Category Archives: Social Content Marketing

Native Advertising: Finding the Sweet Spot for SmallBiz

A common prediction for 2015 was the mainstream arrival of native advertising or the purchasing of sponsored content on social networks and online news sites. Pushing this trend is banner ad blindness; the viral brand lift gained from native ads; and a user migration to mobile platforms that do not accommodate traditional display ads. Add to that the pressure publishers are feeling to fill the gap of declining display ad revenue, and the growing popularity of native advertising becomes clearer.

native ad

But will native advertising eventually take over display ads for small and medium sized businesses? If so, how quickly will it be adopted, and how will it change the marketing landscape?

To answer this, the following includes a review of its current state of adoption along with the industry momentum required to overcome its primary challenges of scalability and transparency.

What is Native Advertising?

A clear grasp of native ad trending first requires an adequate definition of what constitutes native advertising especially since a universally accepted definition is still in the making. But for now, let’s define it as  “the use of content-based ads that match and live within the stream of editorial-type content, while contextually following the experience of the publisher’s platform.”  i.e., finding the sweet spot between advertising and publishing content.

But finding this sweet spot has been quite a challenge for brands and publishers confronted with issues like transparency and disclosure of native ads as “ads”. The mere fact that the ads are created to blend in with content often confuses the reader with what is promoted and what is editorial. 

native advertising

Some of the more notable definitions proposed by reputable content marketers and advertising boards include the following:

“…Native advertising is a “pay to play” opportunity that is content based and delivered In-Stream while not disrupting the user experience…The information is intended to be useful, interesting and highly targeted to the specific readership and is delivered in a way that does not impede the normal behavior of the user in that particular channel…”

-          Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

“…Native advertising is a form of converged media that combines paid and owned media into a form of commercial messaging that is fully integrated into, and often unique to, a specific delivery platform…”

-          Rebecca Lieb, Altimeter Group

“…Native ads are purchased ads that mimic content in the venues in which they appear. They are more entertaining and less interrupting than traditional ads, and hopefully popular enough to get shares…”

-          eMarketer

“…Native social advertising is the branded content integrated directly within a social network experience (i.e., the newsfeed or content stream). These integrated, advertorial qualities differentiate native ads from traditional display…”

-          BIA/Kelsey

“…Native ads are paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong…”

-          IAB Native Advertising Playbook

“…Native advertising entails taking that which is organic and flipping it around into advertising…”

-          Howard Greenstein, Harbrooke Group

In attempting to narrow down the most important elements of a native ad definition, the Online Publishers Association concluded the following from a survey of online publishers.

native advertising

Source: Online Publishers Association (OPA) Study in Partnership with Radar Research 

Common to many definitions is the acknowledgement of native ad as a convergent media (placement paid, content owned and sharing earned) that covers sponsored content found in new sites (e.g.,, BuzzFeed, Mashable and The Atlantic), advertorials, promoted/sponsored social media content and content recommendations. Some would argue it also includes sponsored searchable content as well. Finally, many acknowledge the dual objective of native ads to (1) ‘stand out’ for reader awareness and (2) ‘fit in’ with non-disruptive, opt-in content. 

Another area of debate in attempting to define uniform standards for native ads are the various media formats they represent. In their Native Advertising Playbook, the IAB identifies and provides examples of six types of ad units most often described as native:

  1. In-Feed Units
  2. Paid Search Units
  3. Recommendation Widgets (e.g., “From Around the Web”)
  4. Promoted Listings
  5. In-Ad with Native Element Units (e.g., banner with text or preceding a post)
  6. Custom Campaigns

The wide variance in formats has much to do with the ad’s fit to form (e.g., in-stream vs. out of stream); its match to function (e.g., video on a video or story among stories); match to surrounding content (e.g., mirrors page content behavior); its target specificity and guarantee of location placement (e.g., narrowly vs. broadly targeted placement); and its metric objectives (e.g., views, likes and share for top-of-funnel brand engagement vs. sale, download, register for bottom-of-funnel direct response).

In its most limited form, these ads could include sponsored posts found in many social platforms.

native ad examples

Examples of Social Sponsored Content

At the other extreme are long-form narratives including featured news article or videos hosted in major publications. Although the publications were once the domain of social news aggregators such as Buzzfeed, Gawker, Mashable, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Business Insider and The Huffington Post, an estimated 90% of publishers are now offering native ad offerings.

branded content

Examples of Branded Content in News Sites

Why all the Hype?

No doubt the content marketing craze has reshaped a marketing landscape once riddled with digital display ads.  According to Patrick Albano, Co-Chair of IAB Native Advertising Task Force, “this renaissance in digital advertising is driving brands, publishers and consumers to communicate with each other in more personal and natural ways.”

What has likely delayed a more widespread adoption of native ads are the mechanisms to scale and integrate them into editorial content acceptable to publishers. The pace of adoption is likely to increase, however, due to revenue pressures.  Many publishers are feeling the pinch of ever shrinking display ad margins as a greater number of blogging sites, social news sites and social platforms are staking claim to available ad space. This over-supply of inventory, coupled with consumers being clobbered with overwhelming ad noise, is forcing publishers to adopt some form of native advertising.

Brands see these content-based ads as a far superior approach to brand affinity lift and consumer engagement than can ever be realized under traditional display advertising. Banner ads, in particular, are not conducive to social sharing or to mobile usage. And it is this lack of mobile adaptation that is most concerning to traditional display advertisers since mobile is expected to overtake desktop web viewing in the not too distant future.

In a detailed evaluation of the native ad landscape, Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb highlights the many reasons why brands, publishers, social networks and advertising agencies stand to gain from a widespread adoption native ad formats.  Common to all parties is a drive for:

  1. New revenue streams
  2. A potential for deeper behavioral/contextual data
  3. Target audience opt-in to content

How Far will it Advance?

Among the hold-ups barring parties from embracing native ads more extensively is the potential of native ads to deceive its readers. In particular the Altimeter Group study cites transparency and disclosure as major concerns especially in light of the ethical sensitivity towards ad content that is mistaken as editorial content. Perhaps no one sheds light on this concern better than the hilarious John Oliver in his HBO feature on Native Advertising.

This issue came to a head in the infamous publication by The Atlantic of David Miscavige’s salute to Scientology. The Atlantic posted an advertorial package for the Church of Scientology, which was subsequently inferred by many as an editorial piece endorsed by the publication.

Another issue suggesting a more limited roll-out of native ads is its scalability to so many diverse publication standards. Compared to banner and other display ads, native ads are not portable across platform formats. To scale them optimally across publications, a great deal more is required to make them contextual relevant while also having them fit seamlessly into a publication’s form, fit and function. Banners, on the other hand, merely require compliance with universally accepted placement standards, something yet to evolve for native ads.

Much progress has been made in this area, however, as technology companies jump into the fray. Sharethrough, Outbrain, Taboola and Disqus are among the 40 technology firms listed in the Altimeter Group’s review. To date, these predominately software companies have been able to sort and configure the many content, creative and social metric elements associated with native ads to where they are becoming increasingly programmatic across multiple publishing platforms

So How Much of the Landscape will Shift towards Native Ads?

According to BIA/Kelsey and eMarketer, U.S. native social advertising revenues are forecast to grow from $1.6 billion in 2012 to $4.6 billion in 2017. The near 23%/yr. compounded growth reflects the higher engagement results seen from native ads. It also attests to the rapid adoption of native ads by publishers, many of which are finding engagement rates of native ads to approach those of their editorials.

Forecast of Native Ad Revenue (BIA/Kelsey)

Even the more minimal in-feed native ad placements and promoted listings we see on social networks are demonstrating the efficacy of native ads. According to a study by Interpublic Group’s IPG Media Lab and Sharethrough, consumers looked at sponsored content 52% more often than banner ads. The same study showed native ads generated 9% higher brand affinity lift and 18% higher purchase intent response than banners. Finally, the study found that 32% of respondents said the native ad “is an ad I would share with a friend of family member” versus just 19% for display ads.

This bodes well for what seems to be a welcomed attraction to the marketing landscape. Consumers can now view our marketing messages as part of an overall brand story told in the context of something relevant to what they are reading. Brands benefit when the consumer shares the content-ad. The more the engagement, the greater the brand affinity lift especially when the ad is seen as relevant and useful. Finally, publishers benefit from a new source of revenue to offset a dismal decline in display advertisements.

When will Small Business See the Impact?

So far the momentum behind native advertising has mainly benefited large brands that have the resources and relationship with news publishers. The scalability issues have been reasonably addressed to date with tighter brand/publisher collaboration. Publishers, in some cases, have even hired dedicated staffs to manage native ad content. 

Minimums to play in this arena, however, are quite high given the growing demand for premium placement of native ads. Add to that the time consuming collaboration required of this convergent media to represent both brand and publisher interests, and you can see why smaller businesses may not be so quick in their adoption of native ads.

But with the growing adoption of big data into contextually relevant platforms, expect to see a roll-out of limited in-feed native ads for small businesses. Though not as customized as the multi-platform narratives used by big brands, these more affordable alternatives are being aggressively promoted by native ad integrators  (e.g., and news sites. 

BuzzFeed, in particular, has had recent success in building a native advertising ad network on other publisher homepages. Should they and others elect to broker their native ad placement capacity,  small businesses may have an answer. This assumes, however, that these native ad integrators or publishers can auto-configure content-ads to suit the standards of multiple platforms.

But the adoption by small businesses of native ads may be hindered more by a mindset than technical solutions to scalability. Small businesses may be slow to embrace the true essence of native advertising.  For example, it’s one thing for Coca Cola, Chipotle and Dell to piecemeal powerful brand stories over numerous branded content placements. They have the vision and appreciation for content strategies that justifies a long-term investment. But it’s another thing for small businesses to embrace this type of narrative especially where results in brand buzz and brand affinity lift may not be so readily measurable.

Small businesses will have to be courted, in part, by publishers and agencies willing to train them on native ad scaling as well as in making content contextually relevant. In essence, these small businesses will have to understand that native advertising has as much to do with complementing editorial content as it does with catching the eye of a waiting prospect. This perceptual shift from fitting in over standing out will undoubtedly require a new leap of faith. 

As best said by Patrick Albano of Yahoo!, “The challenge with native is finding that sweet spot between fitting in and standing out.”

So what is your take on native ads? Are the forecasts overstated or understated? What additional challenges might small businesses face beyond that discussed for brands? 



Creating Meaningful Personas for Storytelling Audience Development


With the ever growing attention on brand storytelling, we may want to take a deep breath in tackling step one: defining your audience personas. Experienced practitioners and academics know this step will make or break your entire brand story. But the process is not as simple as framing clients with monikers like ”Debbie Downer” and “Soccer Mom.” 

Start with Spending Motivations

The type of storytelling that  truly distinguishes your content with an emotional connection requires a deeper insight into the psycho-graphic dimensions of your targeted audiences.  If you are not convinced, ask yourself if these football audiences below have the same spending motivations for attending a football game. 


Super Bowl Spending Motivations

Now consider whether the ‘bonding’ segment (upper right) should be treated as a single persona. Would a sports fanatic have the same needs as a ballparker? If not, your brand storytelling is likely to get lost.

Refine with Psycho-graphic Dimensions

By delving deeper into the psycho-graphic personas that make-up each spending motivation, you will also get a better idea of where your audiences like to hang out. For example, the cosmetic dentistry arguably targets four spending motivations: 

  1. Those attempting to Attract the Best
  2. Those attempting to Feel Their Best
  3. Those attempting to Look Their Professional Best
  4. Those attempting to Remember the Best

But notice from the four distinct “Attract the Best” personas shown below how the needs and targeted communities differ widely across each persona. Only by recognizing the deeper sense of values, attitudes and lifestyles shared by persona subsets of a spending motivation segment will you understand the relevant elements of a story. Moreover, this richer understanding will determine where you encounter these folks as well. 


Cosmetic Dentist Personas within the “Attract the Best” Audience

Combine Motivation and Personality

When you combine both spending motivation and psycho-graphic personality sets into the same audience persona analysis, you benefit from a more pinpointed brand story that encounters your target audience in the right community and with the right value.

Our FREE complimentary eBook on this subject shows how this was done for four small business markets. The custom tailoring business, for example, led us to recognize 14 different personas. Although this seems like an overkill, your scan of the personas below should convince you that these guys don’t hang-out in the same circles; nor do they expect the same image from their custom tailored suits.


14 Custom Tailors Personas Derived from Spending Motivation & Psycho-graphics

So what is your take on this process? Do you find you connect better by slicing your markets by spending motivation AND personality? Or do you take a different approach towards identifying your audiences?

Enjoy the eBook. 


2014 Social Media Predictions: Wrap Up of Top 10 Stars, RIPs, Marginals & Rebounds

As the list of 2014 social media and content marketing predictions winds to a close, what can organizations really take to the bank this year?

2014 Social Media Predictions

Download this complimentary report  of the Top 10 Rising Stars, RIPs, Marginals and Rebounds from an academic perspective that attempts to winnow the wheat from the chaff. In addition to rationalizing the hottest trends in social media and content marketing, we also examine the comeback potential of traditional media caught in the social, local, mobile (SoLoMo) tsunami.

Synthesizing over 200 expert predictions from the social media and content marketing world, we concluded the following. 

2014 Social Media Predictions:

Top 10 Stars, RIPs, Marginals & Rebounds

So have we missed anything? Please share your comments.


2014 Social Media Predictions from a Strategic Planning Perspective

After combing through scores of predictions on what will happen in 2014 with social media, you have probably seen a pattern. Social media and content marketing will be more about honing strategies, leveraging big data, hosting micro-videos and getting serious about ROI. But how can we distill from these predictions a manageable set of planning inputs to our operating budgets?  

To begin, let’s consider what impacts the planning process. Many of the predictions relate to strategy development across marketing, advertising and brand development. Other predictions cover the environment as it relates to user expectations, media ecosystems and changes to expect in our operating infrastructures. The rest provide insights as to what business models are likely to succeed.

2014 Social Media Summary

Strategic Summary of 2014 Social Media Predictions


Strategy in this social media Zeitgeist can be summed up as one of streamlining and seamlessly blending into our audience’s social experience. Consider the streamlining in your plan as the typical steps taken by companies during a lean recovery state. During these maturation stages, we begin to prune away the experimenting of shiny new objects and focus more on the most likely to payoff.

This usually leads to greater attention on integration and execution and less attention on experimenting. So for many brands and small businesses in 2014, there will likely be heightened attention on what really contributed to lead generation and conversion. As a result, the merits of content that shows promise in stimulating engagement will weigh more heavily in budget decisions than the merits of content reaching the largest audience.

Consequently, engagement metrics (e.g., comments and shares) will be more important than vanity metrics (e.g., likes and followers).    The seamless blending of content into our user experience streams has much to do with separating ourselves from the clutter. One way to do this is by adding value to the content our audience is actually seeking. This should translate into more purposeful content pieces that reach our audience in the right way, at the right time and in the right mood.

social media strategy

Strategic Planning Implications from 2014 Social Media Predictions

Content Strategies

Content marketing strategies will have to be more justifiable and hyper-focused. The goal here is to boost conversion rates at the expense of more fans and followers. One way to start on track is to repurpose curated content. For example, consider how you can regularly reach a targeted audience at many points in their buying cycle by recasting your content into several blog pieces, podcasts and videos. Not all of the content has to be original.

Your audience merely wants a reliable source that answers the mail briefly and immediately. The latter suggest you repurpose the content on whatever platforms your audience prefers at the time. This leads to another planning adjustment. 2014 may be more about smart content distribution than content development. In order for conversion rates to go up, budgets will have to shift more towards channel placement.

And with pay-for-play social advertising on the rise, this will mean more investment in reaching your targeted audience. Finally, nearly every social media and content marketing expert agrees that “creating for mobile first” should be foremost in our content marketing thinking. With mobile access to social media expected to exceed desktop access in less than 2 years, expect successful brands to invest heavily this year in responsive mobile websites.

Brand Engagement Strategies

Many predict that 2014 will be the year where real-time mobile customer engagement, brand storytelling, influence marketing and share-worthiness is seen as the key to deeper engagement. With noise levels skyrocketing, more brands are recognizing that engagement will require more than promised benefits. Brands will have to inspire and entertain more than ever.

By storytelling, brands have an opportunity to develop a loyal following that is far more interested in stories than brand messages.   In addition, more brands will be expected to adopt their own media studios and newsrooms as tight control of the brand story requires a more immediate response and authentic voice to their target audience. Although the cost to operating plans seems onerous at this point, longer-term savings are likely to result as in-house control of the brand story leads to a more reliable boost in engagement.

Advertising Strategies

Here is where we see a great deal of consistency among predictions. 2014 will be the year where paid social ads will be adopted reluctantly by brands as perhaps the only way to maximize their reach in social network news feeds. At question, however, is the timing of native advertising as a core element of content marketing plans.

Sponsored or branded content will be key to separating brand stories from the noise of too many brands now competing for diminishing social ad attention. Much of this content will likely be niche-specific and of high enough quality that followers recognize immediate value. And to provide this value, brands may have to consider longer-form content. Jay Baer even suggests this will be the year that Advertorial 2.0 takes hold.

But perhaps the biggest breakthrough backed by 2013 evidence will be the widespread use of native apps. According to Portio Research, mobile apps, in general, are projected to grow in revenue from $12 billion last year, a projected to $64 billion by 2015 As more brands witness the success of Clorox, Charmin, Ortho and Columbia in advising us how to remove a stain, find a clean restroom, identify a weed, and tie a boat knot, respectively, native apps in particular will capitalize on this trend towards real-time ‘self-help’.

Marketing Strategies

As the quality of data surrounding our prospects has drastically improved, more brands will likely exploit the ability to know what audiences are doing at a certain time and place. Add to that the knowledge gained from behavioral tracking and social profiles, we have an excellent formula for hyper-targeting. And much of the technology is here to pull it off.  In 2014, however, it is premature to estimate the impact that a combined SoLoMo-Pro (social, local, mobile, information) will have on market planning.

At minimum, however, expect brands to be ramping up for the use of predictive analytics in retargeted advertising. Experience in this level of behavioral targeting can then lead the way for contextual marketing that supports a real-time and locally relevant shopping experience. Another trend to expect in 2014 is the growth in agile video marketing. Expect brands to embrace their own newsrooms as mobile users become accustomed to getting rapid response news on breaking stories.


As in any plan, a survey of our surroundings help us understand the landscape of competition and technology constraints. Most likely to materialize this year is:

  1. A technology that is analytical and possibly wearable
  2. Data that is important for ROI
  3. An audience tweeting with TV
  4. A referee, called Hummingbird, that will level the playing field for true content contributors
  5. Content platforms meant for the short-lived and easily escapable
social media infrastructure

2014 Predictions for Social Media Infrastructure


Much to the credit of big data, an estimated 20% of US display advertising will involve programmatic ad buying. The rapid growth of brands flocking to the programmatic buying process will likely continue as over-stretched marketing resources seek efficiencies from automation. Social networks are dramatically changing the landscape of TV marketing and will certainly impact planning for 2014. The market for second screen for global social TV is expected to reach $250 billion over the next 3 years.

As the sale of iPads and smartphones continue to skyrocket, expect the same growth in TV viewers interacting with live show content. One area still in question is the role of wearable technologies. Glassware, smart watches and wrist-ware are still serving the early adopters in an application seeking mode. Although Google Glasses is often sported in the media as the high-concept wearable tech product of the year, its future is still uncertain. At most the market will still be in its nascent stage. So small businesses, in particular, may be wise to holding off any plans to gear up for wearable device optimizing.

Social Search Engine

Google’s Hummingbird is being greeted with mixed responses. It is good news for legitimate content providers and bad news for black hat SEO spammers. We finally have a search engine who is penalizing SEO link spamming and magical keyword stuffing. Hat’s off to Google and their semantic oriented search algorithm for coming pretty close to a fair measure of legitimate content.

Content marketers would be wise to provide high quality, in-depth content that resonates with topics most sought after by their target audience. And think video first, video second and video third. The same will apply to search algorithms inherent in the social networks and their tagging or hash-tagging formats. Those that provide engaging and highly shareable content will ultimately win out on exposure.


Here also is where there is a great deal of consistency in predictions.  Brands should devote an inordinate share of resources to short-form visual content. Video content will benefit search. Short videos in particular will appeal to the limited attention span of today’s audience. And perhaps more than before, we are seeing evidence that consumers expect content to fit the platform.

So think erasable video on Snapchat, gifs on Tumblr, 6-sec videos on Twitter Vine, infographics on blogs and photo rich content on Facebook. At the same time, brands inundated with multi-platform involvement are turning to fusion marketing to integrate their traditional and digital marketing tools.

By working off one platform or dashboard, they hope to manage and benefit from multiple campaigns launched from one place. Investments should also be considered for the development of niche oriented apps. This growing field of Friend-of-Mine apps is likely to materialize this year as more consumers recognize the value and handiness of self-help mobile apps.

Success Models

A successful business model could be summed up as serious and laser-focused. Successful brands by the end of 2104 will likely attribute their success to hyper-targeting. Rather than seeking new ways to acquire fans and followers, this will be a year of measuring, re-calibrating and reloading.

2014 Social media predictions

Business Modeling Implications of 2014 Social Media Predictions

Common to most business models will be a subscription-based approach to engagement. This bodes well for email marketing services and will likely put in question the need for RSS. Brands will be looking at courting highly qualified leads with pinpointed solutions to each need across the entire buying stage. Big data and closed loop analytics will then validate what tactics worked best toward conversion. And if not conversion, expect brands to measure retention and influence as a proxy for business to come.

This will also be the year that brands formalize their involvement in content marketing. The arrival of more Chief Content Officers and more formalized social business set-ups will likely pave the way for new social talent and enterprise-wide collaboration on social intelligence gathering and social listening. More importantly, 2014 will likely see PR and customer service finding their way into social media marketing

Companies will capitalize more on the power of employees as brand advocates. And with this greater commitment to a social business, more pressure will be placed on marketing, in particular, to validate a greater amount of budget requests with hardcore ROI measurements now available from online tools and cloud-based databases.

Social Experience

Of all the crystal ball predictions, this area of planning is perhaps the least suspect. Here is what we know for certain. Millenials, in particular, are flocking to ephemeral media sites in droves. Facebook’s offer of $3 billion for Snapchat was just topped by Google for $4 billion. So it is safe to say, Millenials want erasable media.

2014 Social Media Predictions

User Experience Implications from 2014 Social Media Predictions

We also have ample evidence to suggest that the deteriorating attention spans of Millenials will accelerate the arrival of contextually relevant content. So expect location based services to rapidly adopt social context as well. And as the momentum of early adopters builds, inside shopping assistance will become an expectation.

In the interim, many predict that Twitter Vine will flourish in this next year as applications for “how-to’s,” and “where to find” will augment the earlier and more limited functions of geo-targeting. Now imagine what this does to our customer service departments as target audiences become addicted to getting what they want NOW.

Finally, consumers will recognize all the more in 2014 that the power of conversation rests in their hands. Brands will have to compromise their desire for storytelling with allowing fans an opportunity to share their experiences. In return, fans will expect to be inspired and entertained if brands want their continued involvement. This will pressure more brands to step up their social customer service as fans will expect immediate reaction to their socially registered complaints.  


Arguably, 2013 was a lackluster year of new technology. Wearable technologies were a disappointment; and perhaps the only shiny new object warranted our attention was Snapchat. Instead, we witnessed the maturation of content marketing and how the social dominion went from publishing to sharing to repurposing curating content. Much of this new wave emerged from the media fatigue that forced many brands to adopt smarter and more proven approaches to their social media marketing efforts.

That is why many experts are predicting 2014 to be less about breakthroughs and more about hyper-targeting, optimizing and fine tuning strategies.    What’s more, plenty of evidence is mounting that marketers will be less concerned about reach and more about impact as executives press them for measured results. Much of this impact will likely come from legitimate, high quality content as Google’s Hummingbird algorithm makes it increasingly more difficult for SEO spammers to muddy the waters. 

So which of these predictions will likely present the biggest challenges to entrepreneurs in 2014?

Social Media Predictions Wrapped Up in 13 Oxymorons

Had your fill of Social Media Predictions? Some say this is the age of advocacy and experience marketing. Others say it’s the year of proprietary audience, content purpose, content quality and SoLoMoPro. One thing is for certain. This is the year of the oxymoron.

2014 social media predictions

Definition of an oxymoron: two opposing words or concepts.

If you assume that most social media experts are correct in their predictions, then we are likely entering a year of:

  1. Open Secrets
  2. Personalized Anonymity
  3. Erasable Relationships
  4. Paid Trust
  5. Unwinding Fatigue
  6. Longer but Shorter-Form Content
  7. Smaller Use of Big Data
  8. Interrupting Permission Marketing
  9. Edutainment
  10. More Exact Estimates
  11. Social Technology
  12. Acting Naturally
  13. A Pretty Ugly Facebook

In summary brands should focus on building lasting, but ephemeral relationships using outbound techniques for inbound marketing in an anonymous, but highly personal media. What’s wrong with this picture? 

Open Secrets

Call it social privacy, the term itself is a contradiction. But consider this paradox in objectives. Organizations today are arguably more concerned about data security than ever before. From Edward Snodan’s Big Brother NSA revelations to’s security concerns and Target’s massive data leaks, security breaches have made more brands sensitive to their domain privacy.  

At the same time, they are embracing cloud resources more than ever to help scale their social media participation. It sounds like they are taking measures for their public space to be private and their private space to go public?

Personalized Anonymity

Following the Weinergate saga and other public snafus, consumers are also getting sensitive to their social privacy. The early successes of Snapchat and Whisper are testimony to the rising popularity among Millennials to erase any potential of wrongdoing or less than desirable make-up.

social video fo predictions

Personalized Anonymity

At the same time, we expect high-context content to reach these audiences with hyper-targeted precision that is now possible from knowing what they like, where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. So are we trying to find out as much as we can about anonymous fans?

Erasable Relationships

And don’t forget to build lasting relationships and lifetime value with these folks before the media expires. You have 6 seconds to make that happen on Vine. If they are using ephemeral media, you better hit the resend over and over and over.

Ephemeral Media: This Tape will Destruct in 5 Seconds
oxymoron for 2014 social media predictions

This tape will self destruct in 6 seconds.

Paid Trust

Most agree we now have to pay-to-play for fans to notice our posts in their News Feeds. But wasn’t the purpose for maximizing organic reach to reward routine engagement of communities with relevant content? In return, these brands would be rewarded high exposure from those that supposedly know, like and trust the brand. So doesn’t ”pay-to-play” imply “buy my trust?”

Unwinding Fatigue

A common complaint cited in many 2014 social media predictions relates to social media fatigue. The reduced attention span of consumers is pressuring brands to consider shorter bursts of video based content.

But wait. Don’t forget to pack more into our audience’s decompression time. Podcasting and wearable computer technologies are expected to rise in popularity as burned out content users seek more ways to cram in content at the gym, in the car and on the couch.

Interrupting Permission Marketing

Do you remember the early definitions of inbound marketing or permission-based marketing? We were avoiding the use of interrupting and non-permissive advertising techniques which were more about “telling us” rather than “inviting us.” The concept relied on the use of social media and content marketing to earn the attention of prospective customers.

This contrasted to the more interrupted style of broadcasted, outbound marketing. But with a deluge of competing content, many brands are quickly resorting to the promotion of links and social ads to their content. i.e., we are using outbound approaches to trigger our inbound marketing.   

Longer but Shorter Content

Many experts predict 2014 will be the year where attention span deterioration forces a greater consumption of short-form, video content Consumers will expect 15-second Instagram videos and other micro-content. And many experts agree that short-form will trump long-form in viewership and engagement. 

At the same time, top social media forecasters are predicting an inordinate rise in longer-form content as brand publishers response to what Google’s search algorithms prefer in their high quality content assessments. So the long and short of it is:  ”Tweet a teaser to your richer media experience and more complete brand story where and when Google’s Hummingbird and a more available audience will give you the time of the day.”

Smaller Use of Big Data

Big data is the arguably the most cited trend in 2014 social media predictions. We have reached a point where massive amounts of contextual, historical and real-time data will be married to predictive behavior models for the perfectly hyper-targeted and behaviorally matched content.  And all of this will be consumed on a smartphone, wristband or tiny watch.

Big Data in Social Media

Big Data for Smaller Screens


Marketing in the year 2014 is often referred to as the age of engagement, entertainment and education. So we are being entertained and educated at the same time? How cool is that? Why couldn’t Sister Jolene understand that? We were only disrupting her teaching in response to the entertainment value she apparently didn’t recognize.

More Exact Estimates

Almost every 2014 social media prediction claims this is the year we crack the social ROI code. Really? So through native ad tracking and other big data revelations, we will now know the return on influence?

Granted our measurement methods are far more precise than what we could muster up from traditional advertising. But even the most trackable content marketing program requires a great deal of time to get real data. The most we could probably expect from recent advances in closed loop analytics and big data are more exact estimates.

Social Technology

This is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron. If anything, the emergence of wearable and other social technologies has hijacked relationships and promoted an anti-social atmosphere. If we are truly saddened by the hyper-texting culture witnessed during Thanksgiving dinner, imagine the deterioration of intimacy and conversation when Google glasses hit the market.

Act Naturally

With videos taking over content marketing as perhaps the most often cited 2014 prediction, brand publishers will have to develop a personal touch. One way to avoid the often criticized “corporate-speak” demeanor is to make a personal connection through a likeable persona. And to do this effectively, many social video experts suggest that we simply act naturally.  Got it? 

But aren’t we then acting? Or are we being natural? Or perhaps we are innately acting out our alter egos in a staged enactment of who we really are not but could be in a contrived natural setting. Maybe we should just be ourselves.

Pretty Ugly Facebook

We knew it was a matter of time before the once darling of the social media world lost its luster. Millennials, in particular, are flocking to Tumblr, Snapchat and even Twitter as their distrust and dissatisfaction with Facebook grows. And by earning the lowest score in the business value, marketers have expressed their disappointment in Facebook as well.

And with the recent strides made by Pinterest, a revamped Google+ and a LinkedIn Pulse/Slideshare/Hootsuite make-over, it’s no wonder Snapchat refused to bite on a $3 billion offer from Facebook. Only time will tell if pay-to-play will be the bane of its legacy. But for now, Facebook is looking pretty ugly.  

So what can you add to this year’s social media oxymorons?