TSA: You recently contributed your online marketing predictions for 2012 on The Search Agents blog. You highlight three areas of expected growth or change in 2012: mobile, social, and online legislation. I’d like to parse these three areas and discuss how they may impact search marketers in the coming year.
In your predictions you state that 2012 will be the year of “NFC infrastructure innovation and consumer adoption.” How could the proliferation of mobile payment services, such as Google Wallet, impact online marketers’ current approach to mobile marketing?
Ranil: The proliferation of mobile payment services like Google Wallet is highly dependent on the presence and innovation of Point of Sale (POS) machines like MasterCard’s Paypass. As you are probably aware while you walk into your local gas station, restaurant, or florist, not all merchants have an NFC payment POS System. The same systems will need to expand to stadiums, airports, and other locations. Currently, NFC technology most commonly applies to marketing offers, credit cards, and loyalty cards. Eventually, leaders in the NFC space envision consumers scanning their devices as replacements for metro cards, boarding passes, concert tickets, etc.
As NFC infrastructure and security hits the tipping point, online marketers will have to adapt their mobile marketing objectives. Rather than duplicating online desktop strategies, marketers will need to provide users with more offers, loyalty programs, and geo-specific deals integrated into mobile services like Google Wallet. This divergence will also be fueled by advertising vehicle innovation by Google/AdMob, Foursquare, American Express, and others in mobile social, search, and local.
TSA: In reference to social media, you predict that the war between Google and Facebook will intensify in the coming year. Will there be a winner, and if so, what would they have to achieve to secure their title as the social media victor?
Ranil: It is unlikely we will be able to deem a social media victor in 2012. Like any vertical, there are ebbs and flows between competitive firms punctuated by large shifts in market share and set off by market disruption. I don’t envision large shifts in the upcoming year, but with such a dynamic marketplace, I cannot rule it out completely. The more likely scenario is the continued grind of Google making plays against the market leader Facebook.
TSA: If passed by the House on January 24th, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) threatens to significantly change the state of the web both domestically and internationally. Although some pundits have suggested that the bill will not pass, it seems unavoidable that something similar to SOPA or its Senate counterpart Protect IP Act will be passed in the future either in the U.S. or in Europe. What effects could internet filtration have on SEM, SEO and social media marketing?
Ranil: It does seem unavoidable that some sort of online legislation will be passed in the US or Europe, but I foresee ongoing court challenges for years to come. Current legislative ideas are a real threat to net neutrality, jobs, and user-generated content. Due to the broadly written language of SOPA, a free and open Internet is at risk. Sites could be removed from a search engine index or prohibited from advertising on search/content networks. Whole online verticals could crumble, while certain verticals could be filtered down to a few firms, killing competition and innovation. Making companies liable for user-generated content would be impacted, which would have a lasting impact on SEO and online advertising. Can you imagine the fallout for sites like Facebook and YouTube? The way we find and classify data will become increasingly difficult, and the challenge will rest on the shoulders of data companies like Google. This challenge will redefine how companies optimize their content, control their user-generated content, and talk to their consumers on Twitter and Facebook. No one can accuse SOPA proponents of intending to create a China-like Internet censorship, but unfortunately, the result of Internet filtration would have an eerily similar impact on our society and economy.
TSA: Moving away from online marketing, what are you looking forward to in 2012?
Ranil: Away from online marketing, I am very excited to see where general technology innovation will take us this year. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this month will highlight many of these advances. Some topics on my radar are connectivity solutions for cars and universal device platforms. Cars connected to the internet open the door for countless time saving features and mobile apps. The lines will continue to blur between our cell phones, TVs, tablets, E-readers, music devices, and laptops.
Ranil Wiratunga is a Group Account Director at The Search Agency