha ha, that was a close one." Everyone stared at me like I'd just peed on the conference table, no doubt contemplating how I must have been quietly judging them every time they used the word.
New resolution: Don't talk about resolutions.
This year, I'm exorcising my demons by fully embracing my industry's penchant for jargon -- and what better way than by endorsing some buzzwords that are just now creeping into the digital marketing lexicon? After all, our words define us, so identifying emerging terms might tell us something about where we're headed. Or at least where we want to go.
I admit, I heard this word for the first time in December, but it so perfectly describes what's sure to be a big topic in 2012 that I had to include it. According to The New York Times, the term was coined by booksellers to describe the phenomenon of shoppers perusing books in their store, then purchasing said books for less on Amazon, so that the bookstore is relegated to the status of "showroom." I think the term has bigger potential as descriptive of nearly any retailer's plight with respect to mobile: If shoppers mainly use mobile to price-check, and I don't have the lowest prices, what's my mobile strategy?
The topic has been picking up steam since Amazon doubled down on showrooming with a one-day offer in December, inviting customers to scan items in the aisle with Amazon's price-check app, then nab the item from Amazon at an extra 5 percent discount. Since I'm playing the humble lexicographer in this article, I won't wade into the controversy here, except to say that Amazon's audacious move probably served as a wakeup call for retailers who are unconscionably tardy in their own mobile strategies. Every retailer and every agency with retail clients is going to have some earnest discussions about showrooming in 2012.
When I search "plussification," Google asks me if I mean "classification," and while I appreciate the humility there, Google, I guess I sort of do mean "classification." That's the aspect of Google+ that will have marketers in a stir in 2012: Google+ reclassifies my search results, YouTube preferences, and who knows what else according to whatever I and my circles have publicly "plussed." It matters very little how much time I spend in the social network itself; Google+ is quietly reshaping the content I see when I go online. As Google's services become more deeply networked, marketers are going to care a great deal about what it takes to get their content plussed; those that don't will find themselves nonplussed. (Sorry.)
I'm happy to see this term gaining ground, because it's a lot more fun to say than its wonky precursors, "geolocation" and "location-based services." The term is a portmanteau (which is also fun to say) for social-local-mobile -- a more accurate and inclusive description of mobile services that connect users socially and locally. While dedicated apps like Foursquare are the most obvious example of SoLoMo, the phenomenon is much bigger. When I search for a place to get a flat tire fixed on my smartphone, for instance, the Google Places results I get are an example of SoLoMo, as are the results I get on Yelp, Where, and even Citysearch.
Based on my completely unscientific review of RFPs we've been getting, brands are catching on to SoLoMo strategy. There's general recognition that the growth of mobile has raised the stakes for building your brand's local presence, and that doing so demands more than claiming your brand page on Foursquare. Look for the SoLoMo discussion this year to include not only geolocation apps but also local listings, SEO, and a more prominent web presence for branch locations.
You know you're supposed to gamify everything now, right? Last week my leaf blower wouldn't start. What did I do? I gamified that sucker. I gave it three more chances to start before it earned the "Whacked Against a Tree" badge, and what do you know, it started right up. That's gamification.
Not sure if you noticed that I'm already a little jaded on this particular topic, but it's still new and important enough to make the buzzword list. In marketing, gamification refers to the emerging idea that brands can engage consumers more readily and intensively with a bit of healthy competition. Examples include social competitions like GoWalla and GetGlue, reward programs using points and badges, and branded games on mobile, consoles, social networks, et al. The rise of gamification can be attributed, in part, to the SoLoMo phenomenon described above; as our lives become more deeply networked, it becomes easier to create ways to track an individual's performance -- if suffering through all the versions of "Real Housewives" can be described as performance -- against everybody else.
Since everyone is jumping on the gamification bandwagon, the term is getting a tad abused. It's not meant to apply to every damn thing that has an incentive built into it; we already have a word for that, namely, "incentive." True games have winners and losers, successes and failures, because the drama is what makes the game worth playing. This year, look for marketers to get more refined in their use of the term, and in their gamification practices.
I'm sure the hipsters who currently dominate Tumblr would grouse that absolutely no one says "Tumbld," but I'm placing my bets: Tumblr is going to catch on with marketers this year, and we're going to verbify it. Sample headline: "Has Your Brand Tumbld Yet?" We just can't help ourselves.
On a conference panel last summer I described Tumblr as "post-literate blogging," but I was being snarky. I should have called it "delightfully post-literate blogging," because the platform's easily shareable, visual-centric, tapas-sized bites of content are perfect for content-saturated psyches, which means they're also perfect for marketers. Nielsen caused many a marketer to poke their head in the Tumblr when they reported in July that the platform had tripled its U.S. audience in the preceding year. Plenty of brands are already on board, but many more will "tumbl" forth in 2012.
It's always useful when a new buzzword riffs on a more established buzzword, because this allows you to play "Hipper than Thou" in conversations with your fellow marketers. Example:
You: "So I'm thinking we should cloudsource our whole e-commerce site."
Clueless fellow marketer: "Crowdsource our e-commerce site? That's a terrible idea."
You: "Um, no... cloudsource. Duh."
The "duh" is optional.
I know cloud computing was a pretty heavy topic in 2011, but "cloudsourcing" is a good way to describe its evolution. This year, companies will move from using cloud applications for one-off tasks like document sharing, storage, and lead management, and find ways to move their full IT infrastructures into the cloud. You need a word for that, and that word is "cloudsourcing."
As all good digital marketers know, television is not very interesting on its own, which is why previous generations would also fold laundry, drink highballs, or dig fallout shelters during TV time, and we now prefer to augment our TV viewing by tweeting, texting, chatting, or checking in on GetGlue to snag the Gossip Girls Superfan Sticker. That's progress.
This "second screen" phenomenon is proving to be a major use of mobile devices in the home; we're talking 86 percent of mobile users, according to Yahoo. The growing popularity of second screen apps like GetGlue might just provide marketers with the ever-elusive channel integration between TV advertising and digital, as Gap demonstrated last year. This also gives you a two-for-one on buzzwords when you declare, "I want us to consider second screens because of the potential for cross-channel synergy." Bam!
Now I don't claim these are all the buzzwords you'll need for 2012; this is just the sharp tip of the spear. Did I overlook some obvious ones? Let me know so we can all get on the same page.
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