I enjoy a good challenge, and iMedia is always ready to put me to the test. The past four years, I've been asked to predict the future of marketing, and the articles have been relatively well-received. In September 2010, I wrote about "7 obsolete digital marketing strategies." In February 2013, I wrote a follow-up article, "9 marketing strategies you must stop using -- now." This time around, iMedia asked me to tackle the subject of obsolete marketing tools, and I was happy to oblige.
Unfortunately, this topic was more challenging than I anticipated.
As I reflected on the tools I've used over the past few years as a marketer, I realized there is an inherent (usually unplanned) obsolescence due to the dynamic and fluid nature of the landscape. With so many tools to choose from, we tend to continually evaluate new vendors and platforms and are quick to dismiss and forget those that don't make the cut. Unfortunately, as my team confirmed, we don't keep a running tally of obsolete tools.
After a few failed inquiries and searches, I realized that I'd have to get creative. I decided to look at both bigger-picture technologies and more narrowly at social media platforms. I came up with a short list of marketing and social media platforms that I feel are rapidly becoming obsolete, if they are not already outmoded. In regards to the social media platforms, I felt obligated to touch on two that I feel are well on their way out the door, lest you feel the need to invest marketing dollars in their direction.
Any CMS that isn't WordPress
Websites worth their salt are built on top of a content management system (CMS). Since its launch in 2003, WordPress has evolved from a blog-centric platform to a comprehensive CMS suite that dominates the market. Based on my experience and that of my peers, no other CMS platform is as easy-to-use or search-engine and mobile-friendly.
A recent survey by W3Techs/Q-Success indicates that 62 percent of respondents do not use a CMS. Of those that do use a CMS, WordPress makes up 61 percent of the overall market share. After WordPress, the three most popular platforms (Joomla, Drupal, and Blogger) combine to account for slightly more than 15 percent of the remaining fragmented market share.
The dominant position WordPress has cut out is based on price, ease of development, and the vast library of available templates and plug-ins. For businesses with specific/unique needs, WordPress can be used as the content management front-end to a deeper database or e-commerce platform on the backend. For the foreseeable future, I expect WordPress only to increase its market share and dominance, at the expense of others.
Basic email platform
Email marketing platforms have evolved over the years. In 2002, I partnered with two friends to launch an agency that specialized in email marketing strategy. At that time, the market was still in its relative infancy and we saw an opportunity to provide affordable email marketing services with a relatively robust platform. Since then, the market has matured, but far too many companies rely on relatively outdated email technology and tools.
A few years after launching emailROI (now eROI), I watched three formerly disparate industries collide. Email marketing platforms started competing with and eventually merged with sales and marketing automation platforms. Email giant ExactTarget acquired marketing automation platform Pardot in 2012, only to be acquired less than a year later by Salesforce, the sales automation 800-pound gorilla. Many mid-sized and larger players followed suit with mergers and acquisitions. The reason this is important to you, the marketer, is that the email marketing platform you adopted years ago may no longer be on par with more affordable and robust platforms.
I'm by no means an email marketing expert these days, but I now expect a relatively broad set of capabilities from any reputable email marketing platform, including behavior-based personalization, advanced targeting/segmentation, CMS for rapid development and testing of emails and landing creative, and analytics that integrate with other platforms. Essentially, your email platform should include basic sales and marketing automation capabilities. Similarly, your sales and marketing automation platforms should offer reasonably robust email capabilities.
I would be remiss if I didn't include this somewhat outdated technology as a marketing tool. As I've outlined in previous articles, QR codes have been made obsolete by newer technologies like near-field communications (NFC), Bluetooth, and other apps. While adoption by brands may have increased over the past few years, users are jaded and usage is flat at best. The bottom line: Be cautious when using QR codes. Make sure they solve a problem better than newer, more intuitive technologies.
Social platforms and tools
At an event in 2010, I predicted the demise of MySpace, despite its relative popularity at the time. While Facebook had eclipsed MySpace in terms of active users, it was still seen as a social platform for college kids and was just starting to broaden its user base. Since then, an even greater number of platforms and apps have come and gone, making it increasingly difficult for marketers to stay on top of the latest platforms. I wouldn't be surprised if next year's predictions include the demise of Snapchat and WhatsApp, for example. Until then, however, here are a few social media platforms and tools I don't feel will weather their recent pivots.
Some of you may not be as familiar with the Klout social influence score, but that may be due to its lack of ability to sustain and grow mass-market appeal. While the intention was good and the need is real, the execution was inherently flawed. Essentially, the tool created a single score to reflect a social media user's influence relative to others. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The platform generated criticism when the Klout Score indicated Justin Bieber was more influential than the Dalai Lama and the president of the United States.
The skeptics argued that the score was not an accurate reflection of someone's true influence, was easy to game, and its newer "Perks" program allowed brands to "buy" influencers. As outlined in related articles, the single score metric had the potential to carry sufficient weight to influence sponsorship, employment, and VIP status with hotels. In essence, the power wielded and the ability to game the score itself defeated the very purpose of the platform. More recent changes on the business model have done little to quell my concerns over its longevity. Time will tell if the alternative social influence measurement platforms will fare better.
If you thought creating a compelling message in fewer than 140 characters on Twitter was difficult, try creating a video on its newer micro-video platform, Vine. Users can create up to six seconds of video to entertain or inform their followers. In June 2012, when Vine first debuted, it generated a good deal of excitement, as video is exponentially more engaging than text or even imagery provided by Twitter and Flickr. It was sufficiently compelling that Twitter acquired it in October of that same year.
Unfortunately, the novelty of six second videos has worn thin with many users. Brands that have already embraced Vine may have seen modest success in the past year or two, but I don't expect that momentum to return. Despite being the fastest growing app in 2013 with 400 percent growth, Vine is losing momentum. In the first half of 2014, Vine experienced 27 percent growth, which is a mere fraction of the previous year.
Adding insult to injury, Vine has a relatively small number of active users (40 million pales in comparison to Pinterest at 70 million, Instagram at 300 million, and YouTube at 1 billion). Most importantly, six seconds is a blink of an eye compared to 10 seconds on Snapchat, 15 seconds on Instagram (and much longer videos when condensed by Hyperlapse or equivalent apps), or limitless video on YouTube. The numbers are not favorable for Vine, so I wouldn't recommend investing much time or money in the platform.
While the act of "checking in" on social platforms is on "the grow," interest in localized apps is waning. Gowalla got out at the right time when it was acquired by Facebook in 2012. Other platforms offered similar check-in capabilities to compete with Foursquare, further eroding its position. I personally don't know anyone that uses Foursquare or checks in into Swarm directly.
The limited numbers available to the public regarding Foursquare usage tells an opaque, but sad story. The company has used a 50 million registered user figure, which many criticize as not being an accurate reflection of active monthly users. I would guess that the real user base is a small fraction of that number. Third party data illustrates a downward trend consistent with Anvil's experience: As of October 2014, Foursquare ranked No. 923 overall in the U.S. App Store (No. 25 among travel apps in the U.S.). At its peak, Foursquare ranked No. 44 overall in 2011 (No. 2 among social networking apps).
This trend is problematic for marketers and for the company. As a result, Foursquare pivoted a year ago into the business intelligence space by focusing on harvesting local data from its limited user base, without relying on check-ins. Even if the company successfully transitions into a big data player, they will have limited runway as its active user base diminishes. I would expect an acquisition by a larger player in the social/mobile/local space would be the only viable exit. Regardless, the platform has limited value to marketers today.
That wraps up my corral of the most obsolete marketing tools of 2015. If you enjoyed my predictions about obsolete marketing tools, you may also appreciate the "2015 Marketing Predictions You Can Set Your Digital Watch By," as compiled and curated by the entire Anvil team, myself included. I look forward to your feedback on the future of marketing tools in the comments section below.
Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media, Inc., an integrated marketing consultancy specializing in analytics, search engine, and social media marketing initiatives that move its clients forward.
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"Outdated computer equipment" image via Shutterstock.