The last 13 years of my digital marketing career have consisted of a few startups, hundreds of campaigns, countless technology partners, and the ability to serve as an advisor for a handful of tech startups. This experience has provided me with a unique perspective when it comes to building, evaluating, and partnering with various technology-led products and services.
When it comes to cutting through the hype of the latest innovation trend or the next great marketing technology, I look for products that have the potential to create experiences that move people. The key is to align with partners that understand it is not just about features and functions, it's about relevant use cases that can be combined with the right brand to create a compelling user experience and ultimately provide value to the consumer.
I recently attended the iMedia Breakthrough Summit and had the pleasure of hearing Adam Broitman, VP global digital marketing for MasterCard, speak about innovation. Broitman asked the crowd to define innovation, and you could hear a pin drop. We throw the word around on a daily basis and are constantly looking for the next big thing. Broitman defined it as creativity with a job to do -- not just innovation equals technology.
When we apply this to marketing technology, we can begin to build stories into the products from the beginning. Think about why Apple has been so successful since 2007. Its product stories are carefully crafted with emphasis on simplicity and utility.
With this in mind, I have outlined key industry trends and technology partners that I have partnered with this year. My goal is to share some of the best of breed partners and technologies that can further enable campaigns that are designed around the following trends.
One of the new technologies I am very excited about is collaborative purchasing through branded crowdfunding. I was recently briefed by the Crowdtilt team and was incredibly impressed. Crowdtilt is a San Francisco-based startup with its roots coming out of Y Combinator. It has taken the model made famous by Kickstarter and focused on further enabling brands with its technology.
Collaborative purchasing is the next wave of digital opportunities for brands. Audiences put their money where their mouths are, as a form of communication beyond a "like." Demand for new products is quantified by real dollars. Branded crowdfunding can also create stronger signals from intent to actual purchase.
For brands, a white label solution with a fully customizable experience is available. Brands maintain ownership of customer data, and there is also an API that allows an organization to build on top of the Crowdtilt technology.
Here is an example: a Microsoft program that was built on top of Crowdtilt's API allowing friends and families to fund a Surface tablet.
Curation has become a key element for strategies that I have defined in 2013. Digital curation is the preservation and maintenance of digital assets and is an incredibly important function when executing user-generated content and co-creation programs.
One of my go-to curation technology partners has been Mass Relevance. One of our large and currently in-market programs AT&T's #BeTheFan program leverages the Mass Relevance API to pull in hashtagged #BeTheFan cross channel entries for the program.
What I like about its technology is I have the option to only leverage the API and get exactly what I need or have the option to work with its team to creatively visualize the data.
Another curation technology that I use is Flipboard. Flipboard is a content curation and discovery social magazine app that over 85 million people are using. The application visualizes your social feeds such as Facebook and Twitter as well as providing access to curated topical magazines all while allowing users flexibility in how they consume their content of choice.
Over the past few months, more than 60 recognizable brands have launched curated magazines. This includes Callaway Golf, Levi's, and more. With such a large user base combined with users' appetite for both curated and original content, Flipboard is becoming an ideal destination to aggregate and present information in a unique and compelling way.
Here is an example from the Callaway Golf Team. The team created a brand magazine to support the launch of its new Apex Irons.
Flipboard launched an online editor earlier this year. The editor allows anyone the ability to create customized titles, and more than 3.5 million customized titles have been created. There is also a paid aspect of Flipboard. For more details please see my previous iMedia post on Flipboard.
Second screen and social TV
The rise of second screen technology, whether it is an app or a device, has been a key development. As a social marketer, I am very interested in the subset of second screen solutions that comprise Social TV. Whether watching television or TV-related content, our ability to share our social reactions and extend the experience of our favorite shows is at the heart of the social TV movement.
Here is an example of the user interface for Intonow.
The Social TV ecosystem consists of a number of different subsets, from automatic content recognition providers such as Shazam and Intonow to social electronic programming guides and rewards platforms such as GetGlue, Miso, and Tunerfish, to social TV analytics firms like TrendrrTV and Netbase.
I am very interested in the ad serving platforms that connect all aspects of video and audio fingerprints of connected TVs, second screen apps, and devices that allow for association of various types of ads be it mobile, digital, or social. I recently met with the Samba TV team (Formerly Flingo) and was impressed by its offering.
I have also been working closely with Twitter as this platform continues to develop analytics and partnerships such as its recent initiatives with Nielsen and Comcast, as well as its ability to associate conversations and targeted media with recently aired content. One of the areas of opportunity to be mindful of is the increase in connected televisions and the ability to associated device IDs for connected devices (29 percent of U.S. households will own a connected TV in 2013 according to eMarketer), as well as mobile IDs, to increase the impact of targeting programming and activating socially.
Rich social media
Facebook has stated that 88 percent of engagement happens in the news feed. Having the ability to create compelling in-stream experiences beyond driving to an app-based destination in Facebook has been a key strategic point of emphasis in 2013. A number of campaigns that I have worked on recently have shifted the model from app-based solutions to rich and responsive in-stream solutions that are also trackable and oCPM-optimized for Facebook media and Twitter card rich media solutions.
My key partner for rich social media has been Shop Igniter. Its solution allows our campaigns to reach social and mobile fans in-stream. I initially met the team via an intro from Facebook and it has been a great partner. The technology is highly mobile-friendly and designed to drive mobile engagement at a significantly higher rate than standard units. Also note that you can leverage Shop Igniter's technology to create a rich responsive domain experience.
Here is a detailed white paper outlining the new promotional engagement models of Facebook, including a section on in-stream.
Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine coined the phrase crowdsourcing, and he defined it as the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of a specialized few. My agency has an adage that ideas can come from anywhere, and we back it up by leveraging a highly effective crowdsourcing platform that I architected called Flockstar.
Flockstar takes on traditional concepting or asset creation and offers the ability for agencies and brands alike to activate beyond their team or engage their existing brand fans.
The technology allows for public or private video briefs to be posted, and it facilitates the process of submission, edits, and moderation all through a highly engaging user interface that can support disparate teams. Brands have the option to create a brief to access the existing Flockstar creative community or have the option to white-label the technology to support crowdsourcing campaigns.
Social and CRM
A key area of discussion over the past year has been big data. I almost cringe when I hear the term, but big may not even describe the amount of data that we are creating. I recently heard a stat that we produce as much data every 48 hours as we did from the beginning of time to 2003. The scary part is that two-thirds of the world is not yet online.
With massive amounts of data comes the need for insights, analysis, re-targeting, and the need for greater promotional effectiveness. Combine all of this with social conversations and the task of mapping data, and it can be a significant challenge.
I work closely with brands to optimize promotional effectiveness and how to drive consistency of data collected and how that can add value to their existing CRM strategy. Another technology that I developed is called Crowdsworth. For any socially executed Facebook promotion, it is possible to embed the Crowdsworth SDK into any execution that leverages Facebook authentication.
The platform then pulls in the user's social graph data as well as offers the ability to drive real-time insights directly from the experience. The data collected can then be fed into the organization's existing CRM program, driving greater efficiency.
Hopefully the trends and solutions outlined above can spark a test or proof of concept to support your agency or brand. There are other technologies that we are actively reviewing such as wearables, social loyalty, social and search, and retail activation products.
The key is to find partners that are willing to ideate and innovate with the goal of creating experiences that move people rather than simply push the technology.
"Technology" image via Shutterstock.